Tuesday, April 7, 2009


This is the fourth post in a series of 10 outlining the qualities I feel are the most important for success in practicing the martial way in the modern-day world...

Spontaneity...when I think of this word I think of the frequency of these posts...yeah, sorry about the inconsistency. I'll persevere and work on that. Or am I just exercising restraint by not posting? (get it?) Oh I crack myself up...can't be a proper martial artist without a sense of humor, right? And so we begin...

If the other nine qualities I list in this series are the meat of life, spontaneity is surely the spice.

Spontaneity is a quality necessary to the successful martial artist for two purposes: fighting and living. Confused? You shouldn't be.

Imagine you found yourself in a fight. Your opponent comes at you with nothing but haymakers. That's it. No flip kicks. No straight punches. No knees. No feints. Just haymakers. Unless he's an impossibly fast powerhouse, this should be a relatively simple fight. You can predict his movements, thus you can counter them.

Now imagine you're facing a more skilled fighter. This fighter doesn't foreshadow his movements. He doesn't raise his shoulders before he moves in on you. His eyes don't look directly at his target. He changes up his moves and changes up his technique from one second to the next. You have no idea what's coming next.

This is a fun fight. The former was just a funny fight.

Which opponent do you think will be harder to defeat?

In order to be successful in the martial arts, your movements cannot always be predetermined. This is different from kata. Kata and repetition are key ingredients to mastering the art of spontaneity, as they infuse a certain muscle memory. Only through constant drilling and repeating the same move over and over and over can we truly be spontaneous in the martial arts.

Allow me to elaborate: if I wanted to, I could go on the World's Strongest Man competition and fight to be the "world's strongest man." I haven't trained a day in my life like those guys train, but if I really wanted to, I could go out and compete. I'd be spontaneous, right? Well, to an extent...because I'd also be dumb.

Spontaneity does not rule out the need for preparation. Someone who is illiterate won't go out and write a book. Someone who has never lifted anything heavier than a book bag in his life won't head to the gym and put up 200 lbs.

Now take those extreme examples, tone them down, and apply them to the concept above - in the martial arts, you must always drill and constantly repeat moves and techniques in order to be a spontaneous fighter.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Spontaneity in life...now this is where I really excel.

Our lives are a continuous, unstoppable stream of experiences - separate in our minds but interconnected in the wheel of time. One experience causes, directly or indirectly, another experience. Causality. You flinch when your brother makes to punch at you even though you know he won't - you only flinched because he used to really punch you when you were younger. You don't sign up for e-mail lists anymore because you've been placed on others against your will and spammed like hell by immoral marketers.

One might say that every action we have is in equal and opposite reaction to something - or an accumulation of somethings - that happened to us earlier in our lives.

A key tenet in the classical martial arts - and ancient philosophies - is to escape this endless cycle of action and reaction. Become a free thinker, not constrained by your reactions to outward stimuli. Become spontaneous.

Do something no one expects - not even you - and start small. Don't live your life in constant reaction to the events transpiring around you. BE the events.

Be the spice of life.

Yume - "Dream"

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