1) Change Up Your Training Environment
What's the purpose of a bedroom? It is a space optimized for rest.
What's the purpose of a kitchen? It is a space optimized for preparing food.
Imagine how ridiculous it would be to have a toilet in the middle of the living room or a stove in the bathroom. Though these may be the obvious things incongruent with the purpose of the room, there are smaller nuances that can subvert a room's most important purpose as well. When we tack on these detracting details, the effectiveness of the space is diminished.
A TV in the bedroom can cause your subconscious to expect entertainment at the time it should be preparing for rest and a cramped kitchen layout can make efficient food prep difficult.
Let's shift our focus to our martial art studio now.
What's the purpose of that space? Each studio may have a different answer. When teaching, the purpose I assign the space is to instigate positive change, self-improvement on a physical, mental, or spiritual level.
The tricky thing about positive change is that it requires you to confront the edge of your comfort zone. A good teacher can guide you towards growth, however it is up to you to make the leap to new levels of performance. One of the small yet powerful things we can do to shake up our base of comfort is to change our training environment.
You easily become more self-aware while drilling forms due to no longer having the visual cues of our familiar dojo walls. Self defense tactics are matched with better adaptation to the terrain you are standing on.
Get comfortable with the uncomfortable and you will find massive improvement awaits. Let the change in your environment become a catalyst for self-improvement.
2) Accept Perspective and Seek Guidance
We often think of martial arts as a solo activity. That, my friend, might be one of the most erroneous beliefs one could have however.
Rather, martial arts training is one of the largest collaboration projects you can imagine. It spans across multiple generations and multiple groups of people. Even if we are all rehearsing the same patterns and ideas, we each have differing experiences, mental dispositions, and physical body types that influence the methods we prioritize and how we interpret them.
The more we can grow in our own ways and glean the purpose of techniques and concepts as usable best by ourselves, the more we can all improve.
In other words, take the time to talk to your classmates and teacher.
While you're at it, don't forget one of the easier ways to "listen" to somebody from across the world or from another time — read a book or watch/listen to a recording. This is also a wonderful opportunity, especially if the study material comes as a recommendation from your teacher!
3) Don’t Lose Your Why As You Focus On Your What
Everybody has various reasons for why they got started in martial arts. Some people were bullied, some people were inspired by Bruce Lee or Billy Jack. Regardless of why you began, there must also be a reason why you have continued thus far.
Perhaps you stayed because you simply enjoyed the environment you trained in and the empowerment you felt.
Perhaps you stayed because you found a depth to your training you hadn't felt elsewhere.
Perhaps you stayed because you discovered the enjoyment of uniquely challenging yourself.
Regardless, don't let go of that reason. This will be the pilot light to the burning pit of passion inside you.
Life happens. Work schedules change and prioritize get reorganized. During those times when you start feeling your motivation for your craft wane, look back and remember why you have come so far.
Mastery isn't easy, but it also isn't complex. Maintain your intrinsic motivation.
Hold your head up and walk on.
4) Pay Attention to the Small Details Left Unsaid
Sometimes the most important lessons from your teacher are those left unsaid. Learning how to learn and how to make techniques work is a skill in and of itself.
The sooner and better you learn how to observe weight distribution, intention, and the other nuanced links between postures and movements, the more effective your training sessions will be.
The chasm between your performance and your teacher's is often little more than excellence in the small details and the repetitions necessary to solidify them. As you are in class, observe closely!
Of course, just because you are swimming in a pond filled with fishes doesn't mean you are catching them. After noticing the nuances that make your techniques operate better, record the details via video, audio clip, or written note.
5) Strategic Development Versus Speedy Progress
Us martial artists can be an impatient bunch. We often believe all we need to do to improve faster is train harder. While that isn't always entirely wrong, we also have to understand that ideas need time to assimilate properly in our minds and wearing the body down to failure isn't the only way to improve. Rushed success can be failure in disguise.
What we can do to improve our training is ensure we are working on the most productive things in a dedicated manner. Rather than devolving into generic thoughts of simply "getting better", pinpoint what is the most crucial and fundamental skill or attribute for you to work on.
This is the time to take a critical evaluation of yourself.
If you are gassing out in sparring, is it that your cardio isn't up to par or is it because you are holding on to too much tension during the rounds?
If you don't feel powerful while executing kicks, ask yourself why. Is it because you lack the muscular development to make a powerful impact or is it because you are off balance and alignment and end up diffusing the power of the kick by moving backwards each time?
Perhaps your focus needs to be improving your balance and developing a rooted feeling in your stances or perhaps it is to reduce wasted motion during your strikes.
Look at your current difficulties and strive to find the most fundamental aspect of the problem you can improve.
These are the skills which will have wide spanning benefits in the rest of your training and help guide your progress in the best of ways possible.
To check out the original five tips to seriously improve, click here!