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.

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