By Jose R. Villanueva

As originally published on the Listen & Be Heard Weekly1, April 20, 2005.

This is part two of a three-segment piece on the application of Mind, Body, and Spirit in the Martial Arts. In this piece I will be discussing how the Body is applied. An evaluation will point out that there are several key elements of a Body that determines success in the Martial Arts. Stretching gives the body an ability to have full range-of-motion. Conditioning improves the cardio-vascular system, strength, and power of the Body. The final result would be the competent ability to apply techniques using the Body so that one can defend oneself.

Stretching the Body gives the practitioner an ability to move with grace, full range-of-motion, dexterity, balance, and speed. Stretching can be painful and uncomfortable depending on a person's pain threshold, but it is essential to the development of skill. For example, a Tae Kwon Do Martial Artist relies on flexibility and full range in order to be able to throw kicks. This individual would be severely hampered and restricted without the proper application of stretching to the Body. The body's flexibility increases a practitioner's chances of keeping the body from injury because it has more pliability.

Exercises applied in the Martial Arts help to improve the conditioning of the Body. The cardio-vascular system of the Body is improved with running, or any exercises that increase the heart rate and lung expansion of the practitioner. Any exercises that make use of the arms and legs increase the strength, and power potential of those limbs. The conditioning of the Body is very important to the ability of it to handle shock, stress, impact, and duration of motion.

One uses the Body to apply self-defense techniques. The consistent practical application of specific techniques by practice gives one the ability to hone one's skills. The techniques are applied solo or with another practitioner as drills. There is also sparring (fighting) between practitioners where they apply all the techniques they drilled. It becomes a real-time situation where both fighters must be able to keep their poise and wits, and use the appropriate techniques dependent upon their opponent's offensive or defensive alignment and what each is attempting to do.

Every step of Body applications are actual gradients to an individual's ability to use his Body to defend oneself. A person must understand and know a Body thoroughly, so one can apply the proper exercises and techniques to it. Every system of Martial Arts has certain exercises that are applied to the Body depending on what skills that system focuses on developing. A Body simply is a tool for the practitioner to be able to apply, so one must then be thoroughly knowledgeable about the Body to be successful in the Martial Arts.