Adapt and Readapt

By Scott Shaw

I was doing a workout over at my studio today with, dare I say, some of my aging contemporaries. These people forever impress me for they, like I, have been practicing the martial arts longer than most practitioners have been alive. These people really know their stuff and though some of them have gained some weight, lost some of their flexibility and endurance, they each understand that the key to the martial arts is to Adapt and Readapt. They work with what they have and they make it work.

You know, there is something really beautiful about a martial artists or a boxer in their prime. The things they can do and the moves they can make are really exquisite. For example, when you watch a boxing match when a great fighter is in his prime, it is pure poetry. This is the same with a highly trained martial arts practitioner who can propel his body into the air and perform a perfectly executed flying kick or opponent throw. But, it is the wise practitioner who understands that the agility of youth does not translate into the person of age. This is not to say that by adapting as age comes upon a person that they cannot produce beautiful movements and techniques. For example, as we reached the portion of the workout today where we met face-to-face on the mat, again, I was so impressed with these people. Through their years of training they each know what to do and they know how to do it in their own unique manner. Though their bodies have become older, they have each individually devised ways to make what they do effectively work for them. They do not try to fight as if they were twenty-five, they fight as if they were thirty or forty years past that point. But, from their knowledge, they could easy defeat someone twenty years their junior.

This is the great thing about the true martial artists and here is where the difference between the individual who trains in the traditional martial arts and the individual who is more focused upon, "The fight," comes into play. Whereas the traditional martial artist learns all he can and works with what he has, they never desire to hurt anyone or focus upon defeating anyone, as does the fight-orientated practitioner. The true martial artists never desires to go in for the kill, when there is the opportunity to move the fight in a different direction. They choose to deflect rather than attack.

I have been writing about the martial arts for a long-long time now and this is something I have always discussed, the street is not the same as the training hall. On the streets it is kill or be kill. But, the true martial artist never wants to follow that path. They want to be more. They desire to raise their consciousness rather than to raise their fists. And, this is an important distinction to make. As long-term martial artists I believe that most of us walk away from fights rather than to engage in them. For what is the purpose of fighting when we have spent our whole lives training to do just that? We don’t need to follow that path for we understand that the martial arts is much more than simply a means to learn how to defeat an opponent.

And, that is what I witnessed again today. As ever-advancing martial artists, the people I worked with have learned and accepted what their body can and cannot do. Then, they have adapted with the times to keep their bodies in shape and their minds focused. And, they have done this knowing that a fight is never the answer when a fight does not need to take place. From this, I witness true beauty based upon interactive fighting techniques that were taken to the ultimately level of understanding and used as a means of mental training and not simply that of winning a fight.

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