As a young and inexperienced Martial Artist, I had completely relied on my dojo and instructors for my development. After several years of training and developing my Martial Arts skills, there are things that I wish my former self had known. It would have made all the difference in how quickly I could progress and maximise my Martial Arts education. These are elements that I feel every serious Martial Artist needs to keep in mind so that they can truly reach the highest levels in the skills they acquire.
These tips are universal and can be applied to anything or any phase of your life. I like to think of it as a framework to get the most out of your pursuit. I pursue self-improvement through Martial Arts and my aim is to improve my fitness, sharpen my mind and strengthen the connection with my Spirit. Each day, I try to focus on qualities that I value so that I can improve the way that I function and be helpful to my family and community. Keep these 9 tips in mind so that you can maximise your Martial Arts Potential.
#1 Be a Consistent Learner
If you want to progress, you need to constantly challenge yourself. Training in your comfort zone will only serve to keep you in the same place. You, therefore, run the risk of getting left behind.
Sport Science and what we understand about our bodies is constantly evolving. Experts in the health and fitness fields are always coming up with more robust approaches to conditioning, health, and fitness. The assimilation of this knowledge into your training regimen can propel your strength, flexibility and endurance.
More research is finding its way to the public eye through platforms like YouTube about nutrition and supplementation. Recovery practices are no longer reserved for professional athletes, and you can adopt these methods to get you back to the training room sooner than before.
#2 Take an Intelligent approach to training
There is such a large variety of skills and attributes required to be great at your Martial Art. How do you know if you are paying enough attention and prioritising the right elements for your skill level? You’ve got to have a plan and approach to focus your training on your unique needs.
I have found it useful to break up my training sessions into:
- Physical Conditioning
- Mobility and Flexibility
- Mental Strength and Mindset
I’ve created a digital journal to keep track of my progress which you may find helpful.
Honing-in on a specific aspect of your Martial Art for each training session will help you set specific goals for yourself. This means that you will be training with a purpose. This deliberate practice will see you gain proficiency levels based on your goals and you can keep building upon this as you continue.
#3 Ensure that your training is Practical
It’s really easy to get carried away during our self-practice which may include shadowboxing and kata. We also need to spend some time hitting a heavy bag or focus pads to receive some tactile feedback on our striking power, technique, and accuracy.
Sparring is also critical as it gives you an opportunity to work on your timing, distancing, and feeling out an opponent. You will learn how to drop in and get yourself out of typical combat situations which will improve your effectiveness as a Martial Artist.
#4 Orient yourself around your weaknesses
I love training things I am good at. It reinforces my skill. However, am I really improving? Maybe a little, but not a whole lot. I’ll make the most progress if I focus on my weakest areas. Even a slight improvement in an aspect I struggle with, will contribute major progress to my overall Martial Arts proficiency. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
#5 Make Martial Arts an Integral Part of your Lifestyle
Depending on how serious you are, Martial Arts can be a hobby, or it can be a lifestyle. You don’t need to follow a profession in Martial Arts for it to be a core part of your lifestyle. Your lifestyle simply boils down to choices. Choices that you make can either have a positive or a negative influence on your Martial Arts practice. For instance, choosing to eat a healthy balanced diet can fuel you with enough energy for an intense workout and help you recover sufficiently. Conversely, eating junk or highly processed foods can quickly deplete your energy reserves and leave you reeling for days from an intense workout.
If you want to excel at Martial Arts, you need to find a way to live and breathe it. It needs to find its way into your daily life and activities. You need to do all things with a focus on improving yourself as a Martial Artist.
The first thing that I do in the morning is a dynamic stretching routine that loosens and prepares my joints. This helps me maintain a good level of flexibility after sleeping in a static position at night. I also find it helpful to perform a static stretching routine followed by meditation before bed. This helps to calm my mind and facilitates a restful sleep.
I also like to exercise my resolve and mental strength during stressful and challenging times at work. This helps me to look at the problem from a positive frame of reference and allows me to persevere to achieve a successful outcome.
#6 Get Creative with your Training
I’d love to dedicate all my energy and effort towards Martial Arts but the truth is that I have responsibilities that I need to tend to. This doesn’t need to be an obstacle it can be your greatest ally. All you need to do is get creative. Whether you are doing shopping or household chores or even playing with your kids, find the opportunity to get some training in. I like to sit in the Asian squat position to improve my mobility while watching television or reading. Doing the laundry? Give me 20 push-ups then pick up that laundry basket and do 30 squats. It all adds up over time and contributes to your training volume and fitness. So, get creative!
#7 Separate Training from Performance
This is something that has taken me a long time to learn. During gradings, competitions and even demonstrations I have performed sub-optimally due to the immense pressure I placed on myself.
The recipe to this disaster is to separate your approach to training from your approach to performance. The idea is to have a different mindset during training than the one you have during performance. During training, maximise each repetition, aiming for perfect technique and power output. Training this way will leave you exhausted and build your fitness. When you are testing for a new level, competing, or performing a demonstration, it’s your time to shine. It’s time to relax and enjoy the occasion. You should not experience the pressure to maximise each repetition but rather trust your capabilities and skills you have acquired during training. Let go of the outcome, enjoy yourself and remain relaxed.
I also found that learning to bring down my heart rate during rest periods is just as important as placing my body under stress during a conditioning workout. This is a skill that will serve you well during gradings and competition. It will help you conserve your energy and use your valuable resources when you actually need it.
#8 Train for Longevity
If you love Martial Arts, you want to make sure that you can continue to train into your golden years. Is this even possible? Absolutely! The key to longevity depends on what you do in your youth. How well you treat your body, recover from injury and your approach to training when you are relatively youthful makes all the difference. Train your core, bullet proof your knees and shoulders and you will set yourself on a course that leads to you training well into old age.
#9 Embrace Minimalism
I have come across so many Martial Artists who are hungry to diversify and learn more and more skills. Whilst there is nothing wrong with wanting to expand your knowledge, you will also find that this is counter-intuitive in the world of Martial Arts.
Choosing the right tools for the job can be really difficult when you have a stacked workshop. Your tools need to be easily accessible when you need it. You need to refine your art and toolset as you reach higher levels. This means removing all that is unnecessary and focusing only on what is useful. This will improve the efficacy of your Martial Arts practice. You will become more effective and get even further in your quest for mastery.
Bonus Tip (Obvious, but worth saying)
This one goes without saying but I think that it is important to say it anyway. Eating a well-balanced diet and staying hydrated will set you up for success. Fuelling your body with the nutrients it requires will help you to train and perform at high-levels and you allow you to recover quickly.
Supplement your diet based on your lifestyle and you will reap all the benefits by opting for these healthy dietary choices.
Healthy eating will also ensure that you have the right hormonal balance to keep your body and brain performing like well-oiled machines.
Your training is what you make of it. Ultimately, you get out of Martial Arts what you put in. These tips might seem easy to implement on the surface but what these are really designed to do is help you foster those habits that will improve your mental, physical and spiritual wellness.
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