Martial intent, Maori-style

No matter how hard you train, if you don’t work on “martial intent”, you’re better of trying out line-dancing or playing darts. Most practitioners recognize this and start incorporating it at a certain stage in their training. Once you do, your effectiveness jumps to the next level and a whole lot of stuff in your style suddenly makes more sense. Many forms are dead until you add “intent” to them, the same goes for drills.

Sure, there’s a time when you shouldn’t add it: when you learn something new or when you’re troubleshooting and tweaking technical aspects. But intent is still a key factor in your performance under live conditions. Like the boyscout say, be prepared.  Because unless you train it regularly, you probably won’t have the proper intent when you suddenly have to fight.

The question I get most from students is what it is exactly. How do you define it? There are different kinds of intent and it can become hard to explain it correctly. So I often refer to these Haka clips here:

In this one, the intent is more drawn in.

Here it’s more violent, barely controlled.

Here it feels more nervous, jittery.

If you’re not all that impressed by this video, you probably never played rugby before. Let alone play it against one of the world’s best teams. Just take a look a the faces of the players near the end of the Haka and imagine how effective your reverse punch or double leg takedown would be right at that time…

There are only a few choices here: either you cut and run or your intent needs to at the very least match theirs. The real question is: do you practice this every time in your training or not?

You know the truth.

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Comments

  1. Yes,

    as a former (student) rugbyplayer I have faced a New Zealand (students) team before, during and after the Haka.

    I can tell you it does not leave you untouched, especially the first time. After that, you know what’s coming. We knew we had to be sharp from the very beginning of the match.

    In reverse, seeing these guys do the Haka pumped me a little bit up too.

    Best wishes,
    Bert Bruijnen

  2. Yes,

    as a former (student) rugbyplayer I have faced a New Zealand (students) team before, during and after the Haka.

    I can tell you it does not leave you untouched, especially the first time. After that, you know what’s coming. We knew we had to be sharp from the very beginning of the match.

    In reverse, seeing these guys do the Haka pumped me a little bit up too.

    Best wishes,
    Bert Bruijnen

  3. Thanks for sharing – this is truly fierce. What is telling is to watch the faces on the other team’s players.

    I would argue that intent is more important than skill or conditioning, and it’s carried me through some real scraps. In Forrest Griffin’s book “Got Fight” he writes about the toughest man he’s ever seen. It was a scrawny little geek who was attacked by three football playing bullies. He couldn’t fight but when thrown to the ground he got up and charged screaming “I’m ready to die!” Scared the bullies away.

  4. Thanks for sharing – this is truly fierce. What is telling is to watch the faces on the other team’s players.

    I would argue that intent is more important than skill or conditioning, and it’s carried me through some real scraps. In Forrest Griffin’s book “Got Fight” he writes about the toughest man he’s ever seen. It was a scrawny little geek who was attacked by three football playing bullies. He couldn’t fight but when thrown to the ground he got up and charged screaming “I’m ready to die!” Scared the bullies away.

    • I totally agree John. No intent, no fighting skill. But if you have both, the other side should get ready to dig in for battle.

  5. Great post! I agree that martial arts without intent is simply calisthenics.:-) Even in the seemingly soft” system of taijiquan, we say say “No Yi (intent), then no Qi, No Qi, then no Li (strength)”. Intent is one of the important aspects.

    Haka is indeed a powerful thing to watch/experience. When watching Haka, one can almost feel generations past , come forth.

  6. Great post! I agree that martial arts without intent is simply calisthenics.:-) Even in the seemingly soft” system of taijiquan, we say say “No Yi (intent), then no Qi, No Qi, then no Li (strength)”. Intent is one of the important aspects.

    Haka is indeed a powerful thing to watch/experience. When watching Haka, one can almost feel generations past , come forth.

    • The tai chi classics speak clearly on the importance of “yi”. But it’s a sad fact that most practitioners don’t get it or even care about it. Oh well, a rant for another day… :-)

      The haka is truly impressive, indeed. I’ll do a post on the first haka I saw, in a cabin in the mountains of LA actually. :-)

  7. Wim:
    ———–
    So were you allowed to bring your longswords to the field to give those Kiwis a show? ;-)
    ———–

    No, I just took down my pants and showed them my @ss. That scared them so much that they were too flabbergasted to be able to play. :-)

    But next time I will bring a Flemish ‘goedendag’, which is a perfect weapon for keeping them at bay.

    http://www.liebaart.org/figuren/goedendr.jpg (picture of ‘goedendag’)

  8. Wim:
    ———–
    So were you allowed to bring your longswords to the field to give those Kiwis a show? ;-)
    ———–

    No, I just took down my pants and showed them my @ss. That scared them so much that they were too flabbergasted to be able to play. :-)

    But next time I will bring a Flemish ‘goedendag’, which is a perfect weapon for keeping them at bay.

    http://www.liebaart.org/figuren/goedendr.jpg (picture of ‘goedendag’)

  9. Great post, and excellent examples – Aus is in close proximity to NZ so we’re reasonably aware of this, and yes, it has a huge effect on the teams.

    It’s a great way to demonstrate intent, and on reflection I think it’s my lack of intent that has failed me to a degree when sparring. I was really aggressive when I was younger, but I’ve been extremely placid over the last 10-15 years, ever since I was part-way through high school. Would love to hear more on this topic in future posts.

  10. Great post, and excellent examples – Aus is in close proximity to NZ so we’re reasonably aware of this, and yes, it has a huge effect on the teams.

    It’s a great way to demonstrate intent, and on reflection I think it’s my lack of intent that has failed me to a degree when sparring. I was really aggressive when I was younger, but I’ve been extremely placid over the last 10-15 years, ever since I was part-way through high school. Would love to hear more on this topic in future posts.

  11. Intent is one of my essential attributes for a martial artist. Without it you’re not doing martial arts your just exercising your limbs. I try to drum this into my beginning students from day one, to get them into the habit of showing and feeling intent in their technique. Most of them are amazed at the difference it makes to their training.

    I see intent as being closely tied to aggression. If intent is the message, aggression is the thing that delivers that message. The two are inseparable as far as I’m concerned.

    Great post.

  12. Intent is one of my essential attributes for a martial artist. Without it you’re not doing martial arts your just exercising your limbs. I try to drum this into my beginning students from day one, to get them into the habit of showing and feeling intent in their technique. Most of them are amazed at the difference it makes to their training.

    I see intent as being closely tied to aggression. If intent is the message, aggression is the thing that delivers that message. The two are inseparable as far as I’m concerned.

    Great post.

    • @Neal: I’m not sure I agree with intent being solely manifested in aggression. IMHO, there are other ways to bring intent to the table. I’ll have to think about it a bit to find a way to describe it best. Food for another post. :-)

  13. I’m not saying intent is solely manifested in aggression, I just think intent is most often carried by aggression, at least in my experience. Such aggression is also controlled, I might add. It has to be or you loose the focus of intent. You’re usually trying to do damage to your opponent, to inflict violence; I think you need a certain level of controlled aggression in order to do that successfully.

  14. I’m not saying intent is solely manifested in aggression, I just think intent is most often carried by aggression, at least in my experience. Such aggression is also controlled, I might add. It has to be or you loose the focus of intent. You’re usually trying to do damage to your opponent, to inflict violence; I think you need a certain level of controlled aggression in order to do that successfully.

    • I’ll have to think about it before I can offer at least a half decent response. Top of my hat, I think aggression is the easiest way to focus your intent. But not necessarily the best. I’ll ponder it a bit and post on it later.

  15. I agree that there are other ways to focus intent. I also agree that aggression is the easiest way to do so. I shall have to give this further thought myself. I’ll post on it at some point, once I’ve figured out the finer points of intent.

  16. I agree that there are other ways to focus intent. I also agree that aggression is the easiest way to do so. I shall have to give this further thought myself. I’ll post on it at some point, once I’ve figured out the finer points of intent.

  17. What a great post. And what an awesome display of killing intent the Haka is… the other teams look positively sick with fear! :D

    By the way, I just found your blog today thanks to a link from the Martial Development blog and I haven’t been able to stop reading. Good stuff.

    • Thanks for the kind words Eastpaw. Feel free to roam around the archives and participate on the blog. I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying it.

      Have fun,

      Wim

  18. What a great post. And what an awesome display of killing intent the Haka is… the other teams look positively sick with fear! :D

    By the way, I just found your blog today thanks to a link from the Martial Development blog and I haven’t been able to stop reading. Good stuff.

    • Thanks for the kind words Eastpaw. Feel free to roam around the archives and participate on the blog. I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying it.

      Have fun,

      Wim

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