Breaking Good

Once your opponent’s balance is broken you can neutralize his threat. 

He may break his own balance by error or lack of skill. Or you can break it for him.

Our balance will be attacked. We cannot afford to lose it. We need to maintain it or to recover right away.

We have control over what we do – how we fight, how we train and how we live. We may have the chance to take control over our opponent’s balance. We will be prepared to exploit that moment only by mastering our own balance, continually.

Which is why trained people are different from untrained people. We perform differently under pressure. And we behave differently when there is no pressure.

But to have this advantage, you have to dig deep into training. It is not convenient and it is not easy.

The instantaneous reversals of technique and maneuver we use to outperform an opponent – even someone larger, stronger or out of their mind – are the result of long, hard training. You cannot just learn them and do them. It will not work, no matter how talented an athlete you are. 

Entry into deep states of flow, which we depend upon for both instantaneous and sustained high performance, and to reach the gateway of liberating insight, are not achievable without extensive training.

This is not well understood. The structure, values and knowledge-base of many martial arts schools prevents people from understanding it. But to fulfill your potential and to access the treasure available through training we need to understand it and devote ourselves to our training in this spirit.

It is not for everyone. If it is for you, then you have a place to do it. 

We cannot practice occasionally. A three-times a week training schedule is minimum for high performance results. It is not a minimum for fun, interesting activity, self-defense skill acquisition and a good whole-body workout. It is a minimum for deep, transformative practice.

We cannot practice mildly. It is possible to go with the flow, go through the motions, and not really push much beyond the comfort zone. If you need encouragement that’s fine. If you need a drill instructor it won’t work. It will be up to you to decide if you want to work that hard, even though others around you may not be, and it may not be immediately obvious why you should, or what you would get out of it. Of course, we all go for it at some points. But to sustain that high output and high awareness over the whole class or over many classes year after year, even when you are tired, even when you are sore, even when you are busy and under pressure from life demands outside the dojo, is unusual. We all face all of that. But it is necessary to set them aside and do deep training, continually, over an extended period for true transformation to happen. 

The essential premise of Zen budo is that by cultivating non-attachment – to target, tactic, outcome – we become free to act spontaneously with precision. To achieve that level of performance is not possible without deep commitment to an effective training method for an extended period, under continual pressure. 

Most people do not want that. People say they are really into it. They are sincere. They think about training, it is an important part of the way they see themselves, they feel special because of what they do in their dojo. That is all good. But the feeling of being really into it doesn’t automatically mean you are really doing it. That is up to you.

You need to be consistent, keep the fire on, rely on your 48-hour recovery cycle and never let the training heat dissipate. You keep the fire on for months, years, more. Your training temperature rises, and approachesthe point of phase transformation, only by never letting your training urgency or commitment stagnate. 

Vacations, travel, work, family time, special events, illness, injury, friends, distractions, shocks and surprises, are all a part of life. And training continues. If you miss a class, you do an individual workout. If you get hurt, you work around the injury. If you are busy, you step out for five minutes and do five slow motion kata every hour, and then get back to it, refreshed and more productive.

Anyone who has really trained for a lifetime has done this. Many have paid their dojo dues for a lifetime, shown up for class when convenient, made their way up the ranks, and had a good time, made good friends and got a good workout. They felt it was good enough. But it was not good enough to master their art or their lives. 

It is your choice. Training works. You need to know what you are doing and what you want to achieve. And you need to actually do it. 

You balance urgency with patience, and let nothing stand in your way. 

As you practice day in and day out to break your opponent’s balance, you learn to keep your balance when people all around you are losing theirs.  


Post by Jeffrey Brooks Copyright© 2022 Mountain Karate Dojo, LLC, Yamabayashi Ryu honbu, in Saluda, NC

Photo by Tarleton Brooks, Copyright © 2022.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: