Thursday, December 29, 2016

When pressed - do less to achieve more

It’s the end of the year, so accordingly, many people do some sort of “accounting”, i.e. trying to figure out and calculate what they have accomplished in the past one year, and where to move on next. This “next” phase can be then planned in the form of New Year’s resolutions, goal setting etc. Now, this post isn’t exactly about that, but could be related, just bear with me.


The single biggest thing that happened in my life this year (actually, a month ago) and presents the major challenge to my training is that I have become daddy again! All those who are parents can testify to the unique sense of pleasure that parenthood provides, but the unique amount of time consummation it means as well. Naturally, there are other periodical, or constant, challenges that people have to face and conquer if they want to train. Depending on your situation, it need not necessarily bring any particular changes to your training regimen, but more often than not it does. So, how do we deal with it? One option is to quit training altogether for a while and come back to it later (or not). We will not be considering that avenue here, though. 

Efficiency is the key here
Another approach, and the one I go for, is spend less time training in a group setting (be it a commercial gym, club, an informal garage group, or whatever), and attempt to maintain the solo training volume (working on your physical fitness is a perennial favorite here). However, with such constellation we need to make sure our focus is on the absolute fundamental necessities, in order to maintain the level of technical fluency and related applicability as much as possible. Therefore, do you best to identify the underlying foundations, pillars of your fighting system, which makes everything else possible, and then ensure that this segment of your training is addressed properly. Everything else can be relegated to the “if I get the time” category. Those fundamentals must be worked on whenever you have time, and however much or little of it is available.

To be (vaguely) specific, in standup and weapon combative systems it would mean topics such as footwork, distance control, mechanics of basic techniques; in BJJ and similar styles it would mean position control, escapes, ground movements, mechanics of basic submissions…you get the idea. 

Advanced techniques are the fundamentals done well!
The legendary wrestler Dan Gable has been quoted saying “If it’s important - do it every day, if it’s not – don’t do it at all”. It is a fairly straightforward and simple guideline, and if your involvement with martial arts has some notion of career span as pertinent, Gable’s advice is as good as it gets. On the other hand, if you see yourself as a “lifer” in this endeavor, then you may need some kind of relief periodically, to avoid repetitive injuries, burnout etc.

Of course, the above takes precedence if your motives for training martial arts have to do with actual functional fighting ability. But if you are into it for fun, recreational purposes, cultural study, aesthetics or else – then you should probably choose and emphasize the aspects of training that help you stay with your training through the challenging period, whatever the obstacles may be.

In the end, or going back to the beginning of today’s babbling session, should you manage to identify and choose your training focus right, it will be somewhat easier to keep at it. As the result, the goals you had set are more probable to be achieved and resolutions to be realized. 


Monday, November 28, 2016

Step by step toward progress

There is a trend I have noticed in the circles that train in some of those modern, eclectic, informal martial arts and combative systems. I mean, a negative one, which interestingly enough, is stemming from a positive one. Let's go in reverse - the positive trend is to include some form of sparring early on in one's training path. I am also a firm believer that alive practice against resisting partner/opponent should be introduced as early as possible. However, this striving needs to be realized very gradually and incrementally. And that is where the negative trend pops out...

In a lot of schools there is a tendency to go too far too quickly. This something that has been long present in some boxing gyms, where the raw beginners are put to spar full speed and power with more experienced trainees. Quite often it is "explained" as a rite of passage, testing one's heart/clout/guts or whatever you call that intangible quality. There are BJJ gyms that, unfortunately, do the same thing, looking for gameness in their trainees. Some will say "heart can't be taught".

And they are wrong! Obviously, there are people who have a very string inner drive from the get go, and they are persistent (or stubborn) enough to to push through those early stages in order to actually learn something later. That said, those who give up entirely or seek other place to train are usually not cowards, but simply do not want to waste their time and money when they wish to learn something. Those instructors that like to "test the will" of their students forget that Daniel in the Karate Kid was not paying for his lessons.

Besides, they are doing their system a disservice. Namely, when you teach a beginner some technique or maneuver, and then pit them too early against a much more experienced opponent, or too complex situation, a few things happen: 1. the student cannot make the moves work in those circumstances, and thus 2. comes to the conclusion that the technique itself is useless, or 3. they themselves are useless, or 4. the entire system is useless.


Like I said, facing resistance in training is a key component if you are looking to actually use your training for fighting, but the principal factor here is progressive resistance. There just has to be some sort of step by step approach in introducing the elements that will make the training more demanding and challenging, but to the right point, not going to far. 

Essentially, the instructors have to be aware of where their trainees are when it comes to how much you can pressure them. And then set the drills and sparring practices accordingly. It can mean adding speed, allowing more techniques to work with/against, introducing bigger and stronger partners etc. 
In any case, the fundamental thing is to it in a sequential manner, one at the time, in order to allow the trainee some degree of success in applying their hitherto acquired knowledge and/or skill. 

We could liken this whole process to climbing a mountain. when facing a cliff some people will go for it with everything they've got until they get to the top (or die trying). But, on the other hand, it does not mean that those looking for an easier way, or decide to carve the stairs in the mountain, are to be considered failures or lacking heart.


It is therefore completely fine to expect to find a ready path to the top, if the mountain had been climbed before, as long as you are aware that you still need to do the legwork. And if so, getting to the top will still be a worthy endeavor.

If you are looking for a lift though...that's another story altogether. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Good news!

Hey! I know things have been a little slow here lately, but there was good reason for it. Namely, as you may have noticed, one of the articles I had done earlier (see Move that body) was removed. Well, it has been slightly brushed up but also accompanied with a much better video illustration of the subject covered.
However, the best part is that as part of my new/official association of the excellent portal complementarytraining.net, run by my friend and brilliant coach Mladen Jovanovic, that article is now available at
http://complementarytraining.net/movement-training-in-the-mma-and-combat-sports/

While over there, make sure to check out their other stuff, since there is plenty of very interesting material to see. And of course, hopefully, there should be more of my contributions in the future. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Coaching polyglot

How many languages do you speak as a coach/instructor? Seriously, are you able to approach your trainees in more than one way when it comes to conveying some information or trying to teach them something?

If you are still confused about my question, let me put it in another way, not necessarily related to martial arts. Have you ever been frustrated by someone who attempted to explain something to you, but if you didn't get it they kept repeating the exact same (unclear) thing they had been saying, only maybe louder or slower? There you have it...so, don't allow yourself to be that person.

After all, no teaching ever, regardless of the subject, should be some sort of mechanical process. The art of teaching is not the same thing as packaging some product, even if it is intangible in nature, such as information or knowledge (even those two are not the same).

As instructors, we must be aware that different people learn in different manners, having different cognitive setups, learning habits, attention spans, motivation levels etc.Therefore, if we are sincere in our desire to really instill something valuable in them, having more than one tool on your disposal comes in handy. Essentially, it boils down to your teaching methodology and philosophy. Having a well defined curriculum is one thing, but being able to pass it on is another.

Without going too much in depth (there are whole tomes dedicated to the matter at hand), make sure to understand that in learning a physical skill some trainees have better odds of accomplishing better results when seeing it demonstrated. Others may learn better by feel, maybe being used as a demo dummy (myself included). There are those who need a lot of verbal explanation. Some need to be touched, i.e. literally put into positions and guided through motions in a hands on manner. I have met students who respond better to stick, while others really craved the carrot... Not to mention that all those may change within a same person from one session to another.

The tip of the iceberg

Good coaches should be aware of and handy with the cuing methods, constraints and affordances, adding or removing pressure etc. To me, it equals to talking many different languages, i.e. being a good communicator, more than just having a huge toolbox. Why do I say that? Because being a good interpreter means really talking a language, not just a few phrases. On the other hand, you can have a shed full of equipment and be clueless about how to use it. strive to know what to say (and what NOT to say), how to say it and when. Those are all relevant aspects of the craft of teaching and coaching, along with so much more.

So, how do we achieve that competence? The answer is simple even if not easy - always be a student yourself! Study the "meta" level of your art, how to teach it. Being an insatiable reader is always a plus, curiosity for the field is a must, passion for what you do an essential prerequisite. And just accept the fact that it never ends :-) 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

What's your type?

Since the previous post I have had some interesting learning opportunities and one of the best was a few days spent in training Skobar (more on skobar itself at a later date) with Dima Khakimov from St. Petersburg in Russia. While it was not my first time attending Dima’s seminars, this particular was organized differently so we had much more time to discuss all things martial and other subjects. One of those conversations touched upon a certain video, and that in turn raised a question within me.


How do you prevent good models of thinking and training from yielding bad results? It dovetails with something I wrote about before, but I would say on more of a meta-level of sorts. Namely, Dima mentioned an episode of a TV show he watched back home, in which one of the hosts is an experienced Thai and kickboxing coach asked to spar a bit with an instructor of a traditional style, white crane karate more specifically. Instead of telling about it, take a look for yourself, starting at 16:58, and see how it ends.

Again, the question that came up was how do we deal with stereotypes in martial arts? It is easy (and often correct) criticizing many of the traditional schools and systems for being dogmatic and hermetic in what they do, thus failing to grow with and adapt to the times. Yet, it is not an inclination endemic to the traditional styles. Do you remember the time when high kicks were deemed undoable and downright harmful for the kicker in MMA? And them Maurice Smith appeared… How about spinning backfists before Shonie Carter? Or spinning back kicks before GSP…you get the point.

While this certainly is not the case of dogmatic blindness, it certainly qualifies as stereotype. My readers know that to me the training methodology is more important than individual techniques practiced within a school, but it is possible that sometimes we don’t even consider putting certain techniques through whatever the adopted methodology, due to our stereotypical views of what will or won’t work in a fight. I guess it is the occurrence of semantic shift from “low percentage” to “impossible”. Yet, those two are not the same, are they? Plus, as good as the training methodology of most MMA schools is, some techniques are never practiced simply because they are banned in an MMA fight by the rules of such encounters.

Granted, there is a lot of moves and techniques in the traditional systems that cannot work against a resisting opponent THE WAY they are done in those schools – but, take those same techniques and train them THE WAY it is done in MMA and you might be surprised with the outcome. I experienced it first hand, too. Once I grappled an advanced aikido practitioner and basically toyed with him, so he gave me the rant about eye gouging and biting etc. We then went through another round, but with all those allowed for him. Again, the result was pretty much the same, as he had neither the attributes nor the understanding of fight dynamics (positioning, distance and so on) to apply those tools. On the other hand, in sparring other guys, experienced in modern sport training methods, there was more than one instance when I was able to take them by surprise because I used some of those “dirty” or “street” tactics.

So, where does it put us? I guess some moves will never be “high percentage”, but could come in handy in some of the more specific situations. Just like in the daily life, hammer and screwdriver are used frequently, but sometimes you just have to use the soldiering iron. This why the Pareto principle talks about 80/20 and not 100% solutions. Take those most reliable tactics and work on them most of the time, but do allocate some of the training time and effort to at least get acquainted with those “other” tools…

Who knows when they may come in handy? 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Infoknowledge

We live in the information age, for better or for worse. Those of us born and raised before the whole Internet thing still remember how seeking any information related to martial arts pretty much boiled down to magazines and books, while some of the claims presented in those were pretty much impossible to verify. Most of us dreamed about the universe where the information would be at your fingertips…

And it arrived! And very little has changed! It took me a couple of years to figure out – how is it possible that same old myths and misconceptions are still perpetuated to this day…we are only aware of even more of them. First, the world wide web is loaded with misinformation just as much as it is with good information; but second, even more important, it is now evident more than ever that information is not the same thing as knowledge.

On the most basic level, the information is intellectual, while the knowledge is experiential; the former gained by reading, listening, watching…the latter by doing. These two domains are not exclusive, but not necessarily inclusive either. And there is certain hierarchy here, in the sense that knowledge takes precedence over mere information.

Why? Well, because having true, deep knowledge of something means you already have the necessary information about it, and it has been fully integrated, processed and filtered. In fighting, it means you fully understand the value of certain techniques, tactics, concepts etc, and you can apply them with confidence when called for.


Now, while knowledge entails having information as well, the other way around is not necessarily true. How many times have you met a guy who could be spitting the technical specs about sport cars all days long, and yet utterly unable of driving one? Or, to be “closer to home” here, a fellow harping on who are the best boxers/MMA fighters of the day, without having ever spared for even a minute? Granted, they will gladly support their argument with a lot of information and facts, but we all know it is irrelevant in the end. Ask yourself – would you rather be someone who knows five methods and can use them in a fight, or know about fifty methods but can’t use any? Want to be an artist or an art collector?

Finally, knowledge provides the essential filters and criteria for taking a pool of new information and then separating wheat from the chaff, distinguishing the valuable information from junk, thus further expanding the knowledge. This is why we have the widespread phenomenon of keyboard warriors engaged in the heated debates over nonsense…because they don’t know any better. It is also why the experienced people will keep out of such debates, because they know better.


In the end, it is possible that two persons be experienced, have actual knowledge, and yet be in disagreement. However, there’s a world of difference between disagreeing and missing the boat altogether, i.e. learning from a debate or wasting time on senseless arguments. Be sure to know where things are heading at times…

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Digging for nuggets

Every fighting system out there has a certain pool of techniques, some specific, some very similar to those in other systems. Sometimes, the entire difference between two such martial schools is not even the mechanics of their techniques, but rather their application. That said, even within the system there could be more than one possible expressions of a chosen move, hence the emergence of individual practitioners' personal styles.

How does one learn about various possibilities with a particular movement? Obviously, the easiest way is to be shown, by the instructor or a fellow practitioner. The problem with such an approach is that quite frequently those shown applications tend to become the accepted "only true" ones, while other options, even if stumbled upon, are discarded as "not right". That happens to be a common occurrence with interpreting the individual techniques from karate kata. Sometimes two or more practitioners will learn differing bunkai of the same kata, end then sink into the heated debate about whose is the proper one.

The other angle is to do your on research, investigation and experimentation. The advantage of this approach is that the discoveries could be more authentic for the practitioner and better accommodating their personal physical attributes and mental aptitude etc. Also, these are usually better remembered and understood in the long term. The disadvantage, however, is that some people may get lost in the quest for the sheer quantity, thus losing sight of the need to seek the functionally best applications. Well,,,if one is training for the functional goals in the first place.

Namely, a lot of things are possible, but in our training we should do enough drilling and testing to figure out which of those are also more likely and probable.


Take a look at an exercise I did with my friend Daniel from Germany. You'll see that the first move this two-piece combo is treated in the following order:
- as an elbow strike;
- as a punch defense;
- as a grab defense/release. 

Naturally, the effectiveness of each particular application will depend on the proper distance and timing, as those elements are the key factors. Unfortunately, they are often forgotten about, and the problem is sought in improving the mechanics. Sometimes, the mechanics will turn out to be fine, and the technique/application will be discarded undeservedly. 

Certain martial systems have this sort of research as an integral part of their methodology, Such is the example of pecahan in pencak silat, where the sequence of moves is take apart in order to thoroughly analyze its elements, and then put back together with new understanding and new views on what could be done with it. This is the simplified explanation, but you get the gist of it. The following clip of Rita Suwanda offers a nice example. 



To conclude - if you seek a deeper and broader understanding of you chosen discipline, then don;t just take things at their face value. Do your work and be critical about the results, and over time it will bring ripe fruits of your labor. 


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Move that body baby...

Hey, good news! The article that used to be here can now be found over at my friend (and brilliant coach) Mladen's site  http://complementarytraining.net/category/free-content/
The text is pretty much the same, but the video attached as illustration is a bit better, so I hope you will enjoy it. 

video

In the meantime, also feel free to search Youtube for the clips titled pelokinetic fitness in order to see more material of the same nature, as well the page of the same name on Facebook.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Enigmatic issues

Every once in a while, you are in a situation to say or think “he (or she) just beat me to the punch”, and in a good way…no bleeding noses or anything. You know, when it feels great to find out that there is someone else out there who happens to be on the same page as you are in certain regards. I have had that sort of experience recently.

A lot of people over the years have asked when I am going to write a book on martial arts. Admittedly, I did entertain the idea but could not pin down the exact topic to approach, so this blog was an attempt to somehow compensate for that. Well, someone else wrote that book!


I first heard of Chad McBroom a few years back, as one of the regional representatives for the Libre Fighting System, one of the most dynamic and popular modern fighting systems, especially focusing on the use of knives. Regardless of that, McBroom is a practitioner of high level in a vast variety of other martial and combative methods as well, and his book Solving the Enigma: Insights into Fighting Models offers excellent insights into the fundamental principles that that will make or break any particular fighting style.

Get it, read it!
In the days when pretty much everybody is involved in some kind of cross-training, reading this book should be almost mandatory, depending on your goals in training. But even if you are into it just for fun, having this information could be invaluable in shedding light on some important aspects of training that may not even cross your mind. If you have read this blog previously, you probably have noted that, as opposed to some many people concerned with WHAT and HOW of martial arts, I am almost always pondering the WHY of many training approaches. So, if you are wondering about the latter question, Solving the Enigma will do just that – provide solid answers to help the readers and practitioners understand the inner working of their chosen system, no matter which one it could be.

The book dissects all the relevant factors that dictate the functioning of any martial art, from the geographical origin, through designated effect, to impact of garments/armor etc. Once you have understood those (and other) aspects, it is much easier to figure out what is the right fighting school for you, or which ones would mix and match well or not at all. Now, we are not looking at a huge elaboration here, there is about 80 pages of text and pictures, but the material is really in line with the goal of McBroom's work – distill the fundamentals and make them work.

If you are wondering whether it works, just take a look at the different martial methods that the author has managed to fuse and teach under his banner of Comprehensive Fighting Systems. Of course, the mere list of systems he trained in would be meaningless if it weren’t for the fact that McBroom happens to teach his stuff successfully to the number of professionals who rely on it in their line of work.

Whatever your motives for being involved with any sort of fighting training, do yourself a favor and read this book. It will make the pieces of the puzzle fit much faster, thus making your training that much enjoyable and meaningful. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Ouch!...and then what?

We all get injured at some point of our training, and not necessarily in training. Still, even if the injury is a result of some accident or actions in our daily life, it still affects our training efforts. So, how do we deal with it?

Of course, ideally we had done everything to avoid and prevent such problems - training smart, having good general fitness level etc, but we all know life is never ideal. I think the first important thing is to acknowledge the issue. In the field where the macho attitude is still highly valued and whining discouraged (rightfully so), it is easy to be somewhat reckless. Nobody likes to deal with the type of people who are moanin' and bitchin' at every little inconvenience and the first sign of discomfort. It is crucial, though, to be able and tell the difference between discomfort and actual pain - the first is a message from your ego, the second from your body. Learn to differentiate between the two and know which one to listen to.

Next, get to learn as much as possible about the problem (but keep it pertinent, you don't need a medical degree), and what is the right course of action...if any. The thing is, sometimes the right thing to do is to do nothing, whether it means to just keep training as usual or literally do nothing - total rest. Refrain from using the former approach as an excuse to be stupid, and using the latter as an excuse to be lazy.

Finally, learn how to train around the injury, if at all possible. When you do that mindfully, it could teach you a ton of stuff. About your body, about your character, about the tactics, techniques and mechanics of your chosen fighting system and  so on. Compensate for any lack of physical training by reading and researching, digging deeper into the "software" portion of your training. This is when you analyze your performance to find out what went wrong and lead to the injury in the first place, but also how to prevent similar things from happening in the future.

Make sure to begin the rehabilitation process as soon as possible, but NOT too soon. Such decision requires certain maturity from the practitioner and responsibility from the instructors/coaches. When pondering the situation, keep the long-term goals in mind and err on the side of caution.

Most of us normally only think of injuries when they happen to us, especially at younger age. While that is probably normal and expected, it is unacceptable to not learn the lessons contained in times of trouble. It is those exact lessons that will help you most in the long way and enable your training to continue in progress for a long time to come. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Embracing mistakes

Here is a quickie - how do you deal with mistakes in training? How do you perceive them, even?

Obviously, it depends on the kind of mistake, but in general we can see the mistakes as a source of frustration or as a source of learning. Naturally, one should strive to reduce the former attitude and cultivate the latter.

The mistakes that occur in isolated fashion, once or twice, especially if far between, do not really require much attention. They may be more a matter of circumstances and personal disposition on a given day than the result of some training omissions. It is the repeated/regular ones that demand attention and pondering.

The first step that ought to be done is diagnostics - why do these particular mistakes happen? When? How? Where? If we investigate these questions and find the answers, the plan to fix it should already start emerging. An important notice here - sometimes the glaring mistakes are actually consequences of less perceptible, smaller ones. If that is the case, correcting the "source" mistake might lead to the auto-correction of the bigger one. Another thing to consider is whether the mistakes stem from the failure to implement the training procedures properly, or maybe from the inadequate training procedures themselves.

Be as it may, as long as you don;t lose your mind and get overly emotional over mistakes, it will be possible to actually gain precious information and lessons from them. Such an attitude will also encourage you to try new things and experiment with fresh ideas, hence eliciting more joy from one;s training.

There it is...now go train in an environment that is challenging enough to make you make some mistakes :-) 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Bird view

Funny think struck me the other day. Not really an epiphany, but more like finally finding the missing part of the puzzle sort of reasoning. "About what?" you may ask...

Well, I have never been a kind of guy who desperately needs ostentatious recognition and/or ceremonies within a hierarchical organization in order to feel valued or as a confirmation of whether my training and effort had been worthwhile. Yet, it does not mean I feel disdain or other negative attitude toward various organizations (let's stay with martial arts here) per se. Some of them are functional, serving the purpose of making things easier for the members, some are unfortunately their very own raison d'etre, but it is not really any different than in other fields of life. Anyway, I did notice that some of those associations I liked better than others, and sometimes wondered why.

Sometimes I would think it depended on their administrative setting, other times I thought it had to do with the training methodology, maybe declared philosophy. mission etc. But no, there is another decisive factory.

We now get back to the beginning of this post. I received the latest book, War Hawk, written by Fernan Vargas, and got into a brief correspondence/conversation with the author. I was familiar with some of his earlier works (hence my initiative for obtaining this one), and our exchanges confirmed the impression I had of Mr Vargas. His demeanor showed a humble and honest man, always eager to learn more and new things, shying away from the pretentious status of grandmastery and other related aspects. On the other hand, his actual high level of expertise on the matter he teaches and does is evident in the process of sincerely sharing the knowledge he had accumulated over the decades of practice.


And so, as the birds of the feather flock together, Vargas seems to be gathering a colorful band of people of the similar ilk in his Raven Tactical International in a loose structural organization, but with the tight bond of common values. Finally, this is where I had my light-bulb moment - it is the fraternal feeling of non-enforced tribal belonging that some organizations have that I tend to appreciate. In such cases, even if I don't share the same views and interests of the said associations, there is still the tendency to enjoy the company of their members, relieved of any need to prove something to the rest of the world, content in belonging to where they feel at home.

Another nice commonality in such organizations is that their members tend to be ready and willing to learn from each others and help each other grow, regardless of their previous experience, background or "level" in the group. It is the supportive and not fiercely competitive atmosphere that enables the development to mean true growth and maturing, and not just plain expansion for the sake of numbers.

The aforementioned published works of Fernan Vargas and his associates are a nice example of this attitude. They all start with some very important notions and clear ego-check points that are too often either taken for granted or ignored altogether. Oh, and when it comes to the value of the contents, one would be severely challenged to find a better ratio of the proverbial bang for the buck.

Naturally, the Raven bunch is not the only crew of that sort, or worth mentioning in this light (Systema Homo Ludens of Alex Kostic, Astig Lameco of Roger Agbulos, Libre Fighting of Scott Babb, Combat Systema of Kevin Secours, to mention just a few), but being that they happened to be responsible for my "moment of insight" I devoted the space to them.

Liking other types of organizations and their inner workings is absolutely fine, as long as you find what you are looking for in them. It is just my personal preference to gravitate toward certain types of communities, and I am he author of this blog, so...

NOTICE: I am in no way and by no means affiliated with the RTI or Mr Vargas. This entire piece of writing was completely unsolicited by any of the mentioned parties. It represents my honest opinion, based on my personal experience with those subjects, so take it for what it is.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Only the good stuff

Aren’t you sick tired of it sometimes? I for sure am. It’s been a long time in the fitness industry, people telling how they had a great workout and then pour loads of numbers on you – sets, reps, poundage/kilos lifted etc. But when you actually go and see them train, you cringe at their form and movement. I have notices similar occurrence in martial/combative circles, especially related to the solo training sessions…hundreds of punches, kicks, breakfalls…whatever. Even partner drilling is too often based around the notion of “X repetitions one side, then switch and X reps the other”.

The humankind’s obsession with its own technological advances got really perverted, to the degree where we are trying to imitate the machines we had made. Hence my disdain for the above terms like “industry” when used in certain phrases. Nowadays everything is about quantity, to the expense of quality. But it should not be. After all, in the martial training we strive (well, we should) for the technical proficiency, as it is the aspect that enables the grace and flow that puts the ART in the martial art paradigm. Yes, I still believe the effectiveness should come first, but it has never meant that efficiency is not important. Quite to the contrary.


Let us think for just a brief moment, who are typically the people whose performance provides inspiration for so many of us in the fighting “universe”? Is there anyone out there who sincerely believes that the likes of Muhammad Ali, Kyuzo Mifune, Rickson Gracie and other greats of their ilk had become that by the sheer amount of their training? No, they did not just train more (if they did train more than their rivals at all), but they sure did train better!


Take a look at the previous video and tell me if Rickson seems even remotely concerned about the numbers – reps, miles, sets, rounds – or is it more about the quality of what he does? Well, if one is in this for the long run, then we better follow his lead.

OK, so how to make sure you train well, not just a lot? Obviously, it demands presence and focus during the sessions. In order to maintain the necessary level of concentration, start by doing your activity (drills, techniques, forms) for time periods/rounds and not preset number repetitions. Go as slow as needed to prevent technical degradation. Make the rounds short and alternate between the rounds of two or three unrelated skills. This sort of interleaved practice keeps the nervous system operating better, thus yielding the better retention in the long run.

Next, be sure that everybody involved in the training understand that resistance does not equal competition, and that you can’t win a drill. Training partners are there to help each other grow by presenting challenge, not to impede one another by boosting the ego. It is possible to training both hard and smart at the same time.


Making periodical video footage of you training sessions does not only provide great feedback regarding the potential flaws and problems to work on, but also motivation when comparing the progress made over the course of months or years. This is particularly handy in those schools and systems that do not use those extrinsic “measures” such as belts, grades etc.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when “hard facts” rule, and our training needs to be as precisely measurable as possible, but for crying out loud, do not let statistics take over your life, because numbers and papers will never be more important than people.