Posts Tagged ‘Mastery’

Disclaimer: I do not consider myself a master, and I do not accept any such recognition. I am too young, have not been doing anything long enough, have not trained hard enough, and have not experienced enough to justify any such claims. Despite not being a master myself, I can recognize and believe what true mastery should be like. All aspects of the concept of mastery also applies to things outside of martial arts.

What is mastery? A simple search will define mastery as:

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Sometimes, when you read a list of definitions, you can choose at least one of them to reflect what you’re trying to mean when you say something. However, when I see this definition, I think it needs much more than the two options. Can someone be a master with simply comprehensive knowledge and skill without control? Can someone be a master with control or superiority without having comprehensive knowledge or skill?

Obviously not.

Let’s debunk some myths about mastery.

Myth 1: A master is an old man who has spent his life training in solitude, peacefully dedicating his life to his art.

Thanks to the movie industry, we have this inaccurate and ethnocentric image of mastery. Real mastery is simply building comprehensive knowledge and skill through practice and experience, and developing it long enough to show expert control in the use of that knowledge and skill.

Oftentimes, if people who call themselves experts or masters are observed in detail, you may notice that many of them lack some important aspects. Knowledge, skill, and control are three basic characteristics of a master. Many black belts out there are made up of only one or two of these traits.

Myth 2: A master is unbeatable.

A master is not invincible. Someone who fights to win every time is not a master. A master must have the ability to use control in a fight, and not just try to obliterate their opponents. Another crucial ability all masters should have is to avoid fights. Anyone can be defeated at anytime, especially if they constantly stay at the white stage of the Awareness Colour Code.

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Understanding the Awareness Colour Code is essential to mental control. Some people are great fighters, but they lose control mentally during or after the fight despite winning. If one does not know or understand how they react to certain situations, and what triggers them to reach bad conditions like a catastrophic mental shut down (code black), no longer thinking or applying strategy.

Myth 3: Masters are always calm, gentle, and peaceful.

In my experience through the military and martial arts training, it is most difficult to train people for extreme stress. People never know how they react until they are put to the test in a real situation. Even using simulations and aggression training does not fully prepare one for a real fight. Obviously, you should not go around looking for fights so that you can practice. That is dangerous and stupid. The important point is that you do not know what will happen in your body until the time comes. If your training has been effective, you will know when your body wants to explode, but you can control it to achieve your goal (which should be to safely protect yourself and your loved ones, and then get the heck out of your bad situation).

This may seem like a unrelated tangent, but it is so very important to mastery. It’s not about being calm, gentle, and peaceful all the time. It’s about being able to maintain control even when you’re not calm.

The crux of mastery

Once, I was told by a very well known Krav Maga instructor that he didn’t like a certain organization because their top fighters are not hardcore enough. One of his friends, who was a phenomenal athlete and fighter by all accounts, was working towards a high level promotion. The final test was sparring. In the test, he was performing like a champion fighter, dominating other black belts. Finally, they asked him to display control in his fights (meaning to not simply beat everyone up), and he simply could not do it. In the end, they declined his promotion.

On another note, the instructor who told me this story is also a great practitioner. Yet, after getting to know him more, it is obvious that he also has trouble grasping the importance of controlled aggression. People who have difficulty with mental control, usually have other underlying psychological/emotional issues. Often, they eventually create their own organizations, rather than recognizing their shortcomings and then working on those internal problems. The biggest challenge all practitioners face is mental control.

At the heart of Krav Maga

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The goal is to “walk in peace” as stated by Imi LichtenfeldYes, aggression is a central attribute of Krav Maga, but the core of Krav Maga is walking in peace, which means both outer and inner peace.

Most of the Kravists or martial artists who I have met in my life have the same difficulty controlling themselves internally. When real violence occurs, their training and strategy goes out the window. Without mental control, even the most phenomenal athletes I know can easily lose to mediocre opponents with better strategy when it comes to a real fight.

Don’t get me wrong, all of the individuals I know who are like this are still phenomenal at what they do. I would love to train with these people and learn from them. They have valuable knowledge or skills, or both.Yet, in a violent situation, they are either burning harder than they should at code red, or they have hit code black and they don’t even know it.

What does it take to be a master?

The 10,000 hour rule is a great base. 10,000 hours equates to about 5.5 years of full time training at 40 hours a week. This is why in most legitimate belt programs, it takes 10+ years to reach a black belt. And those at that level know that black belt is just the beginning of becoming a real master.

If 10,000 hours of physical practice means you have comprehensive skill, you still need to have comprehensive knowledge and control.

Knowledge comes from both training and real life experience, and then the ability to combine and connect the two. This may require a person to step outside of the cave or the dojo in order to gather the information and accumulate knowledge.

Control is twofold. Physical control could come from the hours of physical training. Mental control, on the other hand, can be difficult to develop. The right training environment and instructor is very important. Many training environments barely scratch the surface on knowledge about the art being learned outside of techniques and moves.

They say the hardest battle you ever face is yourself

I would like to add that the biggest lies we tell are to ourselves. You can tell yourself that you have no problems, but do you really? You can tell yourself that you know your problems and are working on them, but do you really? It is difficult to have the greatest insight, and it is difficult to accept what you see inside yourself. But mental control is one of the biggest parts of achieving mastery.

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True mastery is when you can walk in peace knowing that you can overcome the challenges ahead

Ultimately, it is a combination of everything coming together. It is more than showing up to class and training. It is more than just teaching. It is more than believing that you are a master. It is when you reach the point in which others recognize you as a master. (Self-promotion is not mastery, by the way…)

A true master can physically defend him or herself, and others. A true master knows the mental struggles, but knows that he or she is prepared to deal with them.

Many people just go through the motions and lie to themselves, never accepting their shortcomings and learning to face them. Are you willing to do what it takes to achieve mastery?

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If you ask most martial arts instructors out there are you a Jedi master or Sith Lord it is most probable that all of them would answer, “why Jedi Master of course.”

No one in their right mind would say, well of course I am a Sith Lord. This makes complete sense, after all as martial artists are suppose to be about honor and respect, love and compassion, right from wrong. However when I look around at most schools and many of the styles what I see is models that resemble something more akin to Sith Lord’s.

This may seem rather strange but let me explain.

In order to become a Jedi master you must simply prove yourself worthy. It is the hope that all Jedi padawans become Jedi Knights and when of course ready Jedi Masters. A teacher expects their student to become the same level as them if not surpass them. As such there is a Jedi master council of masters who are equal and all have valid opinions.

In the Sith model there is usually only one Sith Master. In this model the only way to become a master is by the death of your current master usually at your own hands as this “proves” you are better. If a Sith master dies of natural causes than those below fight it out to find out to be the next master. Quite the waste if you ask me.

Any ideas yet why I consider most martial arts instructors to be Sith lords?

At Urban Tactics it is our hope and or goal that all of our students meet or exceed our abilities in Krav Maga. This choice is rather easy for us as the purpose is to teach self defense not artistic mastery. We want all our students to be able to defend themselves to the best of their abilities. If those abilities happen to be better than ours then we know we have done our job.

If I look at a traditional style, there is often a master or grand master or some equivalent title. Usually there is only ever another master if they die. While this could be due to respect and honor it seems rather silly as if a student is better then should they not be the master? or rather should they not now be equals happy to continue to teach their respective style to everyone who wants to learn?

While I cannot pretend to understand the details around the last few years of Imi’s death it is clear there was a power struggle, much like the sith lords. Now, there are many Krav Maga organizations with heads all claiming to be the head of Krav Maga. Instead of perfecting the system they diverged and keep their moves and ideologies secret, as if teaching people the most optimal way to defend themselves should be a secret. To me this is selfish and accomplishes nothing.

The result has been that everyone and their son thinks they are a Krav Maga expert. When I look around North America I continue to see sub par schools with sub par instructors all teaching different things and calling it Krav Maga. This does nothing for those who truly wish to defend themselves and gives many the false sense of security as they “know” Krav maga but can barely throw a punch let alone know the history of Krav Maga.

For comparison, lets also look at karate. When the modern founder died and named his successor a Korean the other masters were offended as karate is suppose to be Japanese, even though its origins can be traced to China. Now there are at least 5 major types of Karate and numerous offshoots all claiming to be the true form.

The reality is all this bickering and continuous splitting once an original master dies has nothing to do which style is better it has to do with ego plain and simple. If you have your students bowing down to you and running around calling you master, creating a cult like environment this is ego driven and more akin to the Sith than the Jedi.

Sith-LordsNot to mention that all humans have a brain, two legs and two arms so how can there realistically more than one style that is truly effective. We are after all fundamentally the same. Shouldn’t all the so called masters and grand masters come together to devise one system that works plain and simple?

I mean is it not the point of martial arts to learn to defend oneself from harm? Shouldn’t we all want a perfect system and curriculum that keeps it simple and covers all types of attacks from the root of all attacks which is of course the brain?

So I ask you to really consider, as an instructor are you a Jedi Master or really a Sith lord?

20331206If you are doing anything other than sharing information and making people better physically and mentally then I suggest that you might in fact be a Sith lord. Please, dispel your ego, dispel the theatrics and focus on what its all really about, making the world a better place one student at a time.

Written by: Jonathan Fader