By Jose R. Villanueva

As originally published on the Listen & Be Heard Weekly1, December 14, 2005.

There are definite mental factors that are vital to training in the Martial Arts and defending oneself. These have to do with a student's intelligence, ability to recall, processing speed, multi-tasking, mental awareness and presence, and purpose. If one is training in the Martial Arts, one is training to enhance all the mental factors. When one becomes competent, one should be proficient in all these areas. An ability to defend oneself does include all of these factors.

Intelligence cannot be ignored when it comes to training. One must be able to recall any and all techniques that one has practiced. A practitioner has to be able to apply the technique that is applicable in any self-defense situation. A competent Martial Artist cannot think about what technique to apply. He must be able to instinctually apply a technique because his mind can recognize instantly what to use. This falls under the category of processing speed. If one cannot recall or cannot recall quickly enough, a practitioner will be defenseless against an attack.

Ability to multi-task is such a vital skill. One must be able to mentally keep track of multiple items or individuals at a time. A competent practitioner is able to handle one attacker while being aware of items in his surroundings, and other attackers in the present environment. The lack of this skill will cause one to lose track of items, individuals and environmental factors that can cause the practitioner his life or at the very least be injured.

Mental awareness and presence allows one to know what is going on in present time. If one's attention units are stuck on things in the past, one is not really viewing or confronting one's present time environment. There are details that are missed. How many individuals walk through a mall or grocery store that cannot remember what they just saw? It is much more common than you think, and it does not bode well for the practitioner who is not mentally aware. If one is mentally aware, one's presence is huge. No attacker wants to deal with someone who knows what is going on around him.

Purpose is a primary mental factor because it deals with decisions. A practitioner cannot train without a purpose. It is a decision to "DO." Every "action" and every "effect" requires a decision. Mental strength is basically a strong purpose. This is necessary in one's training to become competent, and it is vital when one is confronted with a self-defense situation.

Mental factors can never be ignored or underestimated. If a Martial Art school is not training its students to be able to apply all of the mental factors competently, it is an omission that will cause one's students to fold up like "paper tigers" when a stressful situation arises. Practitioners must be able to manage what is going on, and they can do this with mental clarity. The competent application of all the mental factors will allow the practitioner to comfortably face his environment.