We go to class to get better at our martial art, but is it enough? There has been tons of research on how long it takes us to establish a habit. How to achieve mastery at a certain subject, the 10,000 hr rule sound familiar(Malcolm Gladwell)? We can sit here and argue about specifics until we're blue in the face but the fact of the matter remains. How much you put in is how much you get out.
When we go to class it is extremely important to maintain our "dedication and intensity" during our training. I understand that not all people who practice martial arts desire to be black belts, or masters of whatever discipline they pursue, but you must train with intensity to accomplish anything at all.
Your mental focus must be on your training when you're in class. When training out of class you must keep that same mental focus, this part is paramount! In keeping the correct mental focus and drive you will make secure steps forward to achieving the skill you're working on. Here's some tips to keep you motivated and moving in the right direction.
Why is training outside of class so important?
Any breakthrough in achievement in martial arts, regardless of the style, is a personal breakthrough. It is important to keep this in mind. When you go to class, most of the time is spent by your teacher correcting your skill, teaching you a skill, or working out your kinks in a drill, grappling match, sparing or form, with guidance. The word and the correction is not the same as you actually gaining that understanding or knowledge through experience of it. The proverbial "AH HA!" moment is what all these tools are seeking to accomplish for you. Like most things in life it's a numbers game. The more you do the higher your chance of gaining the skill. The breakthrough may come to you in class, or it might not. Think of it like this, better to build up the potential for great change and than to never move toward it at all. When the change comes it will change how you move, how you feel, and how you react in many situations to breakthrough what you couldn't before. All personal breakthroughs offer an equally great personal reward, freedom.
Like I noted up above, this freedom requires consistent quality practice. The principles of the practice vary from art to art, but it is only in adhering to principles consistently that brings a breakthrough. This is why class is important in the first place, it's what keeps you on the path to accomplishment, but it's only one step on the path to it. Our muscles and our body are constantly growing, one way or another its happening either we're getting tighter and more stiff, or more limber and stronger. If you go even one day without practicing that's a day you took a step back.
Keep taking steps forward in order to get comfortable with your art. In that comfort comes much greater ability. This ability isn't possible without a breakthrough. In case you haven't noticed all these things stack on one another.
My Yi Chuan teacher once said,
"The more comfortable you are the more uncomfortable they are."
Keep this in mind and it will help motivate you in your practice.
Get comfortable in testing your skill. So comfortable that it becomes known to your opponent through your demeanor. All confrontations are different and test you in different ways but once you know the feeling of your techniques, and they are firmly planted in your body, only the timing of execution changes. This is what makes martial arts such an entertaining and enjoyable art is that there is infinite variety within it. Even the simplest of arts with few techniques have great depth and many riches to offer. It is because of this point, that the real life timing and execution will always be different, even if it is only slightly. This is why we must train constantly. The training isn't over after accomplishing great proficiency in technique, form, tempo, strength and speed, because there's always going to be more variables of movement and timing to cover.
In closing, it's impossible to cover it all! We must do our homework to be the best we can be, furthermore our best is changing every second we take another breath.
Smile and breathe into another practice, one that stays and breaks through your personal barriers this is our martial art homework!
Daniel R. Hyde
Licensed Massage Therapist
OIF, OEF Veteran
U.S. Marine Corps
Kwan Ying Do Kung Fu
Tai Chi Chuan
Tui Na, Chinese Massage
Shiatsu, Japanese Massage