There are many sides to a discussion of concentration.
To begin, there are the simpler aspects of concentrating force into a small tool, and onto a small target. If I push you, at your solar plexus, with the flat of my palm, I can probably move you.
If I push with a finger tip, Iíll get some penetration with the push. If I push with a straight pin, Iíll get mostly penetration. When I think about using a tool for an attack, I think of a small tool. For example, when punching I try to make contact with two knuckles, not the whole front surface of my fist. Similarly, when I look for a target, I look for a small target. Striking toward your torso may or may not transfer my energy effectively into your body. Striking toward your solar plexus is far more likely to be effective. Striking toward your face will be less effective than a strike toward the bridge of your nose, or toward your philtrum.
There are at least three basic ways to transfer power: with a push, with a power strike, and with shock power. If my goal is to push your mass, then Iíll use a broader tool onto a broader target. If my
goal is to damage or shock you, Iíll look for the smallest effective tool and target. If I want to use smaller tools, those tools must be properly forged. Most people can break a board with their fist
with little training. However, to do so properly and without injury to my hand requires forging, or repetitive strikes to targets using harder targets over time, so that my hand is not damaged in the
effort. Forging will gradually build up the skin surface, then the joints that lie behind the striking surface. This requires patient, long-term practice with a variety of targets, for each striking tool.
Looking more broadly at the physical side of concentration, I work at focusing my movement and energy into the technique.
My goal is to channel the flow of energy into a smooth path to the tool, then out to my opponentís body. Eventually there should be a natural sense of flow from larger muscles into smaller. This requires relaxation, so that energy is not spent on muscular movements that are not helping the technique. Extraneous movements, such as outward motion of elbows while punching, or up-and-down body motion when stepping, sends energy out that does not feed into my technique. The more I can channel all motion into the technique, the more energy I can transfer.
To relax means using mental energy. This mental energy must also be channeled, focused, concentrated onto the technique.
One of the things that separates adults from children is the ability to choose where our attention is focused. People are fond of saying that small children have very short attention spans.
Anyone who has worked closely with small children understands the fallacy of this viewpoint. Small children are perfectly capable of attending to a single task, or repetitions of a particular task, for many minutes at a time and over many days or weeks. What they canít effectively do is focus their attention for lengthy periods of time on something that doesnít interest them. As people mature, they gain the ability to choose to focus their attention on a subject or task regardless of their interest level in that task. This is a crucial ability for learning and for functioning in society.
One of the most consistent benefits to TKD training is improved concentration.
This crosses over to work and school situations. In training we practice channeling our attention onto techniques. To be effective, I need a clear mind, emptied of the detritus of the day. My attention rests in my center, motivating movement from center.
At the same time, I donít want my focus to become too narrow. While practicing, I need to be aware of whatís around me. We practice this in many ways, with many levels of distraction.
In the end I should be able to adequately focus or spread my attention, depending on the situation and upon my goals in the situation. If I have more than one opponent, or if there are obstacles in the area, I need to spread my attention beyond the single opponent.
Looking more broadly still, there are levels of concentration in TKD. That is, some people will choose to train only in TKD, and will train regularly for many years to achieve a high level of competence.
Others will choose to train in two or more arts, enjoying the synergistic effects of a broader knowledge base. Either approach is useful, and different approaches will appeal to different people. However, true to the old adage, to be a jack of all trades is to be a master of none. Depth of understanding must be traded against breadth.
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