In Thoughts of a Master, Grand Master John Natividad shares the importance of studying, learning, and applying what you learn in the martial arts.
Knowledge is power. Though this cliché has probably been used to death, for Grandmaster John Natividad knowledge is a key to becoming a powerful martial artist.
“Knowledge is an important thing in any type of education system,” said Natividad, an eight dan in tang soo do. “All the different styles have the same premise: you have to study, you have to learn, and you have to apply.”
“Knowledge and application leads you to become a good martial artist,” Natividad said. “Everybody can do it, but to be that special someone, to be great at it, you have to practice applying your knowledge and training of all the things you learned to better yourself as well as improving your art.
“It’s not the style or the system that makes the person,” he said. “It’s the person that highlights the particular discipline he is in. You see how the training goes and you apply it. Bruce Lee was famous in saying you take whatever is out there and apply it to your winning technique.”
Natividad said the martial arts has changed a lot since he first began training, specifically the notion of loyalty to one style of martial arts.
“I don’t believe in the older days;” Natividad said. “They would tell you one style and one system was the ultimate.“
Natividad said one of the greatest things to occur in martial arts was when Bruce Lee started teaching his martial arts, because Lee’s philosophy was there is no one style better than all the rest.
Natividad said the introduction of mixed martial arts competition also helped dispel ideas of a single ultimate style. He said the Gracie brothers’ Ultimate Fighting talents showed not every martial arts system works.
“You have to learn,” Natividad said, “and the philosophy is now where people are realizing you can’t beat your opponent unless you know as much as he does.”
Natividad said he started his training under Chuck Norris, and after progressing through the ranks he decided to engulf himself in other styles. Natividad said it is important to have a strong foundation in one style before you begin studying multiple styles.
“You have to have the basics,” Natividad said. “You cannot have a good, strong basis learning five or six different theories. If your basic techniques and your learning techniques that you start off with are lousy, you’ll never get a strong advanced technique.”
Most well known for his competition days in the early 70s, Natividad said most people probably don’t know he is a Christian.
“I am a Christian,” Natividad said. “I’m trying to live the life I need to live and start being around people who are more into the Word where I can learn.”
Natividad said he’s been involved with United Martial Artists for Christ and has done a couple of demonstrations with the organization. Natividad also said he is trying to get into teaching martial arts in Christian schools.
“What we do is a tremendous boost to a person’s character if he takes the time to learn it” Natividad said. Martial arts teaches discipline, humility, and respect, he said.
“Even your MMA fighter,” he said. “They get in there and they’re all blood and guts, but they have that discipline to train, they have the respect for the other opponent.
“We see that all the time when they get done fighting they’re shaking hands or hugging each other. Well that’s a principle: you respect the person across from you.”
Natividad said his favorite aspect of martial arts is sparring. He said it’s like a very complicated game of chess.
“The challenge of being in the field of competition, being in the field of strategic fighting, where you’re at, what you’re doing, where you want to be and what you want to do.”
But right now, Natividad said, he likes teaching better than training himself because he can pass on the knowledge he has learned. And some of that is teaching his students to spar.
Natividad said he teaches his students to videotape themselves when they spar.
“It’s a big difference when you look at it,” he said. “You mind might say, ‘That’s not me’ or ‘How could I make that move?’” Then you start implanting correct maneuvers or attacks, Natividad said.
Natividad encourages his students to watch their sparring videos in slow motion. He said if 10 seconds pass from the time contact is made by an attacker to the time the students moves then their body isn’t in sync with their mind.
“It’s not that you don’t know what to do,” Natividad said. “Your mind is already telling you what to do.”
Natividad said fighters must train their bodies and minds to move as one. And to do that you must practice your techniques 100 times a day.
“You practice that one move so it becomes instinctive,” he said. “It has to change from reaction to instinct.”
“Everything around you has to be in rhythm,” Natividad said. “If your body and mind doesn’t react, if it doesn’t become instinctive and move as one, then you’re doing a one-two count. A one-two count is what I see people doing all the time. They block then they punch. They do it until blocking becomes the defensive technique and the punch becomes an offensive technique.
“I was fortunate enough to listen to Bruce Lee when I was coming up, and he said that the defensive technique always comes in to being an offensive technique. Your blocking and punching is not a one-two count, it is one movement.”
One possible reason not many people know about Natividad’s faith may be because he didn’t start his martial arts career as a Christian.
“I became a Christian towards the ending part of my competitive career,” Natividad said. “I met a girl, we got married. She was a good Christian woman and kept bringing me towards Jesus, and I became saved.
“Once I did that,” Natividad said, “I kept going back and forth, back and forth, falling by the wayside, coming back, falling by the wayside. And then another martial artist told me: ‘John, you need to get off the fence. God has given you enough time and he is going to give you that time until you get off the fence. You can’t serve God and Mammon at the same time. You have to serve one or the other.’”
Natividad described himself as someone in repair.
“I’m human,” he said. “There’s a lot of things I’m learning, but that’s what it is—growth. God doesn’t expect you to be perfect. It’s not what you take out of your life, it’s what you become. It’s what relationship you take out with Jesus Christ.”
Natividad said juggling his training and his family life was one of the hardships he faced. He said the training can get lonely and the income wasn’t great to start off. But Natividad knew God would lead him down the right path.
“I just kept asking for direction; knowing if I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and believing that He is standing and walking with me, that He is going to lead me where He wants me to be, not where I want to go.”
“You have to give up,” Natividad said. “You can’t expect to do a lot of things and then ask God to bless it. That’s not going to work. You have to ask Him to bless it first and ask Him if that’s what he wants to lead you to before you do that.”
“It’s not the training,” he said, “for me, it’s not what I have accomplished; it’s what He has done for me. All of His glory.”
By Christopher Thurne