This is by no means the first or the least treatise on the subject of solo training in martial arts, combatives etc, nor is it an attempt to be the ultimate take on it. Like always, it is a personal standpoint, but based on some experience, both as a trainee/student and the trainer/instructor.
Let me get out the obvious right at the start – yes, the solo training has its place (and an important one) in one’s study of fighting system(s). As an instructor I am always surprised when a student asks: “What can I do on my own, at home, to be able and improve faster”? Of course, then they get surprised by my answer – work on your physical fitness. While it may not be completely obvious to some people, especially beginners, there are certainly reasons for such a response. Now, how to approach it can be done one way or another, but that is probably not even the main concern.
I may be in the minority of people who see things this way, but as a student, it always bothers me when a large chunk of a training session is devoted to calistenics, running and other kinds of conditioning. See, if I am paying for martial art instruction, then I’d rather have that time to work on the technical material – first, because you don’t have the willing training partner on every corner outside the club/group; second because I would rather have an instructor watching over and correcting my technical mistakes in combative performance than regarding my pushups or pullups. Naturally, some technical elements in certain systems are a good physical workout on their own when repeated, and that is completely fine with me.
The other side of the coin would be my being baffled, as an instructor, on how a lot of trainees almost exclusively believe a training session was “awesome” only of they had sweated profusely in it. I guess that most of them just see it as another way of recreational activity…and that is completely fine, but that is not the kind of “clientele” I look for.
As stated above, the main concern is not why and how here, but rather will. Many a person I know simply lack the willpower and self-discipline to train on their own, especially when it means doing something “uninteresting” and tough as conditioning. Yet, I have seen it time and time aging – a little strength, flexibility and stamina will have terrific impact on a person’s technical performance as well. But then again, it requires being passionate about one’s chosen activity.
If you insist on working on your “discipline specific” contents during your solo sessions, it can be done, too. But be warned – that kind of think only makes sense after some time spent within the training system of choice, and for a couple of reasons. First, at the early stages you really need some immediate feedback, either from the instructor or the training partner, and my friend Luis Preto harped on the issue quite eloquently. The second is, making that kind of training really pertinent will often require some kind of equipment, and that in turn will require some investment and probably a degree ingenuity to come up with your own design. And if you are not one of those DIY enthusiasts, it means, again, you need to be passionate about it. But if you are, it could take you a long way.
|Ingenuity at work|
Ultimately, in order to extract maximum from your solo training efforts, you ought to be willing to push yourself beyond the comfort zone, and to do it in an intelligent manner… No big deal, right?