The funny thing about technique is that it can be very alluring. Martial arts inspire great leaps of imagination and originality. So much so that people (including myself) are often tempted to examine all the various possibilities of technique. This can range from exploration of bunkai, self defense, takedowns, chokes, grappling methods, vital point striking, etc etc etc.

So what’s wrong with imagination and exploration? Nothing – I wholeheartedly encourage it. What I do want to warn you about though is technique overload.

The Age Old Battle: Quality vs Quantity

How many prearranged self defense techniques do you really need to learn? 20? 100? 200? Certainly having some available is desirable because it helps program the body during times of stress (much in the same way kata can). Unfortunately it can be extremely easy to go off the deep end and over plan. If 5 prearranged knife self defense techniques are good, certainly 50 would be better right?

In my experience (both personally and having interacted with people of other styles and arts), an abundance of prearranged techniques or series of techniques can actually hinder a person’s real ability to defend themselves. This occurs for two main reasons:

#1 Tons of techniques are learned in a shallow fashion. This is the same problem with too many kata. There is no time to acquire muscle memory through rote repetition. As fancy as some prearranged tactics can seem, they are useless if the body can’t conjure them up when it counts.

#2 Too many options create a mental roadblock. Take for example a punch to the face. If the mind must choose between 60 techniques regarding how to handle that punch, it wastes valuable milliseconds processing that decision. If, on the other hand, you’ve trained yourself to naturally shift out of the way using 1 out of 5-6 mastered block/strikes, your body can simply proceed naturally and move on to dispatching the opponent.

Fear and adrenaline should never be underestimated when it comes to compromising the wonderful things we are able to do in the dojo. A beautiful 4 point kyusho knockout technique that looks astounding on a compliant opponent becomes a jumbled mess when your heart rate is jumping and your hands are shaking.

If you study your art for long enough, you’ll begin to understand the core concepts that make so many different techniques work. Things like timing, distance, weight distribution, balance, and generation of power. It is then that a scant few techniques can take on a wide variety of personas.

Keep Exploring…Just Be Warned!

Explore your style with my blessing and encouragement. Just be sure to give as much attention to naturalness. Let yourself be attacked in unexpected ways. Give yourself opportunities to fail and find out where your weaknesses are. Don’t be too quick to cast aside basic, simple techniques (those are the very techniques that could save your life).

Most of all, whether we are talking about technique, or rank, or titles, or whatever, remember – quality outweighs quantity!