Utah Martial Arts Feeds
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I have been thinking about what would help novice student become well-rooted in martial arts. My students up at the U of U have taught me a great deal, and I have a few things that could be of use to them and all beginning students.
Relax, relax, relax. There is a tendency to substitute strength for technique – especially since at the beginning of your training career you have very little of it. When sparring, the lack of experience and control tenses up your body and often makes guys go ape crazy. Breathe, have positive self talk, use mantra’s ,do visualizations before class. Whatever it takes.
A tight fist can hold nothing; a relaxed hand can accept.
Safety is a no brainer – if you plan to train in martial arts for any significant length of time, you are at continual risk of injury and disease. The healthier and safer you remain, the more fruitful and long lived your training.
Take your personal safety, and that of your training partners dead serious. When you get injured, you stop training. You get sick? Training stops. You hurt your team members? People will shy away from practicing with you.
So how do you stay safe? For starters, see above. Relax. Second, take care of yourself. Get to bed on time, eat your veggies, don’t push yourself beyond your limits. Third? Pay attention to the safety pointers your Sensei brings up.
Instructors love it when you ask questions, even more so when they are thoughtful questions. Don’t just ask to see a technique again – go deeper. Ask about the fundamental principles at work. Ask why the move works.
Also, the instructor cannot read your mind – if you have difficulty with something, bring it up. At the same time, be respectfully curious – think about your questions before hand. When you are practicing at home, ponder what would be a good question. People say that there are no dumb questions, but this is because “they” are idiots. Of course there are dumb questions – questions that are usually blurted out with no thought. Don’t let this discourage you though – “they” and “we” were all idiots at one time. Nice people will forgive you and help you in spite of it. Still, use your brain; craft good questions and imagine someone else asking you the same thing. What would you say to them?
Invest in a notebook dedicated to your martial art study. Write down what you learn, draw stick figures and diagrams. Write down questions about techniques and make a list of the top three things you are developing.
You can re-live the class with good notes. Your memory will become sharper. You will be cultivating martial intelligence. In an interview, my jujitsu instructor, Sensei Edmunds, has talked about a notebook as one of the most important training tools in your arsenal. It’s one of the best kept secrets in martial arts today, hidden in the place people will look last – right out in the open. I’m sure you’ve heard it before and disregarded it … but I can tell you from personal experience that it is worth.
At the beginning, you are a kid at a candy store. So many awesome, sweet things to learn and do. Knife-fighting defense, rubber guard, advanced sweeps, five point palm exploding heart technique. So much!
The aphorism, “Keep it simple stupid” is a great frame of mind. A master of the basic, fundamental moves and ideas of his or her martial art is a true master. When ever you can, focus on the core concepts and basics.
The most common question I have heard while training is, “Well, what if the guy does this?” “Or this?” Such queries are well-intentioned, but often take an instructor so off topic that it becomes difficult to remember the move you were once learning and the new move that answers the question. There are thousands of things an opponent might do, and there are thousands of techniques to deal with each of them.
I know its tough, but be satisfied in learning one move and learning it well. Save variations on a theme for later. As I have been told numerous times, better to have five techniques you can really fight with than to have five hundred techniques that fight you. Don’t be a collector of techniques. Become a student of the essence of a move.
Practice the basics, over and over again. Advanced stuff is typically just an expression of a well-honed fundamental.
Keep it simple, and keep going.
I love martial arts. I love love it. Chances are, you’re getting pretty fond of it too. Talk about it with your friends, practice with them. Invite your friends to class (if its okay with your instructor). A large part of the pleasure of training will come from the relationships you develop in the gym and the relationships you bring into the gym. If you train with a buddy, you can motivate each other and build each other up. When you are tired or lazy, your true friends will coax you into training anyway.
No need to force it on anyone, of course, but if you like it why wouldn’t you want to experience it with the people you love?
“Hey, I just learned an awesome move. Can I practice it with you for two minutes? I’m just a novice at it, so I need to go really slow.”
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