3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Martial Arts

Focus

Maybe you’re new to martial arts. Maybe, you’re a long-term student and you’ve hit a plateau.

Either way, my 3 tips for getting the most out of your martial arts class will help you reflect on the process. Are you really doing what it takes to get the most out of your martial arts class?

And what does it really take to get good? Get better? Get past the plateau in your training?

Ultimately, the control is in your hands. You need patience, goals, and mental presence in class. Click “read more” to find out why!

This is how it feels to pass a test!

This is how it feels to pass a test!

Patience, grasshoppa.

My yoga teachers often say, “However long it took you to get there, it will take a similar amount of time to undo.” Usually they’re talking to someone who is self-judging their inflexibility, but it applies elsewhere as well.

For example:

  • If a child been allowed to interrupt adults for a long time, it will take a long time for us to teach her to remember to raise her hand before speaking.
  • If a child is bright and gets through school easily, martial arts will be jarring. We will have to teach him a totally new skill: how to attack a challenge while staying positive and persevering.
  • If it has been a long time since an adult has been a beginner at something, martial arts may feel embarrassing. If an adult has never learned to laugh at herself, she may become overly negative or self-judgmental. Breaking this pattern can be really tough!
  • If you haven’t kept up with a regular exercise routine, the physical demands of martial arts will be shocking at first. You may find yourself very sore for the first month or two. (Your body WILL adapt, but also a good time to watch out for injury).

Most of us adhere to patterns of behavior which have stretched on for years. These patterns won’t be rewritten overnight, so be patient with yourself.

You can recognize them without judging them. Remember: it’s all about the journey.

Arnis

Arnis partner drills.

Eyes on the goal.

Discuss your goals with your instructors.

Also, ask for input: what goals do your instructors have for you?

Through all of your training, it is important for your instructor to be aware of and respect your personal goals. Those goals are what brought you in the door, after all!

If your instructor knows what your goals are, she can help you work toward them. (Unless the goal is, “I wanna learn how to beat people up.” :P)

Equally important are the goals your instructor sets for you. “I want to see more attention to the basics,” he might say. Or, “More control. Longer stances. Different timing. More angles & combinations.” Or any of those other things instructors say.

It’s important to hear these tips for what they really are: goals.

Part of an instructor’s job is to push students to become better in their weak areas. Most of us don’t choose to confront our weaknesses on our own! By listening to your instructor, you will stretch yourself beyond what you thought you were capable of.

This is the path to becoming better.

Brown belts

Show up mentally.

Don’t just show up physically. Attend class with focus.

You would think this should go without saying, but here are some ways I see students “lose focus” during class:

  • Excessive talking or tip-giving during sparring time. Sparring time should be spent sparring. Nuff said.
  • Needing to look something up in a manual, and then spending too much time browsing.
  • (Usually during padwork, when they finish their assigned kicks or techniques) Standing around chatting, instead of picking some more techniques to review, starting sticky hands or some other kind of practice.
  • Asking too many questions instead of spending time practicing.

Ultimately, I can’t do the work for you. Showing up is a first step, and a good one, but if you’re not focused on DOING, you’re not getting the most out of your class.

Show up mentally, and you’ll be surprised at what happens.

What’s so cool about these 3 tips?

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YOU’RE in the driver’s seat.

You’re in control of how you approach your training.

Get out there & use these 3 tips to get the most out of your martial arts class!

About Sensei/YDN Caitlin

Sensei Yudanjanim Caitlin is a 2nd degree black belt, senior instructor, administrative assistant, and student of Tae Kwon Do, Karate, and Arnis at Northwest School of Martial Arts.
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