The Best Way Forward is by Going Back to Basics

Karate Punch
Shutterstock / Nomad_Soul

Never Neglect the Basics of Your Martial Art!

Every martial art has a set of basic techniques that are taught when a student begins training. Because they are the first things learned, the student may want to excel quickly past the basics to get to the shiny, new and much more desirable advanced material. However, the key to higher-level martial arts ability lies in mastering the fundamentals: going back to the basics, if you will.


What are the basics of the art you study? Usually, they are the things you learned in the first few weeks or months of training — the first stances, kicks, kata, throws and submissions. Zero in on them and make a detailed list. Has it been a while since you worked on them? They may be rusty and not as dialed in as your more recent techniques and skills, so the first step is to dust them off and get them functioning at maximum efficiency again.


Just doing drills won’t help unless you improve on what you are drilling. The key to making drills yield good results is to start slow and ensure proper form. If you are working on a technique that you haven’t done in a while, take some extra time to verify that you are doing it correctly. Details like when to step, shift your weight, snap the weapon and so on are of paramount importance.

Once you have a better working knowledge of the material and have fixed any bad habits, do some drills. Do sets of 10, 20, 25, etc., and build speed, accuracy and fluidity naturally through repetition.


When you are certain you have removed the cobwebs and you’re running like a well-tuned Bugatti Veyron, it is time to find some variations of and new applications for your techniques. Limit yourself to one basic technique and find all the permutations you can as you let the technique flow. If you are working on a throw, kick or punch, try different angles, setups and situations.

Experiment. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Remember the variations you like, write them down and keep them. Having a journal is a good idea, both to catalog your ideas and to measure your progress.


To master anything is to teach it. From my earliest days as a student in martial arts, music and business, this has been told to me by every teacher I’ve had. It is true. If you want to be an expert at something, teach it. Take a newfound skill and help a beginner or your favorite workout partner become proficient at it.

Follow the same formula for all your basic techniques, skills and material, and you will have a solid foundation to build on for your next goal. Whether you are striving for a promotion or the simple satisfaction that comes with the confidence of knowing your material at a higher level, time spent on the basics is always time well spent.

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