My fencing teacher just came back from the Nationals and we were talking about coaching. I asked him if he could predict which of his students would make good fighters/competitors, and he said something interesting.
He said that he has noticed two distinct phases of training a fencer - the technical part - blade manipulation, footwork etc, and above all accuracy, and then the sparring/fighting ability part.
He sees the 2 parts of the training as almost opposites of each other - in one the student knows what is expected and trains to perform as close to perfection as possible towards a scripted outcome. The other part is totally uncertain, unscripted, and happens without instruction, and without a known outcome.
He said that there is no real way of telling how good someone will be at part 2 from how good they are at part 1, apart from in one important respect. He said he has found that some people seem unable to follow instruction, and do not have the focus to attain accuracy and technique when taught, and that those that cannot succeed in part 1 will never be successful at part 2.
I then asked how far a 'fighting spirit' went towards giving a competitive edge in part 2.
Was 'emotional content' important in predicting good fighters? Did those who were successful 'want' it more? Did they exhibit more aggression for instance?
He said that actually the opposite was true, with the most successful maintaining an almost detached indifference to the outcome - that's the word he used - 'indifference'. Not that they didn't care, just that they were immersed in achieving the goal rather than invested in it on an emotional level.
It took me back to a long time ago when I asked a teacher if they thought it necessary to get angry or aggressive to fight, as my natural personality does not often go to that place ... and he said he didn't know, though SO many martial artists seem to think it is essential ... which left me wondering what my options were?
Later it was interesting to read Rory's take on the difference in emotional investment between a dominance style monkey dance and a predator killing it's lunch, and I started to think maybe this emotional investment might not be essential ... which is good, because it means there might be a different path for folks like me.
I'm not saying there is no 'grit' or tenacity or whatever you want to call it that is present, or that maintaining total indifference is even possible in an adversarial interaction (especially if one is losing), but it was certainly interesting to entertain the possibility of a different path.
I suspect it has something to do with cultivating the ability for the human and lizard brains to converse directly ... bypassing monkey ....
But how do you teach it?
I think this is what Sonny was doing, but I'm still not sure if it is a method that works for everyone.