Dacayana UK

THOUGHTS AND ACTIONS.          By David McGoldrick

THOUGHTS AND ACTIONS.          By David McGoldrick

The twelfth and most important principle of Dacayana Eskrima is that "Students should align their actions with their thoughts". So, what does this mean? Does this apply to Martial Arts only, or does it apply to life? 

There is an argument that "everything we ever created, started with a thought". We must have a picture of something in our minds if we want to make it a reality. On the very first Martial Arts lesson I ever took, I looked at my teachers Black belt and thought "I want to be that". I couldn't throw a punch, but the thought was there. When we see someone demonstrate a technique or skill, we think about being good at it before we even start to practice. If we are wise, we then get very specific about what we want to do. This is usually achieved by paying attention to our coaches lessons. We pay attention to their demonstration and instructions. Then we take action and practice. Repeated action develops skill. It sounds simple, doesn't it?

So, where does it all go wrong? Simply, some people don't think, some people don't clarify their thinking and some people don't take effective action. It can really go wrong at any of those 3 stages. As we all know, there are plenty of thoughtless people in the world. In fact most of what we do in our daily lives is done out of habit and is virtually subconscious. Most of what we learn from the news or advertising is effective because we don't question it. But if we want to achieve something, we have to engage our conscious mind. This is harder for some people than for others. A teacher has to get the right balance. In order to get skilful students they must concentrate on practicing but in order to get knowledgeable students they need to question. You can't do both at the same time. At the 2 extremes, you can have the "Don't question me" teachers who run their schools like a cult of personality, with very little rational thought or you can have you can have the "Socratic" teachers who run their school like a debating society, with very little actual training. I always suggest that you practice first, then discuss, in that order. By practicing first we can clarify what we are doing and base our questions on our experience of practicing the techniques rather than what we imagine it must be like. This brings a lot of clarity to the discussion. 

This takes us to the second place where things go wrong; clarity. If we have a vague idea of what we want to do, that is a dream. If we have a specific idea of what we want to do, that is a plan. As students, it is important to pay close attention to the details of the lesson. Don't let the important points go unnoticed. Principle number 4 of Dacayana Eskrima is to "Stay 100% focused". I think this is one of the most important times to apply this principle. We pay attention to their feet, body position, hands and specific instructions. One of the best tips I was ever taught about learning Martial Arts was always to watch the feet first. Don't be distracted by the hands until you understand the foot position. This advice was given to me 40 years ago and has always helped me to learn efficiently. As teachers, we need to focus on demonstrating and pointing out the most important and relevant points. It can be easy for teachers to over teach by talking about the technique rather than instructing the students on exactly what they need to do. By the time the students get to practice, all the details have been muddled up and confusion reigns. But that is a subject for another day. 

Principle number 3 of Dacayana Eskrima is to "Act like an expert". As a student, literally follow along as your coach demonstrates. Physically copy their moves as they are demonstrating and explaining. No matter what your learning style, you eventually have to "do" Eskrima in order to be good. No amount of looking and listening will make you good without doing. In NLP, this is called "modelling". It is basically just copying your teacher. This is how children learn from their parents and is the basis of the oldest and most effective form of education in the world; apprenticeship. As teachers, getting your students to copy your moves in real time, as you demonstrate and explain is more efficient than any other teaching method of which I am aware. It doesn't leave room for questions, but that can come later. 

The next step is to take effective action. This is why we train. It is said that "Repetition is the mother of skill". The more we do something, the better we should get. Let's take a closer look at that. I would never expect to be brilliant at something the first time I do it. We get a rough idea of what we are doing and then as we repeat it, our coach points out what we are doing well and how we can improve (I would hope). This feedback helps us to refine our technique. In a world where everyone expects instant gratification, instant success and instant coffee, this can seem like a long process. Well, if it wasn't, everyone would be a black belt. By staying focused on the details, we stay sharp. Otherwise this would be a very boring process. This is why we sometimes see techniques decline in standard as people practice more. Apart from physical fatigue, which is a different issue, mental fatigue can make us very sloppy. This is why I like to leave the questions and discussions of technique until later. It helps us to refocus our training. The better we get, the less room there is for improvement. So remember that "Mastery is in the details". 

Another important point is that of perspective. I have seen students with amazingly sharp focus and talent who train really hard in class. They really find it difficult to make progress. The reason is that they either don't train very consistently or they don't train for very long. Their perspective is that a burst of hard work makes them look dedicated. It doesn't. Only being consistent and persistent makes you look dedicated. I once had a beginner in my kickboxing class who knew she had some natural talent so asked me if I thought she was good at Kickboxing. I said "It's too early to tell yet. Ask me again in 2 years". That must be hard to understand for someone who is used to getting instant "likes" on Facebook. 

So how does aligning your actions with your thoughts apply in life? I often tell my students that "Martial Arts is a microcosm of life". Everything you learn in class has an application in real life. It is possible to learn more things about yourself in one hour of a martial arts lesson than you can learn in years of living your normal everyday life. We learn how we deal with power and responsibility, teaching and learning, controlling ourselves and others, being a help or a hindrance, focus and boredom, effort and laziness, success and failure, giving and receiving respect, courage and fear, structure and chaos, etc. I'm sure you can think of many more things we learn about ourselves in training. But the one thing, most relevant to this article, that we learn, is about our integrity or hypocrisy. 

Two of my favourite descriptions of integrity are "Doing what you say you're going to do" and "Saying what you mean and meaning what you say". In a world of "Political promises", where many people believe that "an explanation is the same as an excuse" or that "it is their prerogative to change their mind", it is difficult to find people that you can trust and take seriously. 

The word integrity comes from the word integer, which means one complete whole. I like to think of it as being "consistent thoughts, words and actions". Simply put, this is being honest. So, if everything starts with a thought, then we align our words with our thoughts. Of course, we are under no moral obligation to tell people what we think, but we should at least be honest with ourselves, and if we do speak, then we should be honest with others, if we want to have integrity. We then align our words with our actions. This is following through on our plans. If I have told anyone my intentions, and not followed through, then I have lied. If I haven't told anyone my intentions, then I have lied to myself. I will let you decide which is worse. So ultimately, if we want to have integrity, we are aligning our actions with our thoughts. 

So why is hypocrisy seemingly so much more common than integrity? Simple, it's easier. Feeling is easier than thinking, which is easier than expressing which is easier than doing. We can have many thoughts, very easily. No matter how quickly we speak, we can never keep up with our brain. And "When all is said and done, a lot more is said than done". This can leave a huge gap between our thoughts and our actions. In my opinion, when people talk about having emptiness in their lives, it can usually be traced back to this gap. Human beings are, by their nature, purpose driven. So, the happiest times in our lives are usually when we are working towards our goals. The most disappointing times are when we are not. 

Let's start with the basics for both students and teachers. If you say that you're going to turn up to a class or seminar, turn up. If you intend to practice, just practice. If you are supposed to be doing a particular technique, just focus on that technique. This will help build integrity in your training and that can be applied to the rest of your life. 

As always, these comments are based on my experience of training and life and I always look forward to talking with people whose opinions differs. D