Strength is an important component of the practice of the martial arts. Students of the martial arts strive to punch and kick harder so as to be more effective in their martial skills. This is because the more strength a student can strike with, the more effective they can be as they have to strike fewer times to achieve the desired response, the subduing of an opponent.
Strength does not come from physical training alone. A student can work out with weights and develop the ability to do many push ups, sit ups or other physical feats of strength. There are many tools you can use to assist developing strength, such as ankle and wrist weights, resistance bands, however this alone does not ensure that the student’s strikes will be strong and effective.
True strength comes from the correct application of technique. If a student develops excellent technique, and can apply those techniques to an appropriate target with excellent timing, then their strikes will be strong and effective.
This sort of strength comes through study, practice, observation and awareness. In this state, the student can use minimal effort and physical strength to achieve tremendously powerful results through the appropriate use of timing, speed and technique. This is how the martial arts masters are able to perform extremely powerful strikes and kicks that rival a much younger person’s strength even when they are past their physical peak. The Masters of martial arts are not young people at the peak of their physical abilities. They are people in the 60’s and 70’s who have devoted decades of their lives to the study of martial arts. In martial arts the strength we develop is more than simply the abilities of our bodies.
To develop this strength requires Indomitable Spirit. The student needs to work on the technique, and persevere to always improve their technique. Once you have the external recognition from your instructor that you can do a technique, for example when you get a new belt, it is still important to continue working on that technique. Once you have a satisfactory standard of technique, and can perform it consistently, you will find that you reach a new level of understanding of the technique. You will get a new insight that shows you a whole new way of looking at the technique. Then it can seem like you learn the technique all over again! By continuing this process over and again, we can develop ever more strength in the technique.
To be powerful, you also need to work on speed, especially reaction time. This is important as being powerful is great, but to be effective you must be able to use that power at the right time to get results. If we develop only strength, we can become slow as our body bulks up. A martial artist trains to have quick reactions so they can use their power at the correct time. We train for this is activities such as step sparring. If we train correctly in this activity, we wait for our partner to attack, and teach ourselves to wait until the very last moment before we react, even though we know that they are about to attack. If we treat each step sparring incident as though we were actually being attacked, we train ourselves to respond with speed as well as strength.
Additionally, you needs to have great awareness of your surroundings, and the ability to decide what is the most appropriate action for the situation. Strength is not only about action, sometimes strength is refraining from action if that is the appropriate thing to do.
Strength in martial arts is not only measured in the physical sense, it is also important to have mental and character strength. This can be developed by being prepared to step outside of your comfort zone to do things that make a difference.
This can be as simple as speaking to a new student in the martial arts school to help them feel comfortable. It can be facing the challenges that crop up in everyday life without loosing your cool, but being a solid rock that the waves of circumstance crash against but cannot move. It can be facing the big challenges that come into our lives without flinching, or avoiding and denying the things we have to do.
Just as physical strength increases with repetition and practice, so does mental and character strength increase the more it is used. Each time we stand up for what is right, we increase our strength. Each time we make a decision based on what is right instead of what is easy, we increase our strength. Each time we step outside our comfort zone we increase our strength.
If we have the indomitable will to work on these areas of our training, we will become immensely powerful martial artists.