That last topic got me thinking about all the aspects of training I need to work on (every single aspect) and how to do an optimal mix of cross training. Back in the day it seems some similar “cross training”, though less systematic and subject to a lot of constraints due to secrecy and so on, happened. When some great martial artist like Wang Xiangzhai became seemingly the top guy, he went around having contests and learning from other styles. Some learned TCM and/or went to see the Taoists to work on (I guess) deeper qigong. In modern professional sports or other elite athletics, they have various coaches and trainers, all focused in one specific area but trying to help with the overall goal of superior performance in the particular activity: head coaches, offense, defense, strength, conditioning, nutrition, doctors, various kinds of therapists, sports psychologists, and so on. This combination is much more systematic and open and is obviously producing stronger, faster, quicker, better stamina, etc. in athletes year after year.

Not to say I reject the traditional. I definitely do not. In a fantasy world if I could be some elite level athlete or internal martial artist, I guess I’d want a team of coaches and teachers to improve in every area as much as possible toward the goal of improving my overall performance. Probably: overall martial arts coach plus separate coaches for specific areas: xyq/bgz, kickboxing, bjj/groundfighting, throws, qinna, strength (whole body functional strength like at Core Performance), conditioning (I don’t really like cardio but could use some aerobic and anaerobic training), flexibility, neigong, qigong (non-martial), then probably other folks like a nutritionist, various physical therapists, a TCM doctor (acupuncture, herbal, acupressure, tui na), maybe a chiropractor and some kind of sports psychologist.

Well, since we normal folks can’t really have a team like that behind us, we have to cobble together lessons from various sources and just focus on one or two areas. Since we’re forced to make these choices due to resource constraints, I think we have to prioritize that training X is better than training Y, so maximize X and do minimal to no Y. However I think we can get caught in a mindset that goes further and start to think that Y is not good. It seems to happen a lot – people reject a particular area at least partially, e.g., you don’t need neigong, you need very little cardio, forget about high kicks, and so on. On the flip side, I don’t think we know what relative %’s are correct for each part. Getting back to my recent yiquan obsession, they seem to have a clear stance on that – zhan zhuang is the emphasis and about 50% of the entire training – which is another reason I think I find it so compelling – they clearly say that X gets a clear percentage of the entire investment yet they haven’t rejected all the Y’s (well except they have apparently rejected most forms) – mostly they seem to take a very scientific attitude – they have a current hypothesis but are open to better hypotheses. That is not the same as a team saying we take this approach and “it’s the best”. I have to say, at least from an armchair player/coach perspective, I find their approach is unique: 1) heavy neigong 2) free sparring 3) scientific attitude. I can’t see that any other “school” espouses that combination. The prioritization scheme people must make too easily digresses into dogma because much like with that spinning figure (see post below “Oh boy this is weird”), something in people’s minds makes them locked into some specific train of thought and then we’re lost and confused on some subtopic.

The only other alternative is a personal mma from different “schools” or arts, but as enthusiast individuals, we are working things out much more inefficiently than I’d imagine my fantasy team of coaches and trainers would/could. In sports based on specific objective measurements like time or distance, people are clearly getting stronger, faster, and so on. However that isn’t really the goal in areas where the best overall performance doesn’t come from the absolute strongest, most flexible, fastest, quickest, highest jumping, best qigong control, etc. performers. The best player is not someone who has the best performance on all specific measurable partial areas. “Optimizing the system” not its specific parts is the goal. Further there is no way to test the “overall system” except through some tests that are usually (and preferably) short of real life or death combat – tui shou, sparring, and limited forms of fighting – pretty much the same as the most successful martial artists like Wang Xiangzhai and others did back in the day. We have more “science” now but nothing really seems to have changed. We just think it’s changed when we look at the specific trees.