learning through play is so complex that entire books have been written about it. Yet it is so simple that a baby can do it.
In the modern day the mention of “combat sports” brings to mind modern day gladiators, and young men and now women, locked in battle looking to to inflict as mush GBH (grievous bodily harm) on there opponent as possible. People envision hours of arduous training with athletes pushing themselves to the brink of collapse and almost total physical fatigue. This is often the way it is marketed to appeal to the consumer and give it that air that “He who trains the hardest will win the competition”. Firstly, I have to stop here and say it’s not those who train the hardest but those who train “smartest”. that is usually in the best shape come day of contest.
Secondly, what of the every day person who’s grown weary of the treadmills, elliptical machines, exercise bike, and various selecterized resistance equipment of the average gym floor. Is there a place for your average man or woman in the combat sports world or is it foolish for someone with no intention of ever stepping into a ring, octagon or competition mat to even contemplate these modalities of movement?
Let’s change the concept of “combat sports” for a second. Let’s look at them more skill based play. I’ve always believed that a dojo, muay kai, or boxing gyms quality rest in the quality of the training partners available to some one who walks through the doors whether they be a high level competitor or a novice who’s never seen the inside of one of these establishment. As a teacher i always remind students that the most valuable piece of equipment in the facility is there training partner and that your training partners safety if your responsibility. I also tell newer students that the fast track to getting good at a martial art is to become the best training partner you can and it will open up a wider variety of training partners for you to work with. Martial arts are much like music and painting or even poetry. Each person will express themselves differently and each persons style has it’s own vernacular, in learning to adjust to different training partners you widen your “physical vocabulary” hence broadening your own skill set. What i’m suggesting is to become the best playmate possible.
Whether it be Muay thai, Jiu jitsu, judo, or any other form of martial art we always hear the term play. The techniques we learn with these arts are the toys used within this play and in order to keep the play sustainable we need to keep in mind the safety of our partners and ourselves. We want to establish a safe platform in order to grow and have a safe place to be able to make mistakes in order to learn from them. No one wants to work with the person who is always intent one besting there partners and there is no growth to be found in only choosing partners that you know you can easily outperform. The old saying is that you can only sharpen steel on steel so if you are constantly trying to chop down someone of a lower skill level then yourself it is doubtful you will find substantial growth in the long term.
Why are these forms of play desirable? As humans we need to challenge ourselves and step outside our safety zones to find out new things about ourselves. It’s been shown that people who tend to shy away from simple day to day challenges tend to collapse when something really stressful takes place in there lives. These modalities of play are truly less about “fighting” as they are about problem solving, reacting , and adapting which are 3 prime survival skills that have kept us alive for most of the human races history. More experienced participants in martial arts tend to talk more along the lines of a chess game then anything else and have a deeper understanding of strategy and percentages of outcomes. The development of what is called a “feed forward” adaptation where the neurological system will learn to react and correct at life speed develops which has significant real world carry over.
Community, We as humans are pack animals and from the onset we have always looked to belong. First with in our family order and then once we started attending school we sought out a niche to fit into because biologically we have an innate understanding that socialization is mandatory for proper development. Those who tend not to fit in gradually find others who don’t and will naturally sub-set into there own cliches. No where has shown us this more than the modern school systems. We desire socialization and interaction with our specific pack or tribe and even though our environment has evolved faster then our biology we still seek these out. Martial arts facilities offer this more than the average gym with the exception of the modern day CROSS-FIT style facilities who very much push the ideas of community.
More and more people are starting to realize that the missing component in there “fitness regimes” is the joy of play,cohabitation and camaraderie. The joy of working towards something in a group and having the support of people who are working towards the same goals as you are. Looking forward to seeing your friends and “tribe” and joining in something that you all find to be fun, and even if you don’t find the actual task to be fun on certain days the company you have while carrying it out helps to drive you through.