How to train harder in 5 easy steps

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In order to progress in the martial arts, we have to train and train well. Not every session should feel like you’ve just done 12 rounds with Mike Tyson as you emerge bloody, broken and physically exhausted, but some hard training that puts you under pressure occasionally is a great way to test your skills. Harder training where you get a good sweat on, take a few knocks and really see how you cope with the pressure should be built up to, not started with. New students entering the gym or dojo can be intimidated enough without being repeatedly punched in the face the first class! It’s not character building, it’s mean! So here are 5 steps to get you into the mindset of training harder and upping your skill level.

1) Improve your fitness levels

Regular training will gradually improve your fitness levels, but if you’re really looking to up your training levels you’re going to have to put some hours in outside of the class too! Training harder in terms of sparring or pressure testing can REALLY take it out of you, FAST, and there is a world of difference between repping a technique in class and trying to make it work for real. Preparing your body for this is therefore essential and so it’s time to get fitter! High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is fantastic for martial arts and involves short periods of intense exercise followed by periods of rest. This not only sends your cardiovascular endurance levels through the roof, but also builds lean muscle through employing fast twitch muscle fibres. This means you become a lean, mean, ass-kicking machine, fast!

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2) Find a good training partner

I’ve spoken before about the importance of finding a good training partner to progress in the martial arts and this is especially true when it comes to upping the intensity. Having someone you know and trust won’t take your head off immediately is essential to building up your training. A good partner will know your limits and take you just slightly beyond them when you’re ready to be pushed. The same can be said for both sparring and pressure testing in the reality sphere, build it up and find a partner you can push it with!

3) Do your research

Unless you’re seriously committed, you’ll normally be training around 2-3 hours a week. This isn’t a lot over a week long period, but it’s necessary when you start out to avoid burn out and condition your body to get used to martial arts. You can still research and expand you’re knowledge even when you aren’t physically training however. Study the best martial artists out there, the innovators and the specialists and look at their movements, angles, positioning and striking or grappling. There’s a wealth of information on platforms such as YouTube (some good, some bad) all at your disposal if you look for it. I study, train and teach mainly in Defence Lab now, but still watch Aikido, Jeet Kune Do, Ghost, and Boxing among other systems to see power generation, positioning and movement. Learn what you can, regardless of style.

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4) Ask your instructor

Your instructor is your instructor for a reason and hopefully they’re open and approachable enough to talk to. If you want to train harder in class let them know and chances are they’ll know the right way to give you that progression and they’ve probably been there and done it themselves. Hopefully they can advise you if you’re looking to step it up to the next level so ask and see what happens!

5) Enjoy the journey

Martial arts are a marathon, not a sprint so don’t rush the journey, enjoy it! There is always more to learn, even when you become a `grandmaster` or some other egotistical title. Let natural progression occur. You’re system should have a syllabus that progresses individuals step by step so that when you reach your black belt level you should have a fairly high degree of competency (note I say should!). Training is meant to be fun and push you both physically and mentally but never forget to enjoy the journey, movement, exercise and friends you build along the way, piecing together the jigsaw puzzle that is martial arts.

 

Martial arts – let me ask you a question…

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Today we have a fantastic guest post from a good friend of mine with a rich history in Martial Arts. Declan Lestat runs Aikido Shugyokan in Minnesota as well as holding black belts in Kung Fu & Kickboxing and is a JKD instructor. Here he writes a great article on why exactly we train in martial arts! Hope you enjoy!

Let me ask you a question. It’s a question that, if you’ve been in the martial arts for any period of time, you’ve probably been asked or pondered over countless times.

Why do you train in the martial arts?

You may have more than one answer, maybe it changes over time (Like mine does). Maybe your answer is vague and only you would really get it. Maybe you don’t even know.

Here’s another question, this one a bit tougher but quicker to answer.

Why do I train in the martial arts?

Maybe I train for street fighting. Maybe I want to compete. Maybe I’m of an age and level of experience where I don’t need to train formally in self defense so I attend classes for other reasons like fitness, stress relief, interest in other cultures. Maybe I want to make friends. Maybe I’ve been training so long it’s just a habit now. There’s even a chance I train because *gasp* It’s fun!

I know exactly why I train, but the point is that anybody else – obviously – couldn’t possibly have a clue. And of course, I don’t really know why you train. I could maybe guess, but I don’t know for sure.

My point?

The other day, somebody I’d never met and didn’t know and never had any contact with before or since, commented on a video I shared: “Aikido is ineffective. For self defense learn wrestling.”

Like I’d asked him.

But to be fair, he’s far from unique. Post anything on Facebook or click on any clip on YouTube and you’ll find similar comments, though many not as polite. The comments are usually from people who don’t understand what they’re even watching, thinking chi sau or randori are being presented as actual examples of “street effective” technique and not as what they actually are – exercises. They’re no more street effective as push ups or squats, but no less important. And don’t get me started on the morons who rant about a clips obviously filmed for entertainment or demonstration purposes.

Still, my critic made a major mistake in assuming that a: The clip was supposed to represent a self defense technique (It wasn’t), b: That I don’t know what does and doesn’t “work” in the street, and c: That I train for the same reasons as he does.

But from the point of view of a practitioner of, say, MMA, Aikido is indeed ineffective. I know this, because many of their proponents aren’t too shy about telling you this on YouTube. Unfortunately for them, I don’t train Aikido for self defense. I train in Aikido for personal growth reasons. Thanks to Aikido, I have greater respect for all people (Which is why I held back on responding to this guy’s comments), humility, empathy, mindfulness, self control… So when I look at an MMA champion like Conor McGregor, I’d have to say MMA is ineffective.

But then again, what is “Street effective”? 2 minutes on YouTube will reveal thousands of clips to make you think. I found one of a BJJ guy taking down a boxer, but just when I was thinking I should train BJJ for self defense, I found another clip of a boxer defeating a BJJ guy. One of my best friends has had precisely zero martial arts training and I’ve never seen him lose a fight (And I’ve witness many!) so maybe we’re all wasting our time.

Then again, growing up in, at the time one of the most violent cities in Europe, working private security, managing city center pubs, and sheer bad luck had given me the chance to experience a lot of nasty situations close up. And even though I have multiple black belts and decades of training, on the relatively few occasions when I was too unlucky/stupid to control a confrontation enough to prevent it becoming physical, guess which system has kept me safe? Guess which martial art has put down the bad guy for me every time?

Aikido. And here’s me saying I don’t train in Aikido for self defense!

So is Aikido effective then? I wouldn’t say that. I would say that on those occasions when I had to defend myself I did so successfully, and that’s all I could say. If I’d used boxing or Muay Thai or Judo, the same would apply. It’s not the style that was effective. It was the fighter. More accurately, it was the fighter on those specific occasions. Was I just lucky? Don’t care. Could I defend myself successfully again? Possibly. Would I use Aikido again? Couldn’t say. Every situation is different. I could beat Mike Tyson tomorrow, walk around the corner and get mugged by a 14 year old. There’s not many things in the world as random and unpredictable as a street fight, after all.

This doesn’t apply to the obvious charlatans, of course. If someone posts a “Street lethal self defense techniques” comprising of ballroom dancing, then you may be inclined to offer a correction if you have the expertise. That’s a stated promise that fails to deliver.

We may not like what someone trains in but here’s the good news for us: Our approval isn’t required. To criticize an art or practitioner for nothing more than it doesn’t meet your personal training objectives isn’t worthy of a martial artist of any style. Minds are not changed with ridicule or fault finding, nobody has ever said “Wow, I totally thought I was training traditional Karate to be a lethal Jason Bourne style street assassin. The last 15 years have been a complete waste of time, I’m heading straight down to my local Gracie academy to sort my life out!” thanks to some chump on YouTube who probably doesn’t train seriously in any style, let alone a “street effective” one.

But together, with support and a little understanding, we may not change minds but we can maybe broaden minds on both sides of the debate. I think the reality and sport based arts could have a lot to learn from the more traditional arts as well as vice versa.

And a little unity in our community has to be a good thing.