Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Play Fighting

It's easy to take sparring too seriously. Martial artists go through great lengths to try and come up with effective "fight simulations," for them to hone their skills and it can sometimes involve complex rule structures, target substitutions and extensive protective equipment. We want the real deal. Safety is always the biggest concern, but put a grown man and a few children together and they can play fight safely without much fear of injury without any sort of rules, restrictions or even a safety brief. "Well that's just play. I'm training for a FIGHT." True, but all animals learn through play.

Kittens learn to stalk, pounce and hunt through play. Full grown cats still play. Just get some string out and watch as their eyes go wide and see them start to pad softly towards it waiting to strike. Dogs play as well. They learn their social dominance games through play, which they later use to decide hierarchy in a pack setting. Even prey animals play through chasing and running, practicing the same tactics that they'll use to try and evade predators. To a certain degree, we do this as well when a father rough houses with his children. We all know how to play.

For some reason, humans need to be serious when we train to do serious things. But play is a good safe way to try and improve our fighting skills. Usually it isn't power or even technique that we need practice with, but adapting. Flowing with another person, learning to recognize openings and opportunities. According to Rory Miller, it's one of the four ways that help ingrain skills along with teaching, training and conditioning. Give it a try. Tell your training partner that you're just going to play around for a little bit. I bet you end up training twice as long and having twice as much fun.

It's also possible to play on your own. Just imagine you're playing with someone and try and flow from one thing to another without taking it too seriously.