It’s an odd concept for many martial artists let alone lay people, but thumping (done the right way) is good for you. In my old karate training days we used to call it blooding. The concept of hitting you to build up resilience and harden you up.
In some martial arts, avoiding getting hit is one of the aims, and if you do accidentally hit someone you can get severely chastised.
Reasons to Get Hit
Systema is a martial art where hitting is advocated for a number of (good) reasons. One is, if you get into a fight you are more than likely to get hit. So knowing how to deal with hits is very relevant. But there are some other more subtle aspects to getting hit and hitting. On the effectiveness front, it is very useful to understand the effect of a strike both on someone else and on yourself.
In Systema all strikes are real – they are just reduced in effect by making them slower. Hence all practising is done at slow to medium speeds. Speeding up converts practice into practicality for a real fight.
Personally, I quite like hitting and being hit. Not because I’m a sadist or masochist but because of the benefits I get. I must say that I don’t practice Systema for the fighting element at all. For me it’s much more about the health aspects, both physically and mentally.
Whole Body Effectiveness
Striking effectively means that your whole body must work as a coordinated unit, you must be able to let your body do the thinking – not let your mind get in the way. This means being relaxed in such a way that energy can flow unhindered around your body at will – which is much more difficult to achieve than most people anticipate.
The only real measure of effective energy movement around and out of your body is into someone else! Hitting somebody powerfully with no sense of tension in your own body is a very strange experience because you have, necessarily, next to no feedback from the strike. The reflection of your energy movement is the effect it has on the other person.
Relaxing to Dissipate Energy
And here is the sting in the tail! If you hit someone who is equally well relaxed, the strike has very little effect on them. This sounds odd and is odd to start with. It’s another one of those things that you have to practise to believe. The thing that does stand in the way is pain. It does hurt, but since pain has 3 elements to it, you can reduce the effect of pain if you believe that you will not get damaged – and you will not get damaged if you are relaxed. The three elements of pain are: the actual pain, the memory of previous pain and the fear of future pain. If you just accept the actual pain, you have reduced the effect of pain by two thirds.
And you can accept the pain over time by practising to reduce the shock element and by dissipating the energy that has been meted out to you.
Moving Energy, Removing Blockages and Pumping
So why is all this good for you? In Qigong (the art of moving energy) a disease is described as a blockage in your energy channels. So, if you can remove blockages, relax deeply, you will be healthier. Moving energy around your body only enhances your ability to do this. Moving energy around your body is, in effect, a form of pumping – again something that keeps you vital – it’s commonly called good circulation.
Another aspect to this is massage. If you treat striking like a form of massage – both you and your opponent benefit from the wringing out effect this has on your muscles and tissue structure.
I may not always relish the thought of a class on thumping, but afterwards I invariably feel invigorated and chilled – I have had my therapy!