In many of the eastern martial arts there is this concept of yin and yang, male and female, hard and soft approach to energy. These dual terms represent the energy or mindset of the fighter. The soft or female energy is going to be about the flow of a fight, maintaining a cool head, focusing on redirecting an opponent’s power. The hard or masculine energy is high intensity, often fueled by emotion, focusing on meeting an opponent’s power head on. Both of these approaches are needed to develop a well rounded fighter. The balance between hard and soft energy is a guiding principle behind how we train at Ironside Medieval Combat.
Instructor Janeal Ironside (that’s me) is not only a life long practitioner of martial arts, I’m also a school teacher. I have my master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, meaning I have hundreds of hours of study in how the brain learns. When it comes to training the brain learns best with the soft or female energy. Having a low stress environment where students can focus on learning the new techniques is ideal. The intensity, that hard or masculine energy, comes into the training with drills. Drills are predictable patterns that help develop the pathways in your muscles and brain for fighting. Drills done with proper form at high intensity helps lock in those skill sets.
Most fighters will gravitate toward one energy style or another. Meaning their preference will be to always take things slow or fast. The fighter who always wants to rush through the lesson and get quickly to sparring has the natural disposition of the hard energy level. The fighter who is methodical and will practice slowly until they get it perfect has the natural disposition of the soft energy level. With new students I will teach the person with the natural hard energy to go slower and work soft energy. Students that always want to take things slow are going to be pushed to increase their intensity with their drills. We work the opposite to strengthen our weakness.
It’s important to practice what you preach. Personally, I lean more towards the soft and female energy, which is why it is important for me to train in intensity. That way I can turn my weakness into a strength. Today’s workout was a HIIT routine created by Duncan McCallum and it was incredibly grueling. I pushed as hard as I could and finished it in 29:40. My next step is to clean up my form and get more intensity with this routine. Martial arts is about balance. There is a system or equation that goes into training.
Our training will be reflected in our fighting. The fighter that can master both the yin and yang, hard and soft, male and female energy will have a significant advantage over their opponent. Even if you have zero interest in fighting learning how to harness both energy levels will serve you extremely well in this great journey we call life. Keep training, keep working on turning your weaknesses to strengths, and in the end you will become the best version of yourself that you can be.