Martial arts students often ask, “How can I get faster at blocking?”
There are several different ways to block. Having the technique down is one thing, acquiring the perception is the more important thing.
Someone once taught me that sometimes the best way to perceive and react to attacks more quickly is by not focusing. Yes, that doesn’t sound right, does it? But it works.
In children (and adults) during blocking bat drills, they often focus on the bats and look for the attack. The problem with hyper-focusing on the bat is that it becomes the only thing to which you attend. Possibly, missing the fact that there is another bat or two legs that also have attack potential. Focusing too much on only one part leads to ill-perceiving, or even not acknowledging altogether, the other parts.
Perception, speed and reaction improve dramatically when you tell them to stop looking at the bat, hand, arm, elbow, leg, etc. and simply look at the base of the throat. By “de-focusing”, even if you are close, the periphery picks up movements significantly quicker and allows the body to react faster. The trick there is to get the brain out of the way.
Psychophysiologically, everything the body is processed through the brain, but it doesn’t mean cognition, or thought, is necessary to process everything. Think about it, do you have to think to breathe or think your heart to beat? Nope.
Likewise, perception and reaction, ironically, are improved when de-focusing. Ultimately, the goal is not to focus on the throat, but to allow one’s vision to pass through the target and see the space on the other side – moving the mind out of the way and allowing the brain and body work without active thought and perceive the opponent’s whole body, the big picture. Remember Mushin?
Not only in training or fighting, but in life too, should we strive to let go and allow ourselves to see through challenges, problems, issues and de-focus on the target so that we can see the space on the other side and let solutions and natural reactions take over.
I know one of my own personal difficulties is over-thinking things, second guessing myself and stalling decisions. Almost every time, I either already had the answer, had already made my decision, or it would present itself to me the moment I would let go and allow myself to see through it all.
Our days can be so hectic and busy with all kinds of things, we are frequently taxed physically, emotionally and spiritually and it becomes ever more difficult to see the whole in the mess of blocking the parts.
Perception, in it’s odd way, then, is actually sometimes about not focusing so you can see past what is just in front of you and see the whole picture.