Finesse – 1. adroitness (display physical or mental skill), refinement and delicacy of performance, execution, or artisanship, dexterity / nimbleness. 2. The ability to handle delicate and difficult situations skillfully 3.Cunning; skill; artfulness; craft
Force – 1. Strength; energy; vigor; power 2. the intensity of power; impetus (physics – a force that causes the motion of an object to overcome resistance and maintain its velocity) 3a. physical power or strength exerted against a person or thing. 3b. the use of physical power to overcome or restrain a person; physical coercion; violence
“More Force! More Force!,” I yelled at the new student, who clearly missed the sarcasm in my tone. The other students in class just smiled, most likely recalling the times they had been the recipients of this verbal outburst. They of course knew what I meant.
Perplexed, the new student tried the technique again with more force. The result was even worse than before. Over and over again, with ever increasing force he tried to make the technique work, but to no avail.
Frustrated, and completely agitated with his poor performance, the new student finally stopped and asked me if I would show him the technique again. “Finally,” I thought, he is ready to learn.
After signaling the class to come to attention, I demonstrated the technique several times. Each time I did the technique I did it slowly and deliberately just to illustrate my point. A point I had been waiting over 20 minutes to make.
When I was done I turned to the new student and asked him if he was able to see the difference between what I had just done, and what he had been doing. Still baffled by his earlier failure, he looked at me with a blank stare. I gave him a look of encouragement and waited.
Then all of a sudden his eyes opened, and the look on his face said “I got it.”
“So what was the difference?,” I inquired. “You didn’t use any force,” he replied. Eureka!, he understood. He can be taught. The class nodded in approval, most of them most likely recalling the day they made this same realization.
After his response the class was instructed to start practicing again. This time the new student tried his best not to use any force when attempting to complete the technique. He still didn’t do the technique correctly, but at least each attempt had better results than before. Now he was finally learning the proper body mechanics that make techniques work with minimal effort.
I would love to say that this was an isolated incident, or happens rarely, but it’s clearly not. In fact it happens all too often, even with the most seasoned martial arts practitioner.
If you don’t believe me just take any martial artist and teach him a technique that isn’t in their comfort zone, or just different enough from what they already do that they have to think about it. Chances are, as their ability to execute the technique diminishes the more and more force and power will be used to complete the task.
It’s the old “brawn over brain” syndrome. In my school we call that cheating, since our techniques are designed to be executed with precision and minimal effort. Or as I like to say: FINESSE VERSUS FORCE.
Here’s a simple illustration of the point I’m trying to make: My wife and I took our dog Taiko to one of the local reservoirs so he could swim. However, in order to get him to swim Taiko needs some encouragement, like chasing the biggest stick we can find: the bigger the better.
At first, our game of fetch went well. But as soon as Taiko tired of swimming, he tried to leave the swimming area so he could enjoy some quality stick chewing time. One problem though: how would he get the stick past the opening in the fence that surrounds the reservoir? That opening is clearly smaller than the stick.
Well Taiko is a dog, and I’m sure he didn’t give it much thought. He just ran towards the fence, stick in mouth, at full speed. Slam! Taiko was stopped in his tracks.
Without hesitation, and in a rush to escape the reservoir area before I could recapture the stick and throw it again, Taiko picked up the stick and tried to push the stick past the fence. It didn’t work.
Taiko tried again. The stick still wouldn’t budge.
A few minutes of ferocious growling and barking at the stick (quite amusing actually) and Taiko tried again. The result was the same.
Undeterred, Taiko tried again, and again, and again: more barking, more growling, more pushing.
However, try as he might the stick would not pass through the opening; and as frustration set in he resorted to more and more force.
Taiko spent over ten minutes attempting to push the stick past the opening in the fence with all the effort he could muster.
Frustrated that his strength and most intimidating barking and growling had had no effect on the stick, Taiko tried a new approach. He jumped over the stick and proceeded to try and pull it past the opening in the fence.
It was a great change in strategy, but unfortunately he still was relying on brute strength only. Needless to say, try as hard as he may, Taiko was still not successful.
Knowing Taiko I doubt he would have ever given up. But after 30 minutes of watching this spectacle I intervened. Yes, the situation was humorous for passer-byes, but I can only stand so much barking and growling before it gives me a headache. The show had to end.
As I gave Taiko the stick, my wife made the comment that the dog must be crazy. “He’s not crazy,” I answered, “he’s just not thinking.”
“Well do you really think Taiko ‘thinks’ about what he is doing?”
“No,” I answered, “but in many ways he’s acting like a lot of my students do when they can’t get a technique to work properly; they resort to using force.”
“Your student’s act like dogs?,” she said in a tone designed to make me feel ashamed of comparing the two.
“No” I answered, “not like dogs. I mean that sometimes instead of thinking things through, or trying a different approach, they rely on force, which gets them nowhere, just like Taiko. They keep hitting a fence (or a ‘wall’) they can’t pass.
“They forget that sometimes when things don’t work, you have to stop, and try something you haven’t tried before, not just repeat the same mistake over and over again with more and more force.”
“Just because you can possibly force your way to success on occasion, doesn’t mean you did things right, or in the best possible manner. I mean, look at Taiko, he may have gotten some good exercise pushing and pulling the stick, but he didn’t accomplish anything, especially his goal.”
Tired of my excessive explanation, my wife shrugged her shoulders and switched her attention to our son. As she walked away, I thought to myself that this was a wonderful example for the blog. An hour later, I am typing away.
This is not the first time Taiko has faced this particular fence opening, nor is this the biggest stick we’ve used to play fetch. However, this was the first time Taiko couldn’t get the stick past the opening in the fence. Unlike other times, Taiko didn’t think things through-at least as much as a dog ever thinks things through-or try another method.
Normally after a couple of attempts at pushing/pulling with no success, Taiko stops and employs a new strategy; Taiko uses finesse. Finesse, in this example, is the simple turning of his head, which puts the stick in a vertical position which allows it to pass easily through the opening in the fence.
Yes, this little refinement in Taiko’s approach to the problem, this simple execution of the proper body mechanics (turning his head), makes all the difference in the world. This simple movement negates the need for any force or power at all.
While I’m sure that Taiko’s action of turning his head at precisely the right moment is most probably more due to luck than critical thinking, dog’s do have the ability to learn behaviors through trial and error.
Coincidently, so do people. That is of course if they can get past the point of approaching things in only one manner, which often places them in a loop of progressive failure and frustration.
So what’s my point.
Simply put, brute force is never the optimal way to use ones one’s body to execute a physical task. The optimal way is to use proper body mechanics in a skillful precision oriented manner. FINESSE!
* This was originally the way this blog entry was going to end. That is until my son Nikolas read it and asked a few questions I’m sure others may have.
“But dad, when I wrestle I use force all the time,” my son Nikolas stated after reading the above. “You can’t be a successful fighter without using force,” he asserted.
|Nikolas, (in green and black), San Ramon Valley High School Wrestling Team
“Sure, a certain degree of force (power) must be used in order to be effective, but that force should be produce by the proper execution of form, the force should not be the major catalyst that makes the technique work,” I responded. “In other words, one should never rely on only force.”
“But dad, what ‘s the difference?” he inquired.
“Nick, that’s the real question, and the answer is what separates the true master from the practitioner. It’s all about skill and the mastery over one’s self, economy of motion. It’s about learning that force, or should I say more force than is necessary, is rarely needed when one can rely on finesse.”
Clearly, my answer wasn’t enough.
“Okay Nick, forget about fighting. Think about weight lifting. Weight lifting requires lots of force (power), however if proper form, (that’s the finesse), isn’t used it restricts how much weight one can actually lift, how many reps can be achieved, and can even lead to an injury.
I then showed him the below picture, and asked him how many people he thought could do the same lift.
|Arthur Saxon, the “Iron-Master” (1878 – 080621) was
the world’s strongest man at the turn of the 19th century.
Barbell – 335lbs / Kettlebell – 110lbs.
“Just imagine how much technique is required to do this,” I said. “It’s not just brute strength alone. That’s the difference. Knowing the proper body mechanics, and applying them systematically is why such feats are possible.”