Brown/Black – Gear Switching

Doing some writing to communicate some ideas that I think will help MDP students specifically, but hopefully martial artists more generally, in their training. This piece is about the value of being able to switch gears which is an incredibly important concept in martial arts (if what you’re doing isn’t working, do something else) and I think is particularly important for MDP students going for the rank of brown/black.

Switching gears quickly is a skill that is expected of higher ranks. The capacity to go from a Sparring round to cogently answering a question about ethics is a huge part of the challenge you will encounter during your brown/black test.

How does one build such an abstract skill as “switching gears”? Through practice and graduated resistance. The most amusing and clear example of gear switching in sport is the game of chess boxing, in which athletes alternate between boxing and chess in two minute rounds. Either game, boxing or chess, is a deep well of skill and strategy. To have the capacity to go from knight forking to uppercutting is truly an impressive display of gear switching.

While you’re welcome to do some chess boxing, the ways to build your dynamic gear switching toolbox are unlimited. The classic approach is to do partner work hard (sparring, reps, pad work, grappling, throwing, etc) and then with no break, do all the forms you know. In a similar vein, you could play Randori for 5 minutes then give yourself 5 minutes to write a Haiku. You could stick spar for 10 minutes then practice hand balancing for 2 minutes. You could do 10 minutes of alternate 30 seconds of heavy bag work with 30 seconds of holding the bottom of a squat.

Why is gear switching important at brown/black? Because problems change and we want MDP black belts that can adapt to that change. In boxing, you may have to change from outside fighting to working from the clinch. In self defense, you may have to change from trying to de-escalate, to striking, and then back to de-escalating. Hopefully, by working on your gear switching toolbox, you’ll find your capacity to change in the face of dynamic problems greatly increased.


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