I would like to share my interpretation of an approach often highlighted by the phenomenally talented master, Dr Gavriel Schneider, who is a great teacher with a scientific approach to training.
The two-pillar approach breaks down martial arts and self defence training into two sections, which are often, but not always, linked. The two pillars are as follows:
1. Technique – This refers to technical ability, knowledge and understanding. In other words:
a. How many techniques do you know?
b. How well can you perform them?
c. Can you choose the correct technique for the situation?
Technical ability is therefore our toolbox. We need to have a sufficient number of tools, know how to use them, and be able to pick the right tool for the job.
2. Attributes – This refers to speed, power, endurance, distancing, timing, resilience (or conditioning, or ‘chin’, take your pick), as well as intangibles such as ‘heart’ (the universal term for a ‘no quit’ attitude), etc. These are independent of technique. In other words, knowing how to throw a punch is a technical skill; but being able to land the punch depends on one’s attributes of distance and timing. Being able to cause damage with that punch relates to the attributes of accuracy, speed and power. And being able to take punch and keep fighting depends on one’s chin and heart.
All other things being equal, attributes will trump skill. Allow me to elaborate:
Let us imagine a fight between two individuals. One has excellent technical skills and can throw beautiful punches and kicks, but is unfit, weak, does not hone his timing and distance by sparring, and is unused to getting hit. The other has never learned how to throw a proper punch, but is fit, fast, strong, has excellent understanding of timing and distance because of regular sparring, and is not afraid to take a hit. Who do you think will win such an engagement? I would put my money on the latter.
I believe that this is also relevant to the ongoing discussion about traditional martial arts (TMA) vs. reality-based self-defence (RBSD).
Many TMA systems (I say many, not all) focus on technical ability and development as the core of the art. Practitioners rehearse techniques repeatedly, constantly refining them over years of training to perform beautiful, fluid movements.
Many RBSD systems (again, I say many, not all) focus on attributes as the core of their training, teaching how to throw a barrage of strikes in a short time, targeting weak areas and often overpowering an opponent due to the tenacity of the attack.
I believe that in order to be ultimately successful in achieving your training goals (whether they are competition, self-defence or artistic development) it is important to develop both pillars side by side. As part of the journey of training you are likely to want to focus on one pillar more than another at different times in your life. It is also natural for different people to be more inclined towards one pillar than another. However, neglecting one altogether is likely to have very detrimental effects on one's ability to achieve desired training goals and one's development as a martial artist.
A building with uneven pillars at its base will not have a solid foundation, and will eventually fall. Think about how you are building yourself as a practitioner. Give yourself even, strong foundations, develop both pillars side by side and you can be a skyscraper!
Stay tuned, stay safe.