As important as coming to class is, it is also important to remember much of your true development happens in your out-of-dojo hours. You find improvement as life pressure tests your understanding and you individually rehearse your skills outside of a space typically devoted to training.
Problem is, sometimes we hit plateaus. Solo training can grow...Stagnant.
If you are in a training rut trying to work on your skills outside of the dojo, you may begin to feel your solo training is boring or even unhelpful.
It is only natural for us martial artists to look for the new ways we can grow. Our training focus is all about personal growth, it would be odd if we didn’t occasionally get obsessed with better development.
Mind you, without the proper purpose, we can easily waste our time when training by ourselves. Fear not though!
This article (and its preceding piece) are here to help you challenge your training in all of the right ways!
1. Metronome Movements
As martial artists, we must understand that certain attributes will eventually degrade. When we look for new ways to improve, we have to keep an eye on what types of development will have longevity and stay with us for as long as possible.
With this in mind, an important shift we can make is improving timing instead of focusing solely on developing speed. Thankfully, we’ve got a whole ‘nother world we can explore to dive deep into developing timing and rhythm: the world of music!
Whether you like to jam with a group or simply bop your head to the latest hits, you have likely heard of a metronome. As a quick refresher for those unaware: a metronome is a practice tool often used by musicians, it produces a steady beat to help those watching or listening play rhythms accurately. Nowadays, you can download a metronome app which you can work with quickly and easily.
As a martial artist, this is a lovely tool to keep in mind! Simply set the metronome’s BPM (Beats Per Minute) and then you can drill your combinations on and around the beat. As you get comfortable with the rhythm, play with it. Land some hits right before or after the beat lands and experiment with various BPM settings.
2. Teach the Camera
If you’ve taught, you know quite well how much we learn by articulating that which we believe we know. Teaching is also a great progress check to see how well we actually understand said subject matter. If we can elaborate concisely and appropriately, we are headed in the right direction with our studies.
An easy way you can reap the benefits of teaching without students to speak to is to simply grab a camera and use that as your audience. The additional benefit you’ll nab is getting the chance to review the footage and see how well you communicate your thoughts. This is especially great if you actually do have students you teach and want to work on improving your communication skills and overall pedagogy!
3. Recreate Seasonal Outdoor Elements
If you are developing skills which you expect to transfer to situations under real pressure, it is important to work them with a partner in less-than-ideal situations.
In the world outside the four walls of our dojo, there is rain and snow, people sweat and bleed. These elements can make certain seizing and grappling movements a bit more difficult.
To recreate these situations to a degree, you can splash water on yourself and try to make the techniques work.
It won’t be a perfect simulation of the outdoor elements, however it is something that can blur the lines more than repetitions in the pristine dojo will.
4. Challenge yourself to move as slow as possible.
Speed is often makeup a lesser martial artist throws on ugly technique. Remove it and you are likely to find places where your balance isn’t as stable as you thought it was or where your motion may be excessive.
While it is an important element of power, it degrades the technique as a whole if other components aren’t proper. A badly formed fist is going to hurt you more than your target, regardless of how fast you go (if anything, it’ll only hurt worse the quicker you go).
Take the time to reduce your speed and make each motion proper with as much conscious coordination as you can muster. Take the time to eradicate inefficient actions.
Slow leads to becoming smooth, smooth leads to becoming fast and powerful.
5. Experiment With Your Training Time
Sometimes, it is the small things we shake up that can amount to eventually big results.
Many martial art studios get comfortable with training weekday evenings and/or weekend mornings. If you are working with a partner, it is worth practicing outdoors at various times. Work with the morning dew and beaming light of dawn, the harsh blaze of the noonday sun, and the fading light of dusk.
Depending on how harsh the light of day is, you will need to adjust to the new angles of sunlight (or lack thereof). Working tactics with light beaming in your eyes or night time darkness is simply another difference we can embrace while stepping away from the dojo to work on developing skill.
After you experiment with each of the previous ideas, keep going and come up with your own creative variables. There are numerous ways to train the body, mentally and physically, and this is far from an exhaustive list.
Take the time to work on yourself, creatively and properly!
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