What Do You Practice and Why?

I remember reading an interview where someone asked Hawkins Cheung what Wing Chun made up his practice. In other words what was his regimen. “That’s for beginners,” he said. “I practice whatever I want.

I thought that was an amazingly straightforward and useful answer. In truth, I also think it was a bit of a kiss-off. I try never to tell anyone what my practice consists of because, the moment I do, it will feel like I just signed some kind of binding agreement—and for no compensation at that.

Still, it is interesting what people practice; and how much latitude there is in the interpretation of just what that practice means. Do you always practice your forms? But in what way? Do you try to spar every session? How intensely? How much time do you spend on basics averaged out over a year? I’m convinced that practice becomes more and more valuable the more it matches itself to the player, sort of like that favorite pullover sweater you have finally broken in.

As we practice we also become much more creative with what each practice means. We reframe things to suit us. Someone might do weapons exclusively for the weight training. Over there is a guy who has been practicing the exact same punch for over an hour; and boy is he working up a sweat. Then, just across the floor, is a student just barely waving his hands, approaching his form more like a memory exercise than a whole-body engagement.

Our motives are often hidden or sometimes just idiosyncratic. “Hey, John, how come you’re doing standing practice and not sparring.” “Because I broke my damn foot!” May come the tranquil response from the immobile student.

The many faces of martial practice @plumpub.comThere are a hundred ways to practice. I think that amazing thing about martial practices is that they never run out. Everything we do, just about, feeds into our Grand Central experience and incorporates itself into our living memory. The very flexibility of practice shows us something valuable as martial arts, that there are endless strategies and a world of tactics.

What practice FEELS the best? Is it the old stand-by or something new and, can we even say, exciting? Are your practices powered by a sense of exploration or more a sense of accomplishment. And of course some times they can be both or neither.

I used to grill my brown belts when they attained that rank. Even though I was working in a “commercial” system I couldn’t help myself. I would take them into the office and ask them, “What was your main reason for starting this training?”

The person who had just blasted his way through a brown belt test would have to stop and think about that. Often they would say something like, “Self Defense.”

“How do you feel about your abilities and knowledge now? Are you pretty secure on that issue?”

Most of the time they would say, “Yeah, sure. I’m feel pretty good about that?”

“Then why are you here?” And then the jaw would drop. After a few minutes stumbling I would just encourage them to re-evaluate their motives for studying. I wanted them to come back on their own terms. There is a truck load of imitative behavior in the lower ranks, as there should be, but once they reached brown or above I wanted them to own more of their practice. Usually it worked, when it didn’t they just went back to plastering the bag with side kicks… and nothing was lost.




One Response to “What Do You Practice and Why?”

  1. Charles Cripple says:

    Very nice article Sifu! Shared in several group of facebook.

    My own practice has evolved over the years to something similar.

Leave a Reply

What do you have to say?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.