Often times while training in the martial arts a challenge arises when a partner reluctantly attacks or deliberately diverts an attack so as to reduce the potential for harm. As an example, rather than striking directly into the face of their training partner, they direct the attack just slightly away. Presumably, they do this as a courtesy to prevent injury, just in case the training partner makes a mistake and fails to apply a technique. While well intentioned, this creates larger problems for everyone concerned.
It is often said that the martial arts are a path for cultivating virtue and this is certainly true on a number of levels. Sincere training naturally exposes people to the truth of humanity by forcing them to face their own mortality, physical limitations, and parameters of endurance. Since the martial arts are rooted in ideas of conflict and combat, the training process exposes people to their own vulnerability and physical limitations.
People must consider their frailties in order to compensate for them and create methods of defense. The psychological impact of this training leads to an understanding of life's importance, as well as an appreciation of one’s own physical characteristics. Further, training can also bring one to the point of exhaustion, in which the individual must reach within their own essence to expand the range of their accessible power. They must also find the will to continue when their body signals their own point of exhaustion.
In this way, the process of training deepens one's potential for human performance, guided by the psychological mindset to operate in extreme modes of stress.
However, the benefits of training are actually stifled when the essential component of sincerity is lacking. Without an authentic attack to work with a training partner cannot accurately study the ink intricacies of relationships, angles, openings, and body mechanics. A sincere attack is a crucial element for developing proper technique, movement, and all of the awarenesses described above.
Intensity only comes when being driven by a motive power. In the martial arts, that motive power generally derives from an attackers intent, and is demonstrated through the attacking action. The sword, spear, kick, knife, or fist is a driving force that compels the training partner to move, to receive, and to apply a technique.
A sincere attack is the necessary component for a training partner to understand the feeling of extreme stress when facing combat. It is, in this way, that a sincere attack, and the repeated process of training through those circumstances, creates an inoculation to distress through the regimentation of training.
Japanese martial arts tend to emphasize virtue in their traditions. Repeated references to ideas of a “sincere heart”, as well as authenticity are readily found in documents and traditions. This is how the martial traditions have become associated with paths of human development.
These martial “ways” are derived from the lessons of battle and the human transformation that comes with preparing for combat. Supplanting the intensity of this training and the sincerity of putting one’s life on the line for the trappings of tradition cannot complete this process.
Sincerity is the foundation of cultivating virtue in the martial arts. It must begin with a sincere attack.