Practice turns learned techniques into intuitive responses.
For most of us, the incredible speed and agility of a martial arts master seems thoroughly unattainable. But is it really? These masters have simply trained so much that they have reached the point of fighting intuitively. You too can get this good at any skill – but how?
As the cliché goes, practice makes perfect. Any technical information, from patterns to strategies to techniques, can feel like natural, instinctual intelligence if you practice and apply them enough. For example, every chess beginner learns that the pieces have numerical equivalents – a bishop, for instance, is worth three pawns.
At first, players will count the equivalents in their heads, but this eventually stops once they manage to improve their skill level. What happens? Well, something that was once seen mathematically is now felt intuitively. And once certain patterns become intuitive to you, that’s when the fun really begins.
Skilled chess players are able to play with patterns, making small adjustments to confuse their opponents and gain advantages. One fundamental pattern or principle in chess is central control, whereby a player who dominates the middle of a chessboard has the strategic advantage.
But, if you’re a chess star like Michael Adams, you can win even when all your pieces are along the sides of the board, having twisted the classic central control pattern to your advantage. The greatest benefit of training your intuition, however, is being able to free up your conscious mind. When you don’t have to remind yourself of how certain patterns work, you can zoom in on different details.
A superior martial artist can use his extra focus to look for the subtlest weaknesses in his opponent’s position, or even monitor their blinking in order to attack at just the right second. Yes, these are things that the human mind really is capable of!