Imagination in Martial Arts & Fitness Training

AliMuhammad Ali was the greatest fighter of all time, well at least he believes so. Whatever, he produced many great quotes. Dubbed the ‘Louisville Lip’ by the press they came thick and fast. Some had wise words others cheeky. Below are two of the wiser quotes

The man who has no imagination has no wings

The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life

Both of these are worthy sentiments and have pertinence for your martial arts and fitness training. Clearly, if you view training the same after thirty years of training you haven’t trained very much at all. This is very much related to one of the things that really shook me was written on the once excellent but now defunct Goju Forums. Someone had said that some people do ten years training three times when they get to thirty years of training. This seemed awful to me but was truly put into context when another contributor said that there were others who did three years of training ten times!

Now that’s scary!

Why oh why would you want to do that? The same old stuff repeated time after time. Where is the progression? Sure you may very well work your way through the belts and get a high dan ranking but you know yourself if you’re merely collecting them like some styles collect kata. It has little meaning and must be incredibly boring.

ImaginationThat’s where the imagination comes in. I really like that Ali quote, if you have imagination you have wings. Imagination brings the martial arts alive. Training with Steve Morris has given me the confidence and desire to really use my imagination in training. Although observing imaginative training methods has not been restricted to him alone, he is the most inspiring in that regard.

Imagination coupled with intelligence in creating training drills, relating these to fighting requirements can get you out of the humdrum of dull repetitive training which seems to be for it’s own sake rather than improving someone as a fighter.

Sure repetition is required to master skills but with imaginative drilling this can be achieved in a fight specific manner. In my previous existence as a traditional karateka we would train basics in line, then marching around, then in padwork and with partners and then in the kata performance and even in bunkai. That’s a lot of basic training leaving little time to really apply and test what we learned. In the end there seems little point in mastering the perfect chudan block.

With imagination and a little intelligence these could have been combined into drills that tested the skills learned, but too often these skills were tested in an artificial stylised manner with little bearing on reality. I remember watching the grading at a progressive karate club and being surprised at the way in which minimal importance was given to the kata performance, in my eyes the form was all over the place. But the application of the moves were better and well….. more imaginative than those I’d been shown. Imagination can be used in a similar vein to make fitness training and conditioning more specific to your needs, rather than simply going to the gym to push weights around or plodding round a park.

These days I use kata less than ever, in fact barely at all. I do, however, refer to sanchin, and other kata’s from time to time. I believe sanchin in particular has a lot to offer as a model to illustrate certain concepts, such as structure to resist being pushed. I don’t get anyone to perform the actual kata but I do refer to it.

Tomorrow I am giving a private lesson on a kata I haven’t performed for a long time. There won’t be much, if any performance but there will be a lot of imaginative application on my part.

9 thoughts on “Imagination in Martial Arts & Fitness Training

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Imagination in Martial Arts & Fitness Training « EPIC martial arts Blog --

  2. I would add Bruce Lee and Morihei Ueshiba to your list if you don’t mind.

    I know there’s a lot more martial artists out there who have reached similar statures in the 20th century as Muhammad Ali, but I felt that their journeys martially are similar to Ali’s and should be acknowledged.

  3. Jon
    100percent in agreement with the need for imagination. I do however now believe in kata analysis as a very important part of ma training (rather than obsession with “technical correctness” .) I see kata as the fore runner to the DVD! These were the show case of the style often containing the styles best techniques ( subject to the secrecy of many masters) . So using some imagination can unlock fighting techniques from kata.

  4. One of the greatest boxers for sure — “fighter” is open to debate.

    As for kata, forms, etc.; well, I used to take a dimmer view of them — mostly due to my first run in Taekwondo.

    My second run in TKD ended in a black belt and it’s due to how this particular school taught the art. Namely, forms were only a small part of it! We spent more time sparring, drilling techniques, and trying to apply the techniques in realistic settings than we did on forms.

    A good comparison is my recent run in Kung Fu. This particular school places way too much emphasis on the forms. Sure, you have forms that are three times longer than a typical karate or taekwondo form; however, if you can’t apply that which you are miming what’s the point!

  5. AA – I wasn’t intentionally creating a list so add away. I think Ali was a genius fighter.

    DA – kata was the DVD if the day. Analysing kata is one way to go and if chosen simply must involve imagination otherwise you can be left with stale nonsense which is often set in stone. A daft approach.

    Imagination in all areas of training is the way to go IMO it means you can start to use your potential. The obsession with technical accuracy, as you say, is tedious. This becomes increasingly so when there is no point to the fussiness.

    BP – I like the ‘apply the mime’ phrase as that’s quite often all it ever is, which as you say is pretty pointless, unless you like miming pointlessly…..

    If the kata are so important well surely they should have this importance clearly expressed. If they are full of the ‘secrets of karate’ or whatever, this needs to be expressed.

    If they offer nothing of value there seems little point in retaining them. But if they have great value well express the value.

    On the other hand, we do have DVDs nowadays so there’s little need for the kata, surely the essential fighting concepts can be better passed on through that medium? Certainly as an adjunct to regular training.

  6. Kata’s are fine to a point but there has to be some reality in what you are doing. Most moves are done in a very precise manner but not realistic. They are important for learning proper form.
    In our Wausau martial arts school, we have modified many of our drills to better suit the needs of our industry. By that, meaning training in a mixed martial arts style. That way we spend more time on learning better fighting concepts rather than repeating stuff you will not use daily.

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