Competent Human Beingsby Brandon Bennett on 01/01/22
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. — Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love
The world is a complicated place with a variety of problems that people face. As much as I would like to, I am not able to pick when I face a problem. It makes sense for me to try to be competent in a variety of things.
We have all heard the old saw: “A jack of all trades is a master of none.” As students of multiple martial systems, people try to apply this to us. If we were just boxing in a street fight, that might be so. If we were just grappling that might be so. Physical encounters, outside of ring sports, have multiple components that we might have to be good at. We may have to verbally confront/deflect before deciding that we are getting ready to be punched and enter the clinch while just at that moment seeing that they have a knife in their hand. We need skill sets in all these areas. This doesn’t excuse us from seeking mastery in one or more of these areas but we need to be able to realistically train for the possibility of all the above.
While I am seeking at least base competency in all these areas, I might get beat in competition against a specialist in one of these arenas. I might lose a BJJ match. I might lose rounds to a boxer. If what I am seeking is resilience in life and the myriad of problems it can throw against me, I accept this as a possibility. I take the competition loss as a learning experience and move on. I know I am looking for competence first and mastery second.
There are studies that show that this approach leads to being not just better in a fight but less injury prone in athletics. I want you to read that as “less injury prone.” Life is an athletic endeavor. We use our bodies to move us around this world and do the fantastic things we want to talk about. Challenge the instrument that you play in the symphony we call “Life.”
A study commissioned by the National Federation of State High School Associations showed that single sport athletes are 70% more likely to suffer an injury that are multi-sport athletes. Multi-sport athletes enjoy better performance success and see lower injury rates than single sport athletes. In the 2018 NFL draft, 29 out of 32 first round picks were multi-sport high school athletes. These studies imply that our mixing of arts isn’t just better for our self-defense but for the development of our young athletes as well.
We need to move in a variety of directions with a combination of pushing and pulling to have a capable body. The variety of movements that our arts provide includes striking in multiple disciplines using different parts of the body to controlling/pulling motions from Muay Thai, Silat and grappling. It includes the circular motions from the use of weapons and the groundwork of Silat and the grappling arts. The range of motions and strengths that we develop resemble the broad spectrum of problems that we could face in our day to day lives as well as in a personal protection encounter.
I want to do what I want for as long as I want. This requires that I move my body in as many different ways as possible - pushing motions, pulling motions, hinging motions, aerobic activity and getting up off of the ground. I am thankful to be involved in a multiple discipline study of martial arts that involves all of these things.
Specialization helps you succeed within a narrow window. Generalization helps us have more options within the huge array of things that life can throw at us. By learning a broad range of things and becoming competent we become more capable to succeed. Train to thrive and not just survive.