Mastering Your Craft

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Many students begin their journey thinking that after some time and commitment to training, all of their doubts will be extinguished, that they would gain greater levels of confidence and they would feel totally indestructible.

The reality is that along their journey, students may become even more doubtful and less confident than when they began their journey. Although this state is temporary and transitional, the feelings of doubt often lead to the student becoming disillusioned and stopping their journey all together.

I would like to offer some knowledge as to why all students go through these emotions and it is indeed a normal part of the journey of being a student.
According to Neurolinguistics Programming, the following represents the four stages of learning.

  1. Unconscious Incompetence.
  2. Conscious Incompetence
  3. Conscious Competence
  4. Unconscious Competence

In stage one, Unconscious Incompetence, you don’t know what you don’t know. Some may say ignorance is bliss. In context of self-defence, many people at this stage will typically say things such as, “I can talk my way out of anything, I don’t need to learn how to fight.” Or “I will just hit them with the sharp heel of my shoe.” Or “fighting is only for thugs, it’s not for me.”
Even with this mind-set, something may motivate, inspire or trigger the person to begin his/her journey towards more empowerment.

As you begin your journey, you will transition from unconscious incompetence to Conscious Incompetence. You are now becoming aware of things you did not know before. You are no longer ignorant, you are more aware and in some cases even hyper sensitive to some stimuli. At this stage, you know that you don’t know. You have more questions than answers, you may have more doubts than ever before, and your confidence levels may even decline.

For example, until your instructor made you aware of it, you probably weren’t aware that someone could attack you with a jab-take down combination or that someone may stab you with a knife from behind with a reverse grip using a downward 45 degree angle.

At this stage, your awareness of what you don’t know may be increasing faster than you can accumulate answers. You may be watching ring fights on TV or attracting friends and other people around you who are asserting their (uninformed) opinions about fighting or even engaging in forums and reading blogs on this topic regularly.

It’s very easy at this stage for students to become disillusioned and quit their journey all together. They may search for another martial arts style in an attempt to get faster answers, only to find they are repeating the same cycle.

This is the same person who claims to have trained a dozen different styles of martial arts, but they are not competent in any of them and therefore not effective as a fighter by any stretch of the imagination.

If a student is resilient and determined enough to get through to the next level of competency, they would now be at the Conscious Competence level. At this stage, you are competent enough to perform the moves if you are really conscious of what you are doing. All of your moves are driven consciously, so you may not feel like anything is natural, you may not be able to perform any moves with grace and flow and every move involves effort and intense concentration.

Students may even feel like they are not having fun or progressing due to the intense level of conscious effort required. If they’re not aware that this stage is indeed just a part of the journey and is normal for everybody, feelings of frustration may set in and they could even quit the journey.

For the (rare) student who is resilient and diligent enough to continue training, he/she will move to the next level of competency; the Unconscious Competent level.

At this level, you are able to problem solve, perform the moves without conscious thought. Your reaction time to stimulus is instant, you do not have to drive your moves with conscious thought, you are able to slip between thoughts, you are in the moment, you are in the “no-mind” state, moments of Zen are achieved (as fleeting as these moments may be).

At this level, you must be aware that you may be unconsciously competent with some of the moves, but many of the other moves that have been taught to you may still be at lower levels of competency, therefore you may have moments of grace and flow as well as frustration and doubt.

As you learn more new moves, you will be consistently cycling through these four levels of learning, therefore you will always feel the vast arrays of emotions associated with being a student. So if you are chasing the feeling of “I have completely got this,” you will be disappointed, maybe even disillusioned.

Even a Master of his/her craft will tell you that they are constantly learning, growing and discovering new distinctions and never feel like that have completely ‘got it’. For a Master, this is the most amazing feeling; this is the feeling of being an eternal student, of being on an on-going journey without an end destination. When you surrender to this concept, all the frustration, doubts and feelings of disillusion melt away and you find moments of bliss.

Robert Kyaw

Brain function by Dr Andrew Bartlett

Dr Andrew has been an Arakan member of over 15 years and is a Dr in chiropractic with a special interest in the brain and in clinical neuroscience.

Dr Andrew shares his beliefs on the many benefits of training Arakan and how it improves focus, discipline, fitness and wellbeing and is good for helping us live happier and more confident lives.

When Jack started at Arakan as a six year old, he had not long been diagnosed with High Functioning Autism. Jack's ability to socialise with his peers was significantly compromised and with rudimentary verbal communication Jack would spend most of his time on the group fringe mirroring the group play behaviour as his attempt at communication. His low muscle tone meant basic tasks requiring Fine Motor Skills like holding pencils was difficult for him and his Gross Motor such as co-ordination, skipping, hopping, etc was also significantly under-developed. Crossing the mid-line continued to be out of reach.

When a friend recommended we try Arakan, we signed Jack up to 1:1 classes. The gentle and fun approach was an invitation to Jack to play which he did wholeheartedly and with some nervousness on our part 3 weeks later, Jack was introduced to Nathan Hinga and his Junior Group Class. Nathan, the man and Arakan the martial art have had a significant impact on Jack's continued development and recovery from Autism. Four years on we regard Jack's weekly Arakan class as part of Jack's recovery program contributing to improvements in his Physical, Social & Psychological health.

The Arakan community practices true acceptance. Like every student he turns up to train, progresses at his own pace, and his Arakan journey is honored. On this journey he has improved his gross motor skills, learned discipline, focus and importantly, Jack has developed a self confidence and resilience that now sees him running with the group and participating socially with his peers.

It is in no small measure, and with gratitude that we regard Arakan as an important part of Jack's continued progress.

Katrina & Phil
Jack’s Parents

At a very young age our son Sam was diagnosed with Autism and Advanced ADHD. This presented and continues to present itself in a number of challenges but the most obvious are the inability to sit still and focus in school or to cope with challenges that put him outside his comfort level.

Sam started doing Arakan when he was 4 and we have seen massive benefits that it has given him over the past several years. One of the main things Arakan has taught him is how to put his mind into a state of being 'switched on'.

When he was younger, he used to have uncontrolable meltdowns that would last several hours but now we are able to prompt him to 'switch on' and he is able to change his state of mind, calm himself down and pull himself out of a meltdown which is a tremendous skill for someone with Autism to have.

Arakan has also helped in so many other ways such as his confidence, better socialisation by being able to recognise social queues, physical fitness and co-ordination. I find that even when Sam is having a tough week as school, within a couple of minutes of his Arakan lessons, his face is relaxed, he has a big smile and all his worries go away while he trains.

I highly recommend Arakan Martial Art to any parent of a child with special needs.. it adds so much to their quality of life!

Dave, father of Sam

My name is Kyle and I love training in Arakan because it has many benefits for my mental and physical health. I have a condition called ASD which is Autism Spectrum Disorder /Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, and Anxiety. I am on a couple of different medications and I have been through hardships with my mental health, plenty of meltdowns and I had a physical accident coming off my mountain bike and fracturing my jaw each side.

The reason why I started Martial Arts is because I got bored of just going to the gym and just lifting weights. I also needed something that I can learn to protect myself, boost my confidence, and have a higher purpose.

What Arakan does is make me less socially awkward, more flexible, more fit, athletic, present in the moment and how to defend myself. I train 3 x times a week: two private lessons and one group lesson.

I have also attended seminars with Master Robert Kyaw which has been amazing. I get to meet a lot of people from the Arakan Team and they are all amazing. My instructors are Bennett Stone and Jamie Thorne.

I would like to thank the whole Arakan team for all your support, motivation, and good energy.

Kyle Wagner, Student Since 2019

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