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!
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.
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.