Thursday, July 27, 2017

Staying the course...

Whenever someone starts a new learning, and thus training endeavor too, they want to know how will it take to "get there", whatever "there" might be in their particular case. This sort of result-oriented curiosity is natural, which is why there are so many training programs out there that advertise themselves with the lines such as 4-week abs, 8-weeks to a full split, 30-day diet etc. Do you see the common denominator here? Those are all short-term goals, and usually pertaining to the accomplishments that do not entail any particular skill-set, let alone some level of mastery over that set.

Now, when it comes to training a martial art or combative system there are simply way to many factors and "ingredients" involved to seriously consider achieving anything remarkable over such a short period. Sorry to disappoint you, but even those 4-week self defense courses, as well programmed as they may be, are barely enough to show you what to work on, maybe even how to do it, but there is still more work to do...much more usually.

So, what's the solution then? Well, keep training for long time. Naturally, the notion of "long" will vary among different people and depending on other aspects. like training or five years four times a week is better than 10 years once a week etc, you get the idea. Still, in short, consistency is the main priority here. Of course, with proper training methods and priorities, influenced by your motivation.

That's all nice and fine, but how do we maintain the drive for training, stoke the fire, in a manner of speaking? In some systems and schools there is the instituted progression of ranks, often supported by external tokens such as colored belts, certificates etc. That definitely helps, especially with younger trainees, as it helps in setting goals and gives a fairly concrete sense of accomplishment. True, in a lot of schools the belt system has been so bastardized and made meaningless, but in and of itself doesn't have to be a bad thing. Hopefully, if the training is good and instructor(s) knowledgeable, some of the trainees will develop an intrinsic urge to keep on training, thus exceeding the whole grading scheme.

In the schools and systems that do not boast such models of awarding their students' persistence and dedication, there are other approaches that could prove helpful in keeping people motivated. Depending of what makes some people tick, the coaches and training partners could use some means of praise (be it verbal "good job", or non verbal gestures, such as thumbs up, clapping etc.) or dare/teasing ("is that the best you can do?"). Of course, you can use both interchangeably, when situation calls for it.

I like to make periodical video recordings of trainees performance (myself included) and then an occasional review. It can help put things in perspective, as many people do not easily see the progress they have made over time, since it happens incrementally. But seeing your how you moved a few months of year earlier and comparing to the present level can really boost one's confidence and motivation.

And yet, there will be times you will go through burnout phases, hit plateaus and/or feel fatigued, no matter what. Do not panic, it's normal and natural and happens to everybody. It's fine to take a break of a few weeks, maybe couple of months. Do something else instead (or do nothing if that is the right thing, especially if you can find some complementary activity that will make you feel refreshed, while still being beneficial for your overall training. If you have a genuine passion for what you do, if you have come to the point where journey IS the destination, the itch for training will come back and bring you on the right path again. 

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