Good habits, good martial arts
Success or failure in everything we do in life relies on our habits and this is especially true in the martial arts or self defence. A common problem with people studying the martial arts is consistency in their training, and staying on track with their development. You may join a martial arts school full of enthusiasm and eager to learn new skills, improve fitness or make new friends, yet as weeks, months or even years go by, that initial enthusiasm begins to subside and you find yourself making excuse after excuse about why you can’t train that day. Maybe you’ve had a busy day and are too tired, maybe you ate too late and don’t want to make yourself ill training. A whole wealth of excuses are at your disposal. Yet this is a very slippery slope.
To begin with we have formed a good habit in making the step to join a martial arts school as well as forming a habit to attend 2 or 3 times a week maybe. Then something happens out of your control and you miss a class due to perhaps illness. Suddenly, the habit has been broken and you say to yourself “well I missed this class so ill miss the next one and start again fresh next week”, sound familiar? Problem is, when the next week comes around, another excuse is found and you are out of the habit of going training.
Big corporate gyms rely on this with many tying you in to year long contracts, safe in the knowledge that the vast majority of us will sign up to a gym in January, determined to work off the excessive alcohol and food consumed, only to have lost interest by February after an initial surge of determination and enjoyment with working out.
With martial arts this is slightly different. To become even slightly reasonable at the martial arts, severe dedication is required, and a lot of hours on the mat are needed to build up muscle, fitness, technique and to teach your body to move in the correct way, according to style of martial art. Those wanting to learn self defence or martial arts cannot do so in a couple of months or even years, its a lifelong pursuit where we aim to adopt consistent behaviours and actions to improve ourselves. We aim to develop good habits that last a lifetime.
Its impossible to change all our bad habits, and this will only lead to failure, yet what we can do is select one behaviour we wish to adopt or change, and stick to it. Maybe it will be “I will train twice a week, every week” or “I will do an hour of my own research after my martial arts class”. This of course takes willpower, but research has suggested that willpower can be seen as similar to a muscle, in that the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Then, the stronger it becomes and the more engrained the habit is, the easier it is to maintain until you are suddenly not even thinking about the habit, it has just become autopilot.
Those in the martial arts and self defence world need to try and make training an autopilot habit where by we just go and train. What motivates you? For some it might be the next grading, for others the people they train with, some just love learning self defence or martial arts and want to delve as deeply as they can into it. Regardless of motivation, we should aim to turn this motivation into habit so that we can internalise techniques or principles learned in the martial arts and ensure we are constantly developing.