Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dress For Success

     Many years ago there was a book entitled "Dress For Success", which enjoyed considerable popularity. The author (whose name I can't recall) noted, among other things, how one's attitude was affected by the manner in which one was dressed. It sounds a little wierd, but over the years I have found many of his assertions to be true and it's one of the reasons I insist on students wearing a proper training uniform.
     In general, it can be said that the condition of one's practice uniform reflects one's attitude towards training. If it looks like a used kleenex; if it's torn and in need of repair, or if the salt stains (from yesterday's or last week's sweat) haven't been washed out, it is a fairly accurate indication of how one regards oneself, one's school, and one's training.

     A students who pays a lot of attention to detail; a student who is a stickler for sharp technique and who aims at perfection will usually wear a uniform that is clean and pressed. You could almost cut your finger on the creases in their sleeves.

     At the other end of the spectrum is the student whose uniform has been wadded up and shoved into a practice bag for a couple of days. It has more wrinkles in it than an elephant's butt and his attitude towards training will tend to be lackadaisical. His technique and form often leans towards the his uniform.

     And then, of course, there are a lot of in-betweens.

     Training in street clothes is common in many internal Chinese schools and I think this actually has an impact on their (the student's) approach towards training. Casual. That's how they often regard it, but training time should be anything but casual. One must concentrate and give a full 100% of one's attention to it.

      In the old days (and even in modern China) most training was conducted outdoors. People gathered in parks to practice and so they naturally wore their everyday street-clothes. That's why most kung-fu stylists wear shoes.  But I think this kind of thing has had a negative impact on (Chinese) martial arts. For one thing, street-clothes don't hold up very well to the rigors of strenuous practice. So, the teacher has a choice; he can water down the training so that the students don't damage their clothes (and maybe themselves), or he can go ahead and conduct a vigorous class and end up with a bunch of half-naked students.

     Due to the heat and humidity (especially in southern China), many kung-fu stylists prefer to wear training trousers and tee-shirts. Such clothing won't hold up in our training. Tee-shirts don't stand up to grappling practice. There are some who will argue that "in a real fight your opponent won't be wearing a heavy practice jacket", and that's why they prefer tee-shirts. Okay. So let's do the techniques and grab the tee-shirts. Watch what happens. Or we can just grab meat and execute our throws. But then, a lot of students wouldn't be returning to class.

     The reason the heavy jacket is worn is NOT to accomodate the thrower in the execution of his technique; it's to PROTECT the receiver - so the thrower doesn't have to grab a fistful of meat in order to perform the throw.  If the receiver insists on wearing a tee shirt or regular street-clothes, it leaves the thrower in a quandry. Does he rip his partner's clothes to shreds? Does he dig into his partner's flesh to perform the throw? Or does he water down the technique?  This is why I require all students to wear a full uniform in class.

     However, the main thing is that the overall condition of the practice uniform is an indicator of the regard a person has for training and even for him or her self.

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