A few years ago, I was with Guro Inosanto in his car driving to one of his private session. I thought I’d ask him on his opinion on what would be the most important quality to look for in a martial artist. His answer was “Honesty”.
At the athletic level, honesty of lines is paramount. Our offensive and defensive systems have to be on point and based on real concrete motions. Every punch should connect to those knock out spots. For example, aiming to the temple, the tip of the chin, or using your knuckles behind the mandible joint to dislocate the jaw. If you can, train how to be precise and really cultivate the feeling of making every strike count. When you kick, “chop the tree” down by driving your shin across the quad muscle. If you roll, apply that “steaming ” pressure that makes the other guy want to let you pass his guard rather than have you on top of him. In fact, every time we feed each other with a punch, a kick, or even with a training blade, we safely but surely must go to the destination. If not, one’s whole relationship with strikes and understanding of lines will be flawed. You might think you have built a fortress to protect yourself, but in actuality you’ll have a house cards at best.
Furthermore and perhaps more importantly, martial arts are meant to be transformative in their nature. There are many types of students; some are naturally more forward and forceful in their approach, others are more withdraw and fearful when it comes to confrontation. In any case, honesty of lines will help them and transform them in order to find their center, or what some scholars call humble-confidence. The more fearful individuals will learn how to stand their ground properly, be realistic with their defense and take a risk while launching their offenses. A good instructor will try to bring it out of them by slowly apply more and more pressure and educate their lines. The forceful students, on the other hand, will learn how take a step back and use finesse instead of forcing or muscling their way out. No matter what, soon or later we always find someone to put us back in our place. Even if you are the toughest person in your gym and beat everybody, it does not mean that you are the best, it just means that you don’t go out enough. The truth of the matter is that if you continuously and honestly put yourself out there, you will always win some and lose some. No matter how good you are and even if you are really really good. There will come a time when you’ll have to bend. As age comes along, you will find yourself to have to compromise and maybe tap earlier rather than be out of training for the whole month. And if age doesn’t bend you, life will. There will be a time when you might lose a family member, get a divorce, or other reality check moments that are just part of this beautiful thing we call life. So, probably the most valuable lesson you’ll learn along your technical abilities and athleticism, is to accept that sometimes things don’t our way we want, that failure is part of the learning process, to accept that we all do mistakes and as Guro Inosanto once told me, “you just have to correct them and move on”. Also, you learn to go back at it. If you mess up, you pick up self up and try again and again until you get right.
So in conclusion, honesty in your training will give you invaluable qualities such as adaptability, resiliency, and fortitude; qualities so much needed to navigate yourself properly through life.