Fitness & Martial Arts (Part 2)

Dan Couzens Fitness & Martial Arts

Skill Development

Martial arts is a skill. Skill and talent are fascinating counterparts. Here is my take.

Talent is when someone shows an exceptional level ability in a given discipline.

Skill is the technical requirements of the discipline. The demands of the chosen discipline can require ability on any, or all the levels of what is to be a human being. We should aim to become talented not just skillfull.

What is Talent ?

Talent is often thought of as a natural affinity, as if someone is born with the ability. While the cards you are dealt by life itself play a major part in the likely hood and ease at which you may develop talent, I feel there are factors that effect talented people and if we study them we will see that becoming talented is a possibility for all of us.

Some natural affinity is without a doubt required. But one can define natural affinity as simply, a passion for the subject, a sense that it is for you. It’s like watching a great film, you can have the feeling that it was made for you, it resonates with you.

You can begin to love a subject before you have even tried it. A child can watch the Olympics and be inspired by a particular discipline or individual athlete having never performed the task. Now the idea is implanted in the mind. Now there is the itch that demands to be scratched. Of course, when one tries the activity they may realize that it is not for them at all.

I think talent is made up of numerous factors. Here is my list;


Perhaps there are people in the world who have greatness locked away deep inside them. Perhaps the greatest potential martial artists that ever lived never entered the dojo. They never found exposure to the thing that would breathe life into their life. Perhaps the greatest athlete, musician, leader, architect, artist alive today are doing the wrong job. A potential is only a potential. Realization of potential is the aim. So clearly we must first be exposed to the possibility to have any chance of realizing our talents.

Time, Space & Confidence

Have you ever watched a great musician and wished you had their ability, then thought about becoming a musician yourself and quickly realized even to begin requires a definite amount of time and space. You also need certain amount of confidence and self-belief to begin. If you have the self-belief then you will carve out the time and the space to make it happen.


It is important to have a resonance with the subject. The seeds of passion are different for everyone. But there must be an interest and desire. The teacher’s job in my view is to ignite passion. If one has the passion for the subject, then I think they are far more likely do all the things necessary to learn it.

Positive Vision

Developing skill for skills sake may not be enough. One must plot a positive view of the future. A goal, an event, a moment of achievement that has significance for you. Martial arts is many things to many people. You can plot any number of positive visions for yourself to enhance your training. Dream don’t be afraid of failure. Failure is just valuable information and experience that can improve both your character and your life situation.

Life Organisation

A professional athlete organizes their life in such a way as to increase the likelihood of success. It’s all about priorities, what has the most value to you. My job is to give martial arts value. Real value, a value that effects your everyday. Martial arts training can positively affect self-worth. Self-worth goes with you wherever you go. We must know what is within our ability to control and what is beyond our capacity to control. Life is a balance of acceptance and going with the flow, with the development of competence and taking responsibility.

Consistent Hard Work

There is no doubt about it, training is hard. There is no substitute for hard work. However if you have the passion, and if you have the vision you will work hard effortlessly and gain major value from your endeavors.

Intense Mental Focus

Malcolm Gladwell has popularized the idea of it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. While there is no doubt time spent is a critical factor in the development of expertise I prefer the Eddie Jones approach. I cannot find the exact quote, but I remember him saying something along the lines of “It’s not 10,000 hours that makes someone an expert it is an intense mental focus.”
This idea opens up a potential for all of us because it is not about the quantity but the quality. There are many tools at our disposal to improve our mental approach to developing skill. One’s level of attention is vital.


Yes, you need to have patience and intense mental focus. These are dual mindsets. Patience is about knowing where you are at, and accepting what your level of competency is. You can then intelligently and rationally plot the next step. In my twenties when I thought I was indestructible, I would train hard and had a definite lack of patience. I would end up injuring myself and causing unnecessary physical discomfort. Of course, this slowed my progress. Doing too much too soon is a false economy. Increase your capacity in small increments over time.

The Feedback Spiral

My first martial arts style was called Shoto Kaizen.
Kaizen is a concept which has now become widespread in manufacturing. Essentially it means continuous improvement. Bushido as a style is an exceptional feedback system. If one pays attention and treats martial as a total body and mind experience, there will always be something to notice and improve. Repetition is how one develops skill. Repetition, if approached with the kaizen mindset is not repetition, because although the activity may be the same, each time you perform the action, a small incremental improvement is made. Kaizen or a feedback spiral is about noticing and choosing the most important element to improve upon. A good teacher will have a greater efficacy when it comes to helping a student develop.

The Support Network

It is of vital importance to surround yourself with people who are sympathetic to your dreams and have a positive nature. Again I reference the Olympics, because the first thing the medal winners to do is to thank their coaches, support staff, friends, and family. The Bristol Dojo is a positive culture that welcomes new members while pushing the ability of more advanced students. The Dojo is a support network.

The Teacher

Finally, to develop talent, it is helpful to have input from someone who has already walked the path, someone who has already achieved what you are setting out to achieve. Find the teacher, the coach, the expert who has the map. They can help you on your journey; they can point you in the right direction, and perhaps they can even help you develop skills and uncover¬†talents you didn’t even know you possessed.

Dan Couzens