Intentional Process

As you may or may not know, one of the most consistent sayings I repeat in training sessions is, “Be intentional in your training.”  I thought it might be helpful to discuss briefly what I mean.  I hope to stimulate your internal learning processes as well as to invite discussions on the subject.

To me, the “Intentional Process” is made up of a series of concepts.  I will briefly discuss 3 of these ideas which I believe are certainly some of the most important.  

Intentionality, Focus, and Expression.

Intentionality – While training (especially solo training) you must seek to be in precise control of every minute part of your body and your movement.  This is certainly part of the “self-perfection” we so gallantly speak about, and yet I see very little "self-perfecting" going on in the martial art world at large.  In many ways, your ability to refine your skill and to improve is directly related to the degree of your ability to turn your attention inward and become self critiquing.  Bruce Lee said, “Jeet Kune Do is about finding the cause of your own ignorance.”  In other
words… finding your weakness.  Be objective with yourself, but not critical.  Critique, but don’t criticize.  Do not turn a blind eye to your own weaknesses.  There is only a small difference between someone who is average/good and someone who is extraordinary.  Excellence is in the details.

Focus – Utmost attention must be given to concentrating on our training.  When you begin your session or training task, take care to keep your mind focused on what you are doing.  Do not allow your mind to wander.  Do not allow yourself to daydream or to “go somewhere else.”  Try to always be present in the moment.  In all of this, do not allow yourself to get tunnel vision or so fixated on what you are doing as to lose track of what is going on around you.  The result of this type of mental state is a sort of relaxed focus.  The classic Japanese texts refer to this state as mushin.  More than just attentiveness or awareness, it is active in nature and not passive.  Try to hold this mental state from the time you begin your training session until you complete it.  This very difficult to do at first, but with determination and regular practice you will find that you can “switch” this state on and off like a light switch and hold it as long as you want or need to.  Only from this mental state are we able to truly “Respond like an echo and adapt like a shadow.” 

Expression – It is vital to our continued development that while we are training with weapons (or without) we make sure to express internally the “essence” of the weapon or movement which we are practicing.  A slash should be a slash not a hack... and vice versa.  A knife should be wielded differently than a sword, and a sword is used differently than a staff.  Don’t be lazy in your way of training.  Your inward representation or state will express itself in your outward movement.  Refine your mind to be able to adapt instantly to the appropriate use (expression) of the weapon you have at your disposal.  This will give your movements more significance, intensity and “spirit”… all of which have profound
affects on the outcome of your technique.  Bruce Lee also spoke of “Spirit” as “Emotional Content.”  As you train (mentally) more there should start to appear more “intent” around and through your movements/techniques.  Another way of saying this is simply "meaning what you are doing" or "committing to your actions."

I hope this gives you some new directions to explore in your training.

Blessings and Strength!
John