Have you ever thought about how you learn?
I learn by watching first, then doing. We each have our own way of using our minds and our senses. Maybe you haven’t thought much about how you or your student learns.
Rest assured, I am watching and thinking of the best way to teach each of my students. Understanding how we learn and using that knowledge can produce great results. That said, what else can we do to train better while we are on the mat?
There are many practices that can improve training. I would like to cover just a few, in hopes you find them helpful and maybe, enjoy your training more.
An empty cup has space for something new.
Martial artists bow before stepping on or off the mat. Did you ever wonder why?
Yes, respect is the key, but there is more to it. I like to tell the kids: bow before you step on the mat so all the silly falls out and you are ready to learn.
In other words, we bow to empty our minds of all the stuff that makes up our day. We are now open to learning.
Bowing before leaving the mat reminds us that we remain a student and martial artist and should continue to act that way, on or off the mat. As I am sure you will agree, the concept works for anyone. Make a practice of bowing before you get on the mat but, as you do, make a conscious effort to clear your head of anything other than your purpose for being here.
I assure you that training will immediately come easier. Over time, you will feel the reward of shutting off the stress we carry every day. There is a proven health benefit to this! You will start to truly appreciate the way you feel.
Starve distraction, feed focus.
We are often distracted by our long term goals, our challenges, our next steps, and our responsibilities. When you start your training time, shift your concentration. Focus only on what is presented to you. Your mind will drift! Bring it back; every time. Focus on your “right now” goal. Commit to yourself to stay true to this “right now” goal. Focus!
Don’t try to conquer the world.
Small steps are quality steps. When learning a new skill, it is always better to take your time and truly understand the content. Learn it correctly the first time. It is not unusual to have martial artists step on the mat, only to become frustrated and upset because they want to know everything, RIGHT NOW!
Maybe they were quick to learn a new skill in the past, they are impatient, or they are just afraid of looking “dumb” in front of others. Learning new skills can be frustrating and we all can feel inadequate or lack confidence. Working too quickly can open us up for injury. The best course is to focus on one step, technique, or application, at a time. When you feel the frustration building, take a step back and identify what you have already learned.
Next, allow yourself time to pick up the next portion. Break it down into smaller parts. Identify the next fragment. Not the whole thing; one piece. Ask if you are not sure. Any martial arts instructor is ready and eager to field such questions. Believe it or not, the speedy learning you were hoping for might actually be waiting in those pieces.
The eight-year-old in front of you is nailing it! You should be nailing it too! Whoa….don’t fall into that trap.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone but you.
Challenging yourself by matching your neighbor on the mat is fine – as long as you don’t push yourself to injury or frustration. If you feel even the slightest pain or irritation–STOP.
Remind yourself of a time in your life when you were not as smart or as talented as you are right now. You WILL succeed as long as you see yourself as capable and deserving of the knowledge. Let the comparisons go and do it for you.
Remember, you are better today than you were the first time you stepped on the mat.
When learning a new technique you may ask, what am I doing? Why? If you don’t know, ask!
If your kids don’t know, they should ask.
There once was a time in martial arts training that asking these questions was not proper. Those times are gone. (Do be aware that the answer may be graphic or tough to hear).
In asking questions you become better able to visualize a training technique. In visualizing, you unify your body and mind and learn the technique faster.
I will leave this one here and encourage you to ask questions to better understand the importance of visualization in your training.