A Martial Arts Test for Your Inner Self
Nearly all martial arts schools test their students for some type of rank but do they have a martial arts test for your inner self? Like any test, students should prepare and even when they do, there is bound to be some nervousness. This kind of test is just one kind. Another kind is the test of your inner self.
It takes fortitude and self-awareness to stick with a program for as long as it takes to bear fruit! It is unfortunate that we see so many beginning students disappear. When they were attending it was painfully obvious that they did not practice at home at all. One month they are attending pretty regularly and then attendance drops off until you do not see them anymore.
Some people are born with certain natural gifts. Those gifts may lend themselves to a particular physical or mental skill and it allows them to progress faster than somebody else. Even so, it is possible to progress without these natural gifts. You may have to attend every class and take every extra opportunity that is available. It will involve clearing out your schedule and make time for the rewarding activity that is the martial arts. If you interact with partners that you do not normally interact with, it can be beneficial. They can test you – and make you better.
You might have to get to the training hall early and forego the socializing with fellow students to just get that little bit of extra time before class. It is also surprisingly beneficial.
You may have to take special pains to erase all negative thoughts. One of the biggest causes of negative thinking, I believe, in today’s world is a lack of enough sleep and lack of enough good quality sleep. There can be many causes for this. It is at least something you ultimately have control over, unlike the bad news of the world that can circulate around us. It is well-worth investigating what is causing your sleep problems. It is for your long term health and fitness as well. I would venture to say that without good quality sleep, it is nearly impossible to get your head right and be positive enough for best performance at work or play.
Time spent in class is normally not enough if you plan to progress at a satisfying rate. You must practice at home. If a good reference book is available, it is always a plus.
There are two perspectives I want to present to the reader on progress with a martial art. One is that people ordinarily cannot see and judge themselves accurately and therefore, to have a negative outlook about one’s own progress is not productive. One has to be honest however. As an example of honesty when evaluating your own practice, ask yourself if I have really practiced for a full two hours outside of class this week or was it one hour with a lot of interruptions and distractions?
The other perspective is when you compare yourself with others in your class who either progress faster or slower than you. Friendly competition can be motivating but carried to extreme it can be damaging. In my humble opinion, in a good martial arts class, you should not have to compete with anybody but yourself. Three months can seem like an eternity to you, especially if it seems like you have been working on the same troublesome maneuvers for almost that long. Perhaps you have seen other students pass you by. This is where the mental fortitude comes in.
There are some situations and techniques that can get you stuck. If other words, you are stuck if you cannot seem to overcome a subtle defect in your skill in a particular area. A possible remedy might be training with students you have never trained with before. You can ask your instructor to be paired up with somebody of lower or higher rank on the chance that the experience might be beneficial. There have been situations in my experience when a student I am teaching had an odd sort of attacking method that I had trouble with in classical practice. This would be a time when the student taught the teacher. Be aware that just because you are a higher rank does not mean you cannot learn something from somebody of lower rank or even somebody off the street! Your inner self should be strong enough to accept this and take the education gratefully.
Another remedy for being ‘stuck’ could be going home and working the technique solo in a quiet area for several hours on two or three evenings uninterrupted. If you do not think this is how mediocre athletes become champions, you are wrong! This is precisely how many of them do it!
Another method is to get into a different environment for a few hours on a few different occasions. You could take a drive to another town or into the country and practice with different clothes and shoes. These kinds of tactics are used by many trainers with their clients.
The real martial arts test for your inner self can teach you persistance. Can you stay with a training program until it bears fruit? It is an attribute that will carry over into other situations in the future.
-Sifu Keith Sonnenberg