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Getting The Most Out Of Your Training

When you have a goal in mind, you want to make certain that the time and energy you put into training goes a long way toward achieving that goal. So how can you ensure that you aren't working against yourself?

Slow And Steady:

Just like in the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare, long term gains can only be realized when you commit yourself to a slow and steady consistency along your journey. All too often I see students amped up on excitement at the beginning of their training; they attend every class that's available, begin private lessons, and spend hours poring over training videos on YouTube during their off time. Don't get me wrong, excitement and initiative are the cornerstones of success, however those who stay the course over the long haul have figured out that balance and time management are key when it comes to not getting 'burned out'.

The journey to black belt isn't designed to be fast tracked, and I am certain many coaches of other sports will agree that the lessons learned along the journey are just as valuable as the skills a student gains. In martial arts, specifically, patience goes hand in hand with understanding, and the time it takes to await the next promotion is designed to allow for practice, proficiency, and patience.

The best way to avoid the dreaded burn out is to set a schedule which allows for consistency in attendance but doesn't create a burdensome workload that will quickly turn a student from excitement to dread. Typically two to three classes per week is perfect to give a student a leg up toward their goal without going overboard. Martial arts specifically centers on repetition so attending more than two or three classes per week can be cause a student to experience boredom which is counterproductive due to the repetitive nature of the skills being taught.

Strength Of Mind, Body, and Spirit:

When we think of strengthening ourselves, the most common circumstance we imagine is lifting weights in the gym or strapping on a pair of running shoes and hitting the pavement for a distance run. We often forget that in order to find success in the martial arts, along with many other sports, we must also strengthen our mind, as well as our spirit.

Strengthening of the mind comes in many forms both large and small. Students who embrace the challenge of learning a difficult skill must commit to diligent practice until that skill has become second nature; this is one example of strengthening the mind. The setbacks and challenges we face in our training are designed to test our mental toughness and create a 'decision making' point in which a student must decide to take the the positive route and choose to keep practicing. In so doing, students reap the benefits of their continued practice and learn that staying mentally tough is a skill in itself.

We face mental challenges during physical training in class as well; struggling to complete a round of pushups, pushing through the final 30 seconds of jumping jacks, or finding the inner strength to keep your knees bent low in that deep stance are all examples of mental toughness because it requires us to postpone comfort in favor of the gains that come from not giving up. All of these are part and parcel to becoming a strong martial artist, however that's only the beginning.

Strengthening the spirit is equally important and requires a depth of understanding of oneself. When we refer to the spirit, we mean the warrior spirit, the deep desire we have to achieve, to overcome, and to succeed. Often, especially when a goal takes a long time, our spirit tends to dwindle, and we find ourselves feeling despondent. A warrior is someone who doesn't give up in the face of adversity, and we must remind ourselves that our mentors and those we admire have also faced hurdles yet have overcome them. We must become like a warrior who battles the desire to quit, creating within ourselves a strength that is sure to overcome even the biggest challenges.

Finding Your Tribe:

Training is more fun when you do it amongst friends. When you decide to take on the challenge of learning martial arts, you might feel as though you're alone in a sea of experienced students, but don't let that feeling cause you to stay isolated. Just as in other aspects of life, things are more fun (and seem more possible) when you're not alone. Introduce yourself to the others in class, even those who seem to have tons of time training. In my experience martial artists are among the friendliest and most helpful people I've met. Once you've become friendly with the other students, you will find that attending class becomes not only something you do for skill and strength, but for socializing as well.

When students get to know each other, they build bonds that help them look forward to class after a stressful day at work or school. Having these connections at the dojo also encourages communication regarding skills development and improvements in technique. In short, creating a tribe at the dojo in which you feel like more than just another student is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your training stays motivating and successful.

It's Not A Contest:

Often when students are new at the dojo they have an elevated sense that everyone is judging them and their abilities; this could not be further from the truth. Most of the students in class are so focused on their own training and skills development that they typically won't even notice what you did or did not do correctly. Along the same lines, your sensei isn't comparing you to other students; most instructors are focused on your progress compared to where you began, which means that what others in class can or cannot do has nothing to do with you. Senseis look for improvement, not comparisons so take the pressure off of yourself and remember that everyone in class is there to learn, and everyone develops and improves at different rates. That will make your training time more enjoyable and less stressful.

Karate Is A Metaphor For Life:

Finally, remember that your karate journey will take you through peaks and valleys. It will challenge you on the days when you're struggling to remember a technique, and it will make you feel larger than life when you finally achieve that big goal. Your karate journey is meant to be a micro chasm of the struggles and achievements of life, and if you approach your training as something that is designed to enhance and improve your life over time, you will find so much meaning in the skills you develop and in the journey toward black belt and beyond.

Happy Training!

~Sensei Jen

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