I’ve been asked so many times over the years as to what I think is the most important aspect of close-quarter combat training. Before I detail, I’ve found the answer holds true for martial arts training and pretty much any other physically demanding activity requiring honed movements demanding speed and accuracy.
Firstly, where do things like speed, accuracy, stamina, lightening reflexes, and the ability to focus movement and awareness in more than one direction at once come from? Of course some comes from the many systems running in the body, and their ability to run efficiently. Everything from the circulatory system, respiratory system, digestive system, endocrine system, lymphatic system, nervous system; all the meridians and the many layers of body tissue come into play. Even a highly trained individual will succumb to physical breaks in hardcore activity if a single system forms a weakness. That is just life.
However, even with all the physical training in the world, it’s just the lesser aspect of close-quarter combat training. Those who excel in martial arts, combat training, and other highly demanding and dynamic physical activity, all share another level of skill.
If, for example, someone wishes to get a chance at gaining entry into something like Special Forces training, before physically and emotionally tested, they are mentally tested.
The key to excelling in a highly demanding and dynamic physical activity is found in the power of the brain. Intelligence is the key. Though we cannot limit the meaning of intelligence to a single form. Intelligence must be honed in many forms.
The brain controls every aspect of the body. Strength, speed, accuracy, stamina, vigor, control, power, movement dynamics and everything else all comes from brain function before it becomes body function. I’ve seen so many people train their bodies to insane levels trying to excel in their sport, activity, and fighting style, whatever, but without doing the same with the brain; the skill will only go so far.
A wide variety of brain skills need to be utilized exercised and honed in order that the most dynamic physical abilities benefit. Skills such as:
Each one of those skills activates different regions of the brain, giving the brain a full workout and thus developing all areas. Just like the many forms of exercise and training to develop all the regions of the body, the brain also needs the same attention to not only develop, but also heal and rebuild over the years. The old saying goes that we only use 10 percent of our brains, but this is not a fact. In all actuality research has shown us that the many regions of the brain all function at varying rates and times, and all together those functions in a healthy brain constitute 100 percent usage.
Remember, the body only follows the brain and so can only function as well as the brain. The more of the brain that is exercised and developed, the more of the body will benefit.
The intelligence level of any individual comes down to how many connections there are between brain cells. Every time we learn something new our brains create new connections between cells. These synapses are the real key to brain power.
Another reason to train our brains as diligently as our bodies is the fact that ongoing stress kills cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a crucial region of the brain involved in memory. And with stress in today’s modern world being as common as air, we are gifted with brain plasticity. Medical science has proven the brain can re-grow neurons through brain training, all the way through our lives, no matter the age. But also physical activity has been proven to lower the risk of dementias. So training the brain assists both brain and body, and exercising the body assists both body and brain.
In the early 1990’s researchers showed that those who exercise regularly were quicker to learn new material. They also showed people that exercise regularly (or are simply physically active), are better at focusing, less easily distracted, can learn faster and remember more efficiently than those people who do not.
Since about 20 percent of the oxygenated blood flowing out of the heart goes to the brain, proper breathing exercises become an essential part of a healthy brain. Breathing isn’t just important for good physical health! A smooth and free flowing circulatory system is also not only essential to good physical health, but also brain function. Blood is like water in the body, both are yin fluids. If we are dehydrated the yin fluid coagulates, bind and slow. Since our brains are about 70 percent water, it takes good hydration practices to keep the brain – fluid.
The brain takes a lot of energy to function properly and efficiently, and this means the body and brain must be exercised equally. A highly varied physical exercise/activity regime helps hone the entire body. Likewise, a highly dynamic and rich exercise routine for the brain helps is heal, grow and function at peak levels. And since the brain consumes around 20 to 25 percent of our daily calorie intake, it is just as important to eat a healthy and well rounded diet for good brain health.
To put the energy expenditure of the brain into perspective, there is an average of 100 billion neurons in the human brain. Between each neuron there can be between 1,000 and 10,000 synapses happening! Within a section of the brain no larger than a single grain of sand it is said there are about 1 billion synapses communicating with one another. Combine that with the fact that information can travel around 268 miles per hour through our brain tissue! No matter how you look at it, the brain takes a lot of energy to function.
Healthy well exercised, well fed brain = more opportunity for better body function
Healthy well exercised, well fed body = more opportunity for better brain function
Activities such as reading (both fiction and non-fiction), drawing, painting, writing poetry, studying music, studying languages, mathematics, geometry, physics, puzzles of all kinds, riddles, games of all sorts, geography, awareness and observation games, adaptability challenges (ingenuity development), speed thinking activities and slow burn thought process challenges (short-term and long-term focus activities), changing up habitual activities and challenging yourself to think about and do new/different things than your usual routines and preferences - all of these kinds of things will exercise your brain and help it grow no matter your age!
The old saying, “The best way to defeat your opponent is to out think them”, is very much a true statement. Another good saying is that far more fighters lose a fight than win one. Basically this reflects human nature of making mistakes and mistakes in a fight usually loses a fight. Therefore the mistake loses the fight rather than the other person successfully winning by outsmarting their opponent.
In my Roots of the Warrior blog series, I have stated: Prices are paid through training. We do not rise under adverse conditions to the level of our expectations. Instead we fall to the level of our training and what we have or have not paid.
The key to the most efficient close-quarter combat training, or any other highly dynamic physical activity = training and feeding the brain just as much and dynamically as the body. Simple as that, do not neglect either.
Elder White Wolf: