Wednesday, September 9, 2015


While we all, more or less, strive to train year round, it is a widespread practice that when you train in a club/group, there is usually the divide between season and off-season. In competitive sports the difference is quite clear, but in all other activities, martial arts included, it mostly means that a "vacation" is taken during summer, and then the regular training regimen resumed in September.

As instructors, we are then faced by a repeating question - where do I (re)start this time? Over the years, I have tried various approaches, with varying degrees of success. For a while I settled on emphasizing the conditioning aspect to some degree, as it achieved several things: most trainees (especially the recreational ones) tend to neglect that portion of their training when left to their own devices, plus, people seem to value training sessions more when they sweat; if there are new people to the group (especially beginners) it allows them to fit in easier and feel less awkward or behind the group; prepares the body to better cope with the demands of technical work.

according to Laurent Vidal

However, for the last couple of seasons, I have been opting for another avenue. Namely, when on vacation, even if doing some solo training, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, i.e. what we are training to achieve through our practice. Therefore, in my training group we spend the grand majority of time in the first few sessions doing various kinds of scenarios, drills and games without too much prior instruction in the technical domain. I will often just describe the task for each of the involved parties and let them come up with the best means of accomplishing it. There will be some hints and coaching during and between the rounds of activity, but it is kept to minimum in order to maintain the pace and the overall mood.

Such an approach offers some rather useful insights for the instructor(s) and trainees. For the instructor it diagnoses at the same time the fitness level and the degree of maintained technical skill among the practitioners/students, thus enabling better planning for the weeks and months to follow. The trainees are put into the activity on a more holistic level, which helps them understand the context of their technical training that will ensue, as well as appreciation for the needed physical attributes and the work it takes to develop them.

For those exact reasons, similar blocks of training sessions ought to be repeated at least a couple of times throughout the season, hopefully with increased intensity and resemblance to the "real thing", whatever it may be, depending on the training goals and motivations.