Recently, a lower belt student told me that when he spars with more junior belts he is often afraid of hitting them. He also disclosed that he gets bored sparring with the junior or less ‘able’ students. My response to this lower belt was, “If you are worried about hitting the junior belt then either you need more physical practice, and/or you need to develop your concentration.”
It reminded me of a similar question I was asked about 4 years ago from a now much more senior belt. He asked me, “Can you pair me up with senior belts more, I don’t get much from sparring with lower belts.”
The two comments are actually quite similar. Both the students I mentioned were becoming distracted by their egos and as such becoming separated from their experience during sparring situations.
The words Hap-Ki-Do mean ‘coordination of mind and body’ or ‘total concentration’. Through the practice of Hapkido we learn to become one with what is happening. Unfortunately my two students were not only sparring, but also thinking about being better than their opponent, wondering why they had to spar with a lower belt again, and more than likely getting annoyed at me for ‘inflicting’ this on them and not recognizing their superior ability. With all that going on, it’s no wonder the lower belt was worried about hitting junior belts.
Concentration is fascination of mind. If you are bored, you’re not paying attention to what you are doing. So how do you put the ego to rest and cure boredom and in so doing get the most from every session? Simple. Just pay attention. By paying attention you will also have the possibility to excel no matter who your opponent is.
Rugby coach David Alred (the guy who helped Jonny Wilkinson kick the rugby ball to victory in the last moments of the 2001 rugby World Cup Final) understood how important concentration was, particularly during stressful situations. “I’ll say to the kickers, strike a particular stitch on the ball so that they make the right contact, and I’ll get them to aim at someone in the crowd to tunnel in their accuracy.”
We should develop this same feeling behind every kick and punch we make.
At Chang’s Hapkido Academy, our sparring is no-contact. Though we might not actually be hitting our opponent, we should know exactly where we are aiming. Not just the head, or the forehead, but the eyebrow, or maybe the left side of the eyebrow… Practicing this way will hone your concentration, improve your accuracy, increase your ability to control your own body and yes, get rid of boredom.
If Hap-Ki-Do means coordination of mind and body, if you kick without engaging your mind, without concentrating on what you are doing, are you really practicing Hapkido?