Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What I Learned About Martial Arts From Music

I first began training in martial arts while I was finishing up my music degree in college (actually my junior year...close enough...). Oddly enough, I found many similarities in the two.

Basics must be mastered before and above all else.

Typically, music students will learn how to read music before anything else. They'll learn what note to play, for instance, if there's a note on the 4th line of the staff, and the different types of notes in order to determine how long that note is to be played. Without knowing these things, it would be rather difficult to play a piano concerto by Mozart let alone "Mary Had A Little Lamb." While many students try to rush through the basics so they can get to more complex topics, those same students may be surprised to know that many songs are based on just 3 or 4 basic notes.

In martial arts, the basic punches and kicks must be mastered before conquering more complex techniques. Jumping side kicks may look nice, but it would make sense to be able to do a side kick while standing on solid ground first.

Musical rests are just as significant, if not more significant that the periods in which there is music playing.

In any musical ensemble, no one plays sounds all the time. For one, they'd probably fall out! Secondly, those silent periods can make one appreciate those sounds more once they're gone. Lastly, rests allow musicians to recuperate (as a trumpet player I DEFINITELY liked rests during long pieces!).

The human body needs rest periods to recuperate from strenuous activity before breaking down from going all-out all the time. In addition, it has been medically and scientifically proven that the body actually grows (as in muscular growth) while resting...a great benefit for those who are looking to lose weight and/or build muscle.

Use ALL of the senses when playing the music.

Merely playing or singing the notes as seen written on the paper isn't really doing the music justice. Composers tend to write instructions on how they want the music to be played, such as "sweetly" or "solemnly." This gives the music "feel" and emotion. The hearing part I believe is obvious....

All of the sense can be used in a self-defense situation. Sight and touch are usually obvious, but how about smell? Many attack victims can recall a particular scent from their attackers, so it would make sense to utilize the sense of smell whenever possible. Hopefully you'll never have to taste anyone on the street....

"Master your music, master your instrument, then forget all that bullshit and just play."

This quote by Charlie Parker (considered by many to be the greatest jazz saxophonist or saxophonist period that ever lived) speaks volumes. This was paramount is jazz, which is built almost exclusively on improvisation. When improvising, the musician has little time to think about what to play, so they literally have to "forget all that bullshit and just play." About the only real "rule" is to stay within a certain key, and even that rule is broken from time to time.

In the martial arts one, one must be flexible to say the least. Every situation is different from the one before it, so learning particular techniques that can only be applied to particular situations is asking for trouble. Yes, basics are basics no matter what, but techniques must be adaptable to different situations. There simply isn't time to remember all of those techniques you mastered, so "forget all that bullshit..."

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