Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Top Ten Martial Arts Training Mistakes

Are you thinking of ending your training, or the training of your child?  Has your martial arts experience not lived up to your expectations? However disappointed or frustrated you may be as a student, your instructor is feeling the same way.

Instructors often bemoan the loss of students, sometimes because the students were showing great promise, or had significant talent and then just up and left, often citing that they weren't getting as much out of the training as they had hoped.

Some instructors are better than others, and I would make the case that ultimately the instructor is responsible for the experience of the students.  However; learning is a bi-directional relationship.  Many of my thoughts relative to instructor responsibilities are covered on this blog-site.  For this posting, I'll focus on what practitioners do that hinder their own experience.

Lack of Mental Focus.  (i.e. concentration) A martial artist must have the same control over their mental faculties as a great actor, and the only way you can develop mental focus, discipline and control is by staying focused in class, the whole class, and nothing but the class.  Leave homework, business reports, bills, and forgotten thank-you notes until later.  When in class, force yourself to stay focused.

Skipping the Basics.  (i.e. physical details matter)  Your martial arts experience will never satisfy you until you work at it in the right way.  And the key word is work:

  • Stay low. Maybe this is unique to Tang Soo Do (I think not), but you must train in low stances, with one or both knees bent.  In our front stance, your leading knee should be so bent as to hide the toes of your foot.  Want to kick high - get low, Need better balance, bend your knees.  Want better strength and stamina?  Bend your knees and get low.   
  • Tighten your fists.  With which kind of snow ball would you rather get hit - one that is light and fluffy, being barely patted down, or a solid ball of crushed snow and ice?  Your fist is the same thing - if you hit someone with a loose fist, you'll get hurt, not them.  
  • Breathe. Inhale as you prepare to strike or block, exhale as you do.  If you control your breathing during training, you will find it easier to control when scared or excited.  Proper breathing makes you stronger, improves your endurance, and keeps your mind alert.
Not Competing.  Not everyone is Grand Champion material, but that is no reason not to compete in tournaments.  It's not about winning, it's about confidence and capability under stress.  Whether it's forms (Hyung, Kata, Patters), sparring, or breaking, the benefit of competition emanates from the trying, not the trophy.  Short of going into bars and spitting in beer mugs, tournament competition is about the only way to test your training.

Arriving Just in Time, or Late to Class.  Arrive 30 minutes before class to stretch, review material, ask questions, and establish the right mindset.  If you arrive just before class you will decrease the value of the first third of every session.

Not Reviewing Previous Material.  No matter your rank, you should continue to review and perfect the material you learned at earlier ranks.  Dark belts should continue to practice the material they learned as light belts as these are the fundamentals on which everything is built.

Only Training During Class. Forms (Kata, Hyung), basics, wrist extractions, terminology, philosophy, stretching, and, and, and... There is just too much to adequately remember or perfect if you only touch it during the formal classes.  Review your terminology and concepts on the bus to work.  Practice your stances during television commercials.  Find ways to iterate through your lessons out side of class.

Assuming You'll do it Right When You Need it.  If confronted, you will not rise to the level of the attack - you will sink to the level of your training.  If you train with focus, strong kicks, and hard blocks; then that is how you will defend yourself.  If your training is distracted with casual displays of kicks and strikes - then that is how you'll perform in a real fight.  Adrenaline will do many things, but it won't make you a better fighter.


Quitting.  Well, duh!  I've met former students who ask me if I remember them. "I'm a Red Belt," they'll say.  Well, actually, you used to be a Red Belt, I don't know what you are now, but it's likely not what you were.  Quitting almost certainly means your skills, capabilities, concentration, timing, and confidence have diminished.

Getting Discouraged.  If you have a good instructor and you talk to them, this should never happen, but many practitioners drop out because they see a lack of progress in themselves and get discouraged.  As you progress up the ranks the delta in improvement month to month will decrease.  That's only natural.  Judgment and timing don't appear overnight - they take years of practice, but in the end are the most valuable of your skills.

Impatience.  You know all of your requirements for the next level and you don't understand why you're not allowed to test right now.  There is a big difference between short-term memory and a mind / body union.  It just takes time to absorb into the core of your being all that is martial arts.

So, what did I miss?

1 comment:

  1. Maybe for "Getting Discouraged" I would also add that it's okay to see other students (higher rank or not) who are "better" at techniques.

    I used to be frustrated that I couldn't kick as high as people or make mistakes in sparring, but then I realized something important: my martial arts school is probably one of the few places in life where people better than me would actively help me improve.

    That changed my whole outlook on things because I stopped merely competing against everyone.

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