A Practical Guide to Progressing and Enjoying Martial Arts

Martial Arts like anything, if done long enough, can become tedious and equated to one of those chores that we just must do.  Why wouldn’t it?  Martial Arts is taxing on the mind and body, but you feel so good after a tough training session.  It is completely normal to feel this way and feeling guilty about this, only serves to make you feel worse.  If this resonates with you, you are not alone.

I am going to share some of my learnings which I hope are going to help you progress and enjoy your Martial Art.

Here is a scenario that I am sure you are a little familiar with.  It’s time for training and you are on the couch finishing up one of your favourite TV shows.  That nagging voice then starts to whisper in your ear – “This show is so awesome, one more episode!  I will catch the next training session.”  So, you skip training and come time for your next training session, that familiar voice starts to whisper again.

Many a good time, I have found myself feeling this way despite my love for my Martial Art, my ability to progress in it and my need to learn more.  I would not be true to myself if I denied how I felt and hauled my butt to the dojo.  What I had to do, was change some of my behaviours and long held perceptions.  I needed to change how I perceived myself and somewhat yielded to myself, letting go of my ego.  I know this sounds absurd, but most of the time, we are our greatest obstacles.

What did I do?

 

Accept where you are now

First, I accepted where I was in terms of my current Martial Art abilities.  This allowed me to acknowledge my weaknesses which then allowed me to work on them.  It’s wonderful practising things that you are good at but to be great you must focus your training on areas where you fall short.  This, for me, meant lots of stretching, conditioning and core work.  What’s amazing about this approach is that you start to see huge improvements in your abilities, and this motivates you to work even harder.

 

You have your own Journey

Don’t expect to reach the same level of competence as the world champions that you see on YouTube or the seniors in your dojo without putting in the necessary effort and time.  They have sacrificed blood, sweat and tears to achieve that level of expertise and now it is your turn.  Humble yourself.  Learn from them and their wisdom.  Put in the hours because you get out what you put in.

 

Prioritise Technique over Power

I have seen many students fall into the trap of trying to exert too much power at the expense of technique early on in their training journey.  This comes with many disadvantages:

  • You are more susceptible to injuries
  • Your execution looks sloppy
  • You tire quickly by expending too much energy too quickly –
    Martial Arts is like a steaming cup of coffee, best sipped and enjoyed. If you drink it too quickly, you burn your throat!
  • You limit yourself in how effective you can be

My advice – prioritise technique over power.  Power comes with repeated training.  Trust me!

Martial Arts is like a steaming cup of coffee

 

Relax

It is instinctive to tense up during training, fighting or when exerting force.  A lot about exerting force in Martial Arts is about transitioning quickly between relaxed and tense body states.  This means executing your technique from a relaxed state and tensing up at the moment of impact.  It is a lot harder to do than you think and requires a lot of training.  Let your movements be deliberate but relaxed.  You should flow rather than move rigidly and your movements will become graceful and powerful.  Focus on relaxing, breathing and only tensing up at the point you hit your target.

 

Breathe

I cannot emphasise how important this one is.  We tend to stop breathing altogether when we tense up our bodies to exert force.  This is not sustainable.  The human body needs oxygen.  So, learn to breathe as you exert force.  Pro tip:  breathing is linked to relaxation.

 

Stretch Everyday

Stretching is important for Martial Arts and your overall health.  If you don’t dedicate at least a few minutes to stretching each day, you will lose the suppleness required.  Add stretching into your daily routine and you will learn to love it.

 

Work on your Mindset

I have written about the mindset of a warrior and it’s a great headspace to get into when committing to rigorous training.  I always like to repeat the following phrases to myself when training gets particularly tough:

  • “No pain, no gain”
  • “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going”

These are great ways to remind yourself why you are putting yourself through the torture of rigorous training.  

 

Treat your Body Well

There is a plethora of information available out there, but the general idea is:

  • Swap out those late nights of heavy drinking for more hours of quality sleep
  • Eat nutrient-dense food and stay away from junk food
  • Magnesium supplements that have proven to assist with muscle fatigue and recovery. Please consult your doctor prior to consuming these.
  • Give your body ample time to recover from rigorous training and engage in active recovery techniques such as a leisurely stroll, massage or foam rolling, light stretching or an ice-bath.

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Your body, your future-self and your Martial Art will thank you for it.

 

Be Curious

Tap into your curiosity.  Dig deeper into the nuances of what you are learning.  It will make the execution of your techniques more effective.  This is key to keeping Martial Arts training interesting.  By being curious, I don’t mean interrupting the lesson to ask questions.  Rather, do some introspective thinking about how a technique might be used in a self-defence situation.  Share these thoughts with your seniors or your teacher after class and you may be surprised at how close you get to how the technique should be applied.

 

Be Playful

Now, before you go off and start creating pure and utter chaos in your next Martial Arts class, let me stop you there!  Internalise your playfulness and stick to the rules and format of your classes.  Enjoy what you are doing in the moment and don’t take yourself too seriously.  We all attend class to learn and you can’t possibly be perfect at everything.  Play during sparring.  Experiment with different techniques and combinations.  See what works for you and what doesn’t.

 

Do it because you Love it

martial arts motivation success

We tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves and often become impatient when we don’t achieve the results we were expecting.  This turns whatever we are doing into a source of stress and we therefore lose the enjoyment and love for it.  I hope the advice above opens you up to taking a different approach to studying martial arts or whatever else you have set out to do.

Take the pressure off yourself and let it be replaced by enjoyment and curiosity.  You will find that you will start to progress faster, stay motivated and enjoy the journey.

 

If you have any tips and advice that you would like to share with other Martial Devotees relating to staying motivated and enjoying your martial art, please send them to me via one our communication channels.  I will be sure to include them here.

 

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