One of the most remarkably amazing qualities I have witnessed in the truly gifted martial arts masters I have had the opportunity to meet, observe or trained with, is their focus on the foundational basics. They have a nearly flawless execution of simplicity. This absolute and total understanding of the quality of simplicity allows them to respond both physically and psychologically to most problems with an equally simple solution. In martial arts and martial athletics competition, the more complex a defense or attack is, the more likely it will be defended against. As well, the larger a motion is the easier it is to counter, deflect and avoid.
“To me, the extraordinary aspect of martial arts lies in its simplicity. The easy way is also the right way, and martial arts is nothing at all special; the closer to the true way of martial arts, the less wastage of expression there is.”
The Common Thread
As a coach and career martial artist; of over 40 years, I’ve observed and trained under some of the best out there. In the sport of Martial Athletics, the BEST have a common thread. They are really good at a few things and they have a very strong mindset! Kickboxer “Superfoot” Bill Wallace used only three kicks and did them with only his lead foot, yet beat the best at that time period time after time. Muay Thai Champion Rob Kaman has a few favorite combinations and exceptional timing and execution, as does Ramon Deckker. MMA Russian Champion Fedor Emelianenko has three favorite submissions. Judo Olympian Mike Swain had only a handful of throws. Rickson Gracie’s finish is usually a choke. Ajarn Chai Sirisute WILL land his blistering round kick on you. Everyone knows what these individuals will probably do when they fight them, yet these champions rarely lose, if ever, and in most cases, there is nothing you can do to stop them.
As I have observed this, the philosophy known as Occam’s Razor immediately comes to my mind. There are two parts that are considered the foundation of Occam’s Razor, and they were originally written in Latin:
The Principle of Plurality – Plurality should not be posited without necessity
The Principle of Parsimony – It is pointless to do with more what is done with less
In other words, the simplest explanation is usually the right one. The term razor illustrates the principle of shaving away unnecessary assumptions to get to the simplest explanation. In the reference of Martial Athletic Competition, use as little as possible to get the optimum result.
But, simpler does not mean easier, and before you can carve away the things unessential to your personal expression and character, you must FIRST have a strong foundational mass. You cannot eliminate what you do not have.
This philosophy, applies not just to the physical aspects of MMA training and competition, but is consistently true in the mental aspects as well.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” -Leonardo da Vinci
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