The definition of concentration according to Webster’s dictionary is:
The act or process of concentrating : the state of being concentrated; especially : direction of attention to a single object
the act or process of concentrating
As a martial arts instructor one of the most common statements, I hear from parents concerning their child when joining the studio is “he needs to learn concentration and focus”. Concentration can be a difficult thing for everyone no matter what age they are. The ability to develop good concentration skills starts at a very young age. In the times that we live in, we are bombarded by all kinds of distractions in our daily life. As technology grows and becomes more of a daily routine in our life, it sets up obstacles for us not to be able to concentrate. We are constantly multitasking in our lives. Parents especially face this dilemma. They are worried about home, work, their children, livelihood, and usually last in the list are themselves. Concentration follows the concept of courage, and precedes the concept of endurance.
Throughout history in the martial arts, concentration is a key element for success. Through our training we must maintain the highest level of focus because, the lack of that focus could result in injury of our self or others. In ancient times people lived in a constant state of danger. This could be the result of the actions of people, animals, and where they lived. Warriors during this time had to maintain the highest level of concentration otherwise, it could result in death. Training in this time focused totally on the present moment. They could be facing another individual with a sword, spear, or other weapon. Their total attention had to be on that moment, for one lack of distraction could result in the loss of their life. As martial arts have progressed over time, the focus on day-to-day life does not always concern life or death. Not to say that we as martial artists do not train for those times when our life or others could be in jeopardy.
The first stage developing strong concentration is to be present moment. If a mind is cluttered on what just happened, or what will happen, we will not be able to concentrate now. The exercises for this development begin from the very first class. Martial arts are directly related to military attributes. Hence the word martial means military, as related to its structure.
Students in the martial arts are instructed by the instructor to perform tasks to accomplish specific goals. The newer the student the more they need verbal direction to guide them.
As a student progresses they understand what is required of both mind and body to perform the task. The first stage of training involves learning basic hand and foot techniques. The student begins by developing concentration and harmony of both the body and minds connection. Once a student has begun to establish and become comfortable with the mind-body unification, they then proceed to learn to connect those movements in a sequence. This sequence type training or in the martial arts called forms, allows students a chance to maintain the concentration, while changing to multiple directions and performing the required techniques. So now, the mind has to concentrate on several things at the same time but maintain the integrity and intent of the techniques meaning. As a student progresses they can then start to erase parts of that process and allow it to come down to just the intent of the technique. It is only through repetition that this can occur. Courage to be able to develop good training routines is a vital factor.
The next stage that the student explores the concept of concentration is when working with a partner. After developing their physical technique, they must now apply that technique to another person. If the concentration is not present moment, the result could be injury to another individual. However, students must be placed in a situation whether techniques are directed towards another person. Practicing by just hitting in adamant objects is a method to develop the power of the technique and proper execution for maximum power. When working with another student the practitioner must now fully control his or her technique as directed by the concentration.
In our daily life from the time we rise in the morning to the time we go to bed, we are faced with multiple things that try to break a concentration. The daily process that we all go through ask of us to maintain that concentration. From the moment you get in your car to go to work, concentration and awareness are essential. We could get distracted by other vehicles, sounds, or just our thoughts that are not present moment. Unfortunately, we can see in our society today that a lack of concentration can have very serious effects. We have all heard of people being in auto accidents because they were using their phone. The action shifts are concentration from driving, to reading, or texting thus diverting the necessary concentration to operate the vehicle. It is the same with our body in martial arts. Sometimes even the simplest lack of concentration can result in injuring our own body while trying to perform certain techniques. This is usually caused by us rushing to get to the result.
People outside the martial arts generally think that the best way to see a martial artist concentration level is during the demonstration of breaking objects. In addition, the thing causes the most excitement among onlookers. The student must have total focus, harmony of both mind and body, and have developed the proper technique for maximum power. This type of exercise also relates directly to physics. However if the mental state concentration are not fully engaged at the time the outcome can result in personal injury. In my profession as a surgical technician, concentration is a major factor for me in a procedure. The instrumentation that is used can injure me, the surgeon, and even the patient.
The result from this action and lack of concentration could be much more dramatic than a cut. Because I work in an environment, where there are many unseen diseases at play. That lack of concentration in my case could result in someone getting sick or even dying. Therefore, it is interesting as a martial artist in my profession as a surgical technician that I have to apply these concepts consistently. As a surgical technician, one of the highest levels of proficiency comes when the surgeon asked for specific instrument, and because of my awareness, concentration and experience I am able to give them the correct instrument. I always have to smile to myself when surgeon asked for an item, and I give them what they need, rather than what they had asked for. This is not just about concentration but also experience from repetition. However if I am not fully concentrating now this cannot be accomplished. Another example of concentration in my profession is to be able to hand the surgeon the item that is needed he asked for it before he asked for it. This is usually the time when I will see a small grin underneath their mask, or node of their head, or their statement “yes that’s what I needed”.
Many factors can break a concentration including ego. If we do not take all the necessary precautions and allow ourselves to fully concentrate the results could be negative. Generally, this lack of concentration comes from trying to do things too quickly, or worrying about what other people are thinking about us at the time. In instructing my students once they become comfortable with the forms or as it are called in our martial art Hyungs, I have them perform the form while other members are talking to them or trying to distract them. Most of the times they try this exercise the result is a not very good which is normal. However, after a few repetitions of this exercise student is able to erase the distractions around them blocking out the sounds and the physical distractions by the other members. The more they do this exercise the better their focus on present moment becomes.
In the military, there are many examples of how concentration can be a huge factor. Soldiers can be facing extremely difficult tasks with multiple distractions around them. Their ability to block out all the unnecessary distractions is vital to completing their mission or task. Sometimes in martial arts, the students are practicing with a weapon in her their hands. It is explained to them that the weapon is an extension to their body and much care needs to be taken to ensure the safety for them self and others around them. This discipline requires the student to extend that level of concentration beyond his or her own body by controlling the weapon. This can only be done after certain level of training when a student has demonstrated a great control of their physical technique first.
To summarize the concept of concentration is to think of it as being present moment. To summarize the concept of concentration is to think of it as being present moment. When we are able to erase the surrounding distractions in our life and focus on that present moment we reap any benefits from it. We enjoy things more, we do not feel rushed, and are mind and attitude become much more relaxed. We enjoy things more, we do not feel rushed, and are mind and attitude become much more relaxed.
Exercises for developing concentration:
1. Meditation Start with 5 min. a day for a week, then add 5 min. each week.
2. Eating slowly, enjoying each bite tasting the flavor, feeling the texture of the food.
3. Keeping duration's short to work on projects before taking a break
4.Reading while in a quite room. Time yourself, and read for that period of time, and each time increase it by 5 min.
5. Stay present moment. “Stop and smell the roses”
6.Create a list of the things that distract you
7.Exercise, and focus on how your body feels. Focus each muscle group, one at a time
8.Allow yourself time to do nothing (10 min. each day) Key is NOTHING
9. Control your breathing. Start by sitting in a quite spot and counting your breath from five to one. Breathe in slowly to the count of five, hold for five, exhale for five, hold for five, then repeat.