It’s been a while since I’ve written a martial arts post and think it’s about time to cover some more important concepts. In this article, we’re going to cover three concepts that tie together to improve your overall skill. These are useful in sparring, but are also principles that equally applicable for self-defense.
This concept is based on a pyramid where you must gain a solid foundation on the existing level before progressing to the next level. Those three levels, in order, are Coordination, Application, and Flow.
Coordination is level 1 on the pyramid and basically covers everything you may associate with it. You must be able to perform the technique you’re training effectively and efficiently. For example, if you are practicing a kick, you must make sure the base foot is pivoting correctly, the leg is chambered correctly before and after the kick, your upper body isn’t bent too far over, your arms aren’t flailing everywhere, and that you’re keeping your eyes on your target – and these are just the basics for a kick!
The better you are at your technique, the easier the following levels of the pyramid will be. Be sure to take plenty of time to critique the execution of your technique. I like to split this critique down into a few categories:
- The technical aspect (body alignment, control, etc)
- The strength of the technique
- The speed of the technique
- Your recovery after performing the technique
Once you are satisfied with how you are performing this one technique, it’s time to move onto the next level of the training pyramid.
The next stage of this training pyramid is actually applying your technique to a target, namely another person. This is all about learning how to make the technique work against something that’s going to be moving, blocking, and striking back.
It’s best to start with a partner that offers minimal resistance, maybe simply them moving around and increasing the difficulty from there. As you become more successful, your partner should begin making it harder for you to land your technique on them.
Below is a good example of students learning to apply their techniques against a partner.
Notice how they’re learning to apply the same technique against various entries from their opponent. This is fairly structured training where the student knows what is coming, but it will eventually progress to free sparring.
We’ve talked about flow in a previous article and the concept is the same here. Flow is about learning to take the technique(s) you’ve learned and seamlessly tying them together.
Making techniques flow together is one of the hardest principles to master in martial arts for a few reasons.
The first reason is simply because throwing techniques fast and hard tend to throw your body off balance and you must learn to accommodate for this so that you can recover quickly and not spend precious seconds resetting yourself after each technique.
The other reason mastering flow is so difficult is because your opponent/partner will be doing their own thing while you’re trying to do yours. You might have a great combination in mind, but that doesn’t matter if your opponent is moving and striking in the middle of it.
Part of mastering flow is learning to adapt in the moment to what your opponent is doing and not missing a beat. This takes years of practice and trial and error.
Flow isn’t simply limited to techniques. It can also apply to:
- Movement/Distance changes
- Blocking, parrying, evading
Show me a person who can strike, smoothly evade an opponent’s counter, and move into another angle to strike again, and I’ll show you someone who’s mastered the flow principle. Flow is, without a doubt, the hardest element of this training pyramid to master. You may be able to breeze through the first two levels of this training pyramid relatively quickly, but mastering flow is what truly brings the “art” into the martial arts.
The Coordination, Application, Flow training pyramid can be adapted to nearly any sport as well as many other hobbies and endeavors. The approach may change, but the principles remain the same:
Build a solid foundation before moving to the next level.