I was training the other day with my instructor and he gave me an amazing complement. He told me my movement and how quickly I learn martial arts is one of the best he has ever worked with. WOW! lets take a moment to absorb this. My instructor Nelson Pinto (his website is http://www.farang-alliance.org/ ) is a multiple world champion, has multiple black belts and super high degrees with them, has taught and trained with people around the world. Seriously, he is an incredible person that I am super privileged to train with. To get a complement from him like that is amazing. It did get me thinking what part of my experience and training helped me develop my “natural” flow and movement. Also, because I am a giant history nerd I researched martial arts training across cultures to find how other martial artists develop their grace and movement. The commonality I discovered between them was dancing.
If you look at warrior cultures that start their indoctrination into the military arts at a very young age, dance is included as part of the over all training. To live the life of a warrior required balance, they weren’t simple brawlers. Take Sparta as an example. Spartan boys were removed from their families at the age of 7 to begin their military training. Their training, even by the measure of their own times, was incredibly brutal. As the boys aged and proved their physical toughness they were educated in debate, poetry, dance, and sometimes in music (Mackie & Fotostock 2016). Fast forward in time and travel around the world to Medieval Europe; and you will see a common pattern. Boys begin their page training between the ages of 7-10. By the time they were teenagers their education in art, dance, literacy, and edict began (Cartwright 2018). There are a ton of similarities and even more cultures to use (definitely need future blog posts to address it all); however, why dance for these warrior cultures?
Dancing is about balance and control. It is a display of deadly grace and beauty. Dancing helps you harness your inner rhythm and smooth out your movements into absolute efficiency. I started learning dancing around the same age as I started training in martial arts. Martial arts was always my focus, but my dancing gave me freedom. Often times as an adult I will take a martial arts combination, form, or kata and convert it to dancing routines. It helps me learn the movements without the rigidity of traditional martial arts. It gives me freedom to enjoy the art. Then I take that pure joy and add it back to the original forms. It gives me grace, efficiency and an ability to learn very quickly.
Martial Arts and Dancing Video Example
Here are a few video examples to show what I mean. I took a simple strike, block, strike movement with three different weapon styles. First with a knife. A knife is a fast aggressive form. The movements are small and choppy to maximize speed. The second was with an Escrima stick, which recreates a machete. With the machete I have to change the block to adapt to the extra reach. If you watch carefully the body movement also changes. I have to add more hips and power to this movement compared to using a knife. Last is with a dancing sword. The basic movements of the sword look the same as the movements for a machete, however, my shoulders and hips are used a lot more. When I dance I can over exaggerated the movements and play around with timing. This play develops muscle control and memory. Then when I have to use these combinations in a sparing match my movement is trained and I can generate a lot of speed and power without thinking about it.
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With all the exciting things happening this year, we would love to share this amazing training with our community to help inspire a love for martial arts. You can help support these programs by following and sharing our various social media pages. There is a Facebook Page, Instagram Account, and YouTube Channel dedicated to Ironside Medieval Combat. Check out these pages, share them, talk about them , and together we can make Martial Arts an inspiration for generations yet to come.
Cartwright, Mark. “How to Become a Medieval Knight.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 8 June 2018, http://www.ancient.eu/article/1240/how-to-become-a-medieval-knight/. Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.
Mackie, Tom, and Sorokin/Age Fotostock. “Bred for Battle-Understanding Ancient Sparta’s Military Machine.” National Geographic. N.p., Nov 2016. Web. 17 Feb. 2020.