Tuesday, 25 August 2015 13:58

Getting Punched in the Face, Puzzle Solving and Critical Thinking

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Martial arts are, in a very real sense, a way of solving problems.

These problems can be broadly defined - improving fitness or learning to defend yourself from an attacker, or more specific, such as how to land a particular punch against a particular opponent in a particular bout.

The parallells between this and solving problems in business or personal life are easy to see. Dealing with difficult customers, expanding your skill base, managing stress and finding opportunities where others see difficulties are all part of this. Not sure how? 

Here are examples of common ‘problems’ that martial artists solve on a regular basis:
1. Technical problems: These can relate to performing a particular technique or sequence correctly.
2. Personal limits: These can relate to improving your fitness, conditioning or other things that you may have not thought possible.
3. Situational problems: How to deal with a particular scenario. For example, defeating an opponent with a particular style in sparring, defending yourself against a specific attack in a particular place and time, etc.
4. Mental fortitude – functioning under pressure, overcoming fear, overcoming ego, etc.

Different aspects of training, and different styles, emphasise different problems for you to solve, but generally will improve your overall problem solving skill set. For example, sparring against a more skilled opponent will help you overcome fear, control yourself under pressure, identify weaknesses and strengths in your technical ability and application, improve fitness and manage adrenaline, etc.

If we think about it in this way, it becomes apparent that learning different styles of fighting is absolutely integral to being able to problem solve effectively. How so, you ask?

Imagine you are solving the same puzzle over and over again. The first time it may be hard; the second time simpler; but by the 100th time you are no longer thinking – you have memorised the solution. The next time you face the same problem you will react without thought. This intuitive action is the goal of most martial arts – you throw the punch at me, and I instinctively evade or block and counter effectively.

Now someone puts a new puzzle in front of you. You try the old solution, but it does not work. This is where many people will stop training. They try and apply the same solution over and over again for a little while and then one of three things will happen:
1. They will fault the puzzle and go back to the one they know how to solve
2. They will give up and stop playing
3. They will try and find a new solution

The problem with the first two solutions is that you will not grow or evolve mentally by refusing to learn or giving up.
This process will repeat itself over and over again over your martial arts life, as well as your normal life. It will happen when you learn a particularly difficult technique, or when you begin to learn a new system.

And this brings me back around to learning multiple styles. Let’s go back to our puzzle analogy. You solve the puzzle one style poses for you over and over again until the solution becomes intuitive action. You then go to another puzzle, and solve that one until it becomes intuitive action as well.

Once you have gone through this process a few times, you will stop memorising solutions; the thought process for problem solving has, in itself, become intuitive action.

That mental shift signifies a huge milestone in one’s development as a martial artist. And nearly every martial artist I know will swear that the same thought process applies to business success!
Those who recognise this will go on to enjoy not only a freer, more diverse, creative and enjoyable martial arts path, but will find that this applies to the way you approach and solve problems in general.

Stay safe, stay tuned.


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