As a sensei, I've seen many students rise to become the best version of themselves both in their personal training as well as in competitive events and throughout the years I have noticed a common thread that ties each of their individual stories together.
So, what exactly is it that gives a person that 'X' factor which propels them to above average success? Simply put, it's the focused determination to always work harder than the average person.
The typical approach to goal achievement is to work for a bit, and then rest; to notice how hard the work has been and feel like a break is 'deserved'. While hard work will make you tired, it's the thing that gets you beyond the goals of the average person. If you strive to achieve big goals, that 'deserved break' will derail you from those big goals and drive you directly toward landing in the average realm.
Big goals require big commitment, a big struggle, and at the end of the day, big sacrifices. When we consider professional athletes at the top of their game, they all have a common undertone that brings them those big wins. Often they are described as "intense, hyper-focused, and more driven than most" both on the field and in their personal lives. This means that a percentage of every day of their life revolves around continuing the pursuit of perfection. High achievers don't look forward to the 'rest', rather they feel motivated by the struggle and embrace it.
So how can the average person start thinking like a high achiever? First, I believe it takes an acceptance that the journey is SUPPOSED to be difficult. High achievers don't look for the easy road because they know that the hard path is the one that will strengthen and improve them. Second, I believe that anyone who wants to be a high achiever can be, but they must first believe it themselves; without the wholehearted belief that it's possible, why would someone even try?
So, if you have an approaching goal, ask yourself this question, "Am I doing absolutely everything I can within my power to get closer to that goal?" If the answer is no, you're not working hard enough because those high achievers can honestly answer that question with a resounding 'YES' and they will even still seek to work harder despite already doing more than the average person.
All of this is to say that many of our athletes are now in the 'Off Season' and there's an important distinction between the high achievers of next season and those who will fall within the 'average' performance level. High achievers will not see the off season as a break, but as an opportunity to have more time to work harder than ever on their weakness. High achievers know a simple mantra that I repeat often to my students, "Champions are made in the off season".
If you are in the off season of your sport, how can you dedicate even more time toward self-improvement so that you can begin the next competitive season stronger than you are now? I encourage a weekly workout / training regimen that you adhere to strictly.
Athletes who compete in Kata and Kumite need to be doing cardiovascular training, but not just any type of cardio will do. Running sprints will improve your speed and performance in the ring and allow you to endure those difficult matches without getting winded. Perhaps running a full out sprint for 1/10 of a mile, then walk 30 seconds and repeat that sprint again (multiple times over). Do this in repeating patterns until that 1/10 of a mile sprint seems to become easier, then increase the sprint distance every two weeks, until you are able to sprint 1/4 of a mile in an all-out run.
Does that sound extreme? It absolutely does, and that's what it's going to take to overcome those who are already winning your division. If you want what they have you have to be willing to do MORE than they are doing, and I can guarantee they are NOT taking the off season as a rest time.
Also be sure to train your kata and weapons diligently and strong every single time. Approach this training as a form of workout, not just technical practice. Try to become exhausted each and every time you practice, and then when you are at your most exhausted moment, repeat and see how hard you can push. Again, it's extreme, but that's what it's going to take.
The last bit of advice I can give you is to ask yourself if you truly want to be the best. If it's worth it to you to dedicate yourself to that level of training, and if you are ready to accept the challenge to be better, to be stronger, and to deny yourself that much sought after rest. If the answer is truly yes, then it's time to take those steps that will propel you beyond average and into the realm of a high achiever.
Embrace the off season as time for extreme training!
We'll see you on the mats.