Monday Musing: Learning Plateaus

You’ve probably hit a plateau before. You learn learn learn, get kind of good at what you know, then your progress evens out instead of continuing to climb. You don’t feel like you’re improving, and you may even feel bored.

This is a perfectly natural part of learning anything, and it’s a tricky stage to get through. Martial arts aren’t easy, and when students feel they aren’t improving as quickly, they often quit instead of sticking with it.

Of course, I’d advise anyone who hits a plateau to keep going. There is value in continuing to do the same old blocks, kicks, and strikes. Meaningful repetition, particularly in combat arts, builds habits and eventually instincts. This takes a long time, and most of us aren’t perfect. As Sensei often says, “Practice makes permanent; only perfect practice makes perfect.”

My second piece of advice for getting out of a plateau: change up your routine and find a way to challenge yourself. How? Pick different and tougher partners for partner drills and sparring. Work with the upper belts and black belts. Assign yourself extra strength exercises or conditioning (jogging, sprints) to do at home. Cross train. Try coming to a different class than you usually do. Focus on Arnis for a while. Ask the black belts what you need to work on.

Personally, plateaus always cause me to take a step back and refocus. What are my goals? Where am I going? How can I get there faster, better, more efficiently? Sometimes I even need to take a few days off, and by the time they’re over, I’m usually eager to get back into the dojo and train harder than before.

Above all else, have patience with yourself. Relax and recognize that you’ll get there when you get there. In the meantime, enjoy the journey.

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