Every martial artist begins at zero. The first year is usually spent figuring out whether this thing called Martial Arts is for him/her or not.
The first few months are the honeymoon period where the person is excited and often times brags about learning martial arts to friends and family. After about six months though, repetition of same moves can set boredom, or advanced moves and increased amount of exercises can take physical toll on the body.
This is decision time. Are you going to quit or are you going to forge ahead and continue your martial arts education even though it’s hard?
For those of us who fall under the serious martial artists category, I believe we should strive to achieve the following goals (I know, at least I do):
- Learn the correct form and technique
- Build endurance
- Build speed and power
- Improve reflexes
- Think how can I take my art to the next level?
The first four goals, I believe can be achieved within 5 years of dedicated practice. The last goal however is an elusive one that can take a lifetime or beyond.
In the next few paragraphs, I am hoping to expand upon each of these goals and share my understanding of them.
Learn the correct form and technique
A martial artists repeats day in and day out the forms he learns. My son practices martial arts everywhere he goes. Take him to a grocery store and he’s practicing his forms in the empty isles. At home, our hallway, the living room are his bedroom are his practice areas. He practices at the bus stop while he waits for the school bus to pick him up in the morning.
Can you imagine him learning the wrong form and practicing it a thousand times? He could easily get hurt in a tournament or even while practicing with a partner. Therefore, it is important to learn the correct form. The earlier you learn the correct forms in your martial arts career, the better and easier it will be.
It’s best to walk up to your teacher and ask them to watch your form and then take their guidance on how to improve it. Once they teach you, practice is a thousand or more times.
Endurance is your ability to practice until the practice is over, not stop practicing because you’re now tired. Every athlete needs to build endurance including martial artists.
If your body gets tired within a minute or two in a fight, or if you find yourself huffing and puffing after doing 100 jumping jacks or running for about 5 minutes, you need to work on building endurance.
Greatest martial artists have fantastic endurance. You should too because one day, you will be a great martial artist.
Build speed and power
Increasing your speed and power are crucial to becoming a better martial artist. It gives you an edge over your competitors. If you observe the greatest boxers, it’s what they work on – speed and power.
It’s what Bruce lee worked on majority of the times too. In fact, Bruce Lee was so fast, the video cameras couldn’t capture his movements. This became a serious problem when he was filming for the TV show The Green Hornet. So, in order to capture his moves, they had to ask him to perform them again – this time slowly.
Once you have the form right, develop speed and power and have enough endurance to allow you to practice for hours at length, you need to improve reflexes. One needs to get to a point where you should not have to do the thinking for your body to defend yourself. As soon as your eyes perceive an attack coming towards you, your body should automatically rearrange itself to defend you. That can mean getting out of the way or blocking the attack.
How can you tell if you still need to work on your reflexes? If you have to think even for half a mini-second what block to perform when you’re being attacked, you need to work on your reflexes.
God knows, I need to work on mine.
A martial artist who has achieved these four goals will do extremely well in fights. No doubt about it. But, when he or she achieves the final goal (see below), will lead a fantastic life, or at least, that’s what I think.
Think, how can I take my art to the next level?
Martial arts is a way of life for many around the world. They eat, breathe and sleep martial arts. I consider it a way of life for me. The reason so many of us practice for years and often decades is not because we don’t know how to perform forms and need practice, but we’re in the quest of how can we take it to the next level?
A year of intense practice might give you one slight insight into how to improve your punch. You might realize that when you punch, your hand slightly turns to the outside which gives your punch away to the opponent. Fixing it, gives you an edge. That’s a breakthrough. It does not mean a year wasted. It means knowledge gained.
A good martial artists constantly thinks about how to take his game to the next level be it mental, physical or spiritual.