There are times, in the training / learning of each athlete, where we can recognize that this one presents a correct technique but that lacks effectiveness, applicability or ability to reach competitive performances.
In the case of the Esgrima Lusitana | Jogo do Pau Português, we often see a student develop their technical skills, a correct posture, with good weight distribution and balance, fluid movement with reasonably measured distances, but without the ability to translate this into speed of execution or effectiveness in combat.
Our training is very much based on the confrontation between athletes of different ranks / free fight (game) with colleagues and teachers and, as such, it is relatively common for an athlete to feel that despite correcting his technique he is missing something to be more effective, or to better control their performance in combat.
When the technique is correct and the results do not appear
In my view, these stages of development are natural and easy to overcome if we are aware, if we know how to recognize them and adapt the training / learning process. They usually involve the favor of technical training over other types of training, whether physical or psychological / motivational.
The disadvantage of the physical aspect of training is the easiest example to recognize, it is obvious that to perform certain movements or to develop certain aspects of a technical learning we must have the physical capacity to perform them, we must train physical capacity, endurance and agility. It is no use to force the student to move with knees bent in a low guard if he does not have muscle mass and agility to maintain these positions, it will only cause technical failures, frustration and / or injuries … On the other hand, lack of psychological / motivational training will result in similar difficulties in terms of technical performance and frustration.
To simplify (a lot) let’s assume that the training / learning of a martial art can be divided into 3 major areas: the Technical Component, the Physical Component and the Psychological / Social or Motivational Component.
We can imagine a triangle in which each vertex represents one of these training strands and, in theory, keeping the workouts balanced in these 3 components, it is clear that the practitioners of martial arts would tend to be in the geometric center of this triangle.
One can not approach this balance as a constant, just like learning a martial art is not a constant either. Sometimes it will focus more on the physical, psychological or technical component, the training process must adapt over time resulting from a series of intrinsic and extrinsic factors of the modality itself and the practitioner. At least, until the graduations like “black belt”. After that, the story changes shape, but I’ll leave that opinion to other fights.
Let’s think a little about each of these vertices and the variations that each one will provoke:
1. Technical learning.
Technical training is rarely balanced. Technical modalities and / or programs, while presenting themselves as equal learning guides for all, do not “fit” all in the same way.
Those who practice martial arts know that the progression between graduations is not always the same, they will find grades harder and others easier to overcome, technical programs predict different degrees of difficulty for different degrees of learning … It is normal for this to be so.
If we add to this the genetics of each practitioner that will allow him to have greater or lesser ability to learn certain movements or techniques, and a teaching scenario by class with athletes in different degrees of evolution, it is obvious that we will find highs and lows in the learning process.
1. Physical Fitness and Aptitude.
In parallel with the technical learning, there must be a “learning” / physical training that fits the Activity they are learning and the practitioner level of progression.
It is intended in the martial arts that athletes have physical aptitude to perform a series of exercises / techniques and apply them in combat. However, this physical charge/training can not and should not be constant in both intensity and quantity.
For those who start practicing a martial art, namely the Esgrima Lusitana | Jogo do Pau Português, physical work must ensure a stable progression, but also protect the athlete from future injuries, improving his physical condition and strengthening his muscular structure. Over time, these goals may shift from fitness to performance and later to maintenance, and as such the exercises are different, the physical loads are different and the intensity is different.
Each practitioner’s own genetics will equip him with physical abilities distinct from his peers with variations throughout his life, favoring his learning ability and physical response differently for each component of the training.
Add to this the existence of sports seasons, vacations and other aspects of the calendar, naturally we will have periods of more intense physical training, of rest or breaks in the rhythm of the training.
Result: The “athlete’s position point” in the triangle will approach and depart from the vertex of the physical component/learning throughout is learning stage, season or life.
3. Psychological, Social and Motivational Component.
Not wanting to develop this area a lot, because it would only give a few more chapters to this article that is already to long, I will just mention two aspects that in my opinion are the biggest obstacle in learning our martial art.
a) Maintaining a constant level of self-discipline in order to apply intensity and intent to each defense and attack, even when it is “just training”. Often we are concerned with the improvement of the technical gesture, we spend hours repeating movements and forget that each technical gesture has a purpose, and that is what we should train. It’s no use repeating a blow to improve the rotation if I’m not doing it with the intention and intensity of trying to reach a target / opponent.
The lack of work to encourage efficiency, rigor and / or discipline is as worrying as the two aspects mentioned above. If, on one hand, the lack of physical condition makes it impossible for us to carry out a movement and the lack of technique limits our evolution, the lack of objective makes us lose time to repeat the execution of techniques and exercises training the error, training without meaning .
That’s what I call training for the photography. It looks nice and fast, but it’s not good.
b) Motivation / Mentalization that the objective is to beat the opponent, and defend everything he can throw in our direction.
In Esgrima Lusitana | Jogo do Pau Português, we do not use protection gear and our weapon of choice is a wooden stick. Assuming that most of us are not in training with the intention of causing injuries to our opponents and naturally we might hold back so this doesn’t occur , it is very common to find the psychological barrier that does not allow us to make attacks directed at the body of the opponent for fear he will not be able to defend them and consequently, get a hit.
Since childhood, most of us have been discouraged from seeking physical confrontation, especially the intent to injure or kill all the adversaries we encounter. By Age 10, 20, 30, 40 years, an athlete who decides to enter a martial art can not be expected to turn off all his experience, values and conditions of society over night and become a soldier ready to face everything and everyone.
Of course, the comfort of attacking an opponent with “no” concern for his or her well-being will depend on the confidence we have in our partner that he can defend the attacks we are making and that we can also do the same when he reciprocates. This comfort comes with time, with training and with recognizing this as a limitation and working to overcome it.
Back to Esgrima Lusitana | Jogo do Pau Português and the theme of this article from the point of view of personal experience.
In my classes, this phase happens with some frequency. Athletes have a fast technical progression / learning, because the training method and the technique taught favor this aspect of learning. First of all, it is necessary to create the technical base that allows us to train without suffering a hit to the body with a wooden stick.
It does not mean that the physical component is not exercised, but it is aimed at the aptitude to perform future movements and techniques and not the movements that are necessary at the beginning of the learning process.
It is not a defect, it is a choice.
As I wrote above, we practice unprotected using wooden sticks. The student is taught and encouraged to perform attacks on a target (specific parts of the opponent’s body), and to defend these attacks with the right defense, at the right time and at the minimum distance (appropriate to their state of development).
This method is the result of the study and training of generations of Jogo do Pau Português practitioners, but with special importance for the Escola do Santo Condestável. However, it requires the individual technical and psychological work that is different from athlete to athlete, as I mentioned above, the confidence to defend a stick that is thrown at us to the body and to throw ours into the head of a partner so as to train the attack and allow him to train his defense. It is not always easy to overcome.
In short, there will be times, in the training / learning of each athlete, that although the technique is correct the objectives of effectiveness and performance are not being reached.
RELAX… It happens to everyone …
It’s a phase, that’s all. Each athlete (or coach) has to realize where they stand in the triangle and how to develop their training to correct / evolve, so that they can become a more balanced “martial artist”.
It is essential that each coach has this notion well established and that he can explain to his athlete his state of development and the way to go, because in principle he will be the one that has the knowledge of the sport/ martial art that justifies these deviations and it is natural that the athlete that doesn’t have this “big picture” might feel some frustration, and question the validity of a technique that is improving but does not show practical results.
Have fun, .. and go back to train you have already spent a lot of time reading this !!!