I want to take a moment to reflect on something: What is the limit of human capability? What is the limit of one, single human’s ability? How far can we take it?
When humans devote themselves fully to something, it is absolutely astounding the feats of which we are capable: speed, strength, endurance, skill, etc. We’ve been lucky to witness the rise of sports medicine and the science of performance, which has allowed the creation of the modern athlete, a marvel of physical ability.
For the most part, if you took any modern-day athlete and stuck him with his counterparts from a previous era, it is more than likely the case that he would completely dominate his opponents. This is for numerous reasons and the level of training we currently possess is more informed and the technical prowess exhibited by each of these athletes is generally on a much higher level than their predecessor are two of the majors ones. However, what we have done with the modern athlete, especially the modern combat athlete, is just a portion of what I would like to consider. We’ll dub this portion: Athletic Ability
Next, I think it’s important to take a look at how much has changed with the advent of the information age. The communication of ideas and concepts takes things that were secret or unknown for perhaps hundreds of years and throws them right out there for everyone to see. Imagine being a kung fu practitioner or a wandering samurai back in the Golden Age of ass-kicking. You carefully guarded your skills, honed them in secret, and every new discovery was like finding a precious gem. If you lost a fight, it could mean the loss of your personal reputation, your schools name, or your own life. It doesn’t get much more serious than that. However, due to the nature of the combat of this era, martial ability was in the hands of a select few individuals, who only showed their skills when it was time to fight and, sometimes, because people seriously could die in these matches, another Master or fighter could just be wiped off the map, all of his experience and knowledge just gone, leaving nothing but a memory for his opponent to dwell upon. On top of this, sometimes fighters would only master a single skill, because you would rarely meet the same opponent twice, so the need for diversifying your skill-set was almost non-existent. If you met someone who you matched badly against, oh well!
Counter to this, you can find Karate kata, kung fu forms, kickboxing matches, and instructional videos on just about anything you could want from Judo to BJJ to Silat to Sanda to fictional martial arts from Star Trek (yes, that shit is real!). It is an information overload. And that is fan-freaking-tastic, because it allows for the free-flow of ideas, the transmission of skills to many, and the evolution of particular arts and techniques to new heights. There exist, today, things that, in my opinion, never existed before in combat. This evolution is very important, because it helps us to weed out things that are not as useful to us in our training and help us to more quickly achieve our goals. This is a living evolution of combat theory and is practical application and it is how we find the next game-changer. So, we’ll call this portion: Immersive Education.
But there is one more thing that stretches back far into human history. These are secret things that are transmitted only through countless hours of training. They are things we may write off as worthless or fiction, at least as Westerners. I am not so quick to discard ideas that seem outside the scope of our current understanding. There are people who exhibit incredible abilities with things such as internal martial arts, mediation, and even willpower. Some may be tricks and some not, but to toss them aside without properly trying to understand them does ourselves a disservice and the practitioners of those skills a dishonor. The burden of proof lies with them, no doubt, but at least let them attempt provide the evidence. In seeking these things out, cataloguing them, and understanding them, we can understand more about the human body and its limits, even if those limits initially seem outside the bounds of our current understanding. Eventually, perhaps we will be more open-minded about what is possible. We can call this: Hidden Abilities.
If we hold each of these things to be important and seek the limit of human ability without unfounded bias of training methodology, I am confident that something magnificent is possible. The combination of science, art, and history; body, mind and spirit; and intelligence, emotion, and intuition can shine a little more light on the Super, the Ultimate, the Limit. In short, what it means to be strong.
I didn’t mean for this to come off so grandiose, but it just makes such sense to me. Let me know what you guys think.
Stephen Ross is a Certified Personal Trainer with a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of South Carolina and author of Real Anime Training since 2007. He has been studying various modalities of fitness for 20 years and is greatly interested in helping people improve their lives, both in the gym and out.
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