Is knowing more techniques better? Is more complex more advanced? Do I need more kata to be a more advanced Black Belt?
Many people have the misconception that the more techniques you know, the more skilled you become. Are there ‘Black Belt’ techniques? While it’s true that techniques will increase in complexity the further you advance and it is advantageous to have a fuller arsenal, more techniques or more complex techniques will not make you a better martial artist. It is your understanding and proficiency in the execution of techniques that will make you a better practitioner. Take the most basic lock you know, the bent elbow wrist lock (also called center lock or nikiyo). Most everyone learns this as a white belt. However, a Black Belt will have a much greater degree of proficiency with the technique, multiple entries to it, multiple takedowns from it, counters to it, the micro-movements of it, and most importantly the timing of it.
Neil deGrasse Tyson has an excellent analogy to draw from in his book Death by Black Hole. He talks about the gravity of Jupiter and the study of how the gravity of this planet affects everything around it. Knowledge is not necessarily the study of a thing, but the study of understanding how that thing affects everything around it. Think of that with a single technique. At a base level, you learn the technique, but as your proficiency expands you learn how everything works around that technique, even at the micro-movement levels.
When we look at evaluations for ranking, it is not necessarily rather someone who knows a technique on a piece of paper, but how well they can execute that technique, especially under stress and/or freestyle fighting. Through practice there are micro-movements, small feelings that come into play that a teacher cannot necessarily teach a student, but the student has to learn to feel through repetition. Often, I use the analogy of shooting a pistol. For anyone that has ever shot a gun, they find out on their first couple of shots that hitting the target is not just simply picking up the gun and firing at the target. There is a feeling one develops of how their grip yields the weapon. Those micro-movements, develop over time to help you hold a weapon to better focus your training in your aim. Thus improving your proficiency, like in any skill.
In summary, though learning more techniques and learning complex techniques can be beneficial, it’s not synonymous with sharpening skills. It is your understanding and proficiency in the execution of techniques that will make you a better practitioner. Proper practice becomes proficiency, proficiency and continued practice eventually becomes mastery.
Let’s train, OSU!