As someone who has been training in the martial arts for a large portion of my life, this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Martial arts training can improve if not even change a person’s life in many different ways. It did just that for me. I was a good enough kid growing up, but had my problems like any other young person. By the time I got into junior high school I was overweight, out of shape, couldn’t speak in front of people, my grades were failing, and that’s just the start of it. After I started training in martial arts all of these things started to change. Martial arts were something that I had been passionate about since I was about six years old, but was never able to join a class until that time.
I started losing weight, got stronger and faster, more confident, my grades went straight to honor roll grades, I was becoming the person I had always wanted to be. Fast forward to the present. Now I teach a class twice a week. I have a family of my own complete with a goofy dog and a cat pays no attention to me unless she wants something. I look forward to the day that I will start teaching what I have learned to my own children.
Enough about me though, let’s get down to business. Martial arts training is something that I could probably write several long books about, but I won’t put you through that torture here. Instead let’s examine some different aspects of martial arts training that might help you along in your own journey. No matter what style you are currently training in there are a few things that will hold true for pretty much everyone.
First is flexibility. This is something that is essential in my opinion for any style out there. Now this does not mean that you have to be able to do the splits across two chairs while fighting ten enemies. That works great for the movies but in reality it just isn’t necessary. However, improving your overall flexibility will help you with your techniques. It will also help to keep you healthy and feeling great in your everyday life. Also, and possibly most importantly, it will help to keep you free from injuries during training and during other activities outside of wherever you are training. Most martial arts schools and teachers will incorporate at least some stretching into the workouts. If however, you are looking to expand upon that, there are many option out there today to help you do just that. There are books, dvds, equipment, classes, yoga, and more. Just pick the one that suits you and your lifestyle and go for it.
Next is strength training. I’ll make this one quick because it is a subject that could go on for far longer than it ever should. Strength training in the martial arts could mean something as simple as doing pushups and crunches before or during each class. It could also mean going to the gym to hit the weights. Whatever course you decide to take, keep a couple things in mind. Work safe and smart! Working really hard won’t mean much if you are doing it wrong and get hurt. Also, if you are not someone who is educated in this form of training then I would suggest trying to find someone who is. A personal trainer, coach, fitness facility, or even your martial arts instructor if he/she engages in that type of training. Like flexibility, strength training also has a variety of tools available to assist you.
Endurance is something that is helpful if not even necessary for most martial arts styles. Besides the numerous health benefits you gain from doing endurance training, it also allows you to perform techniques and kata (patterns or forms) without becoming so physically exhausted that you are unable to finish. If you plan on doing any fighting at all this will also be a crucial part of your training. For those who may be new to this or may not understand, endurance basically means that you can go longer without getting tired. There are lots of ways to train for endurance. Probably more than I can even think of. Here are a few to get you started though.
I want to finish with something that is probably overlooked more than anything else in my mind. That is to always seek knowledge. The mind needs to be worked just like any other muscle of the body. To stop learning is to stop growing. Always, always, always, seek to learn something from every workout or training session. Knowledge is a key element in the martial arts and should never be overlooked. I have personally met and known men and women who have been training for many decades longer than I have and they are still trying to learn everything that they can. Learning doesn’t stop when you reach black belt or when you win the championship or something like that. In fact, that is often when the greatest learning will start.
So train hard all you martial arts enthusiasts out there, and never stop trying to learn and grow. If you seek to improve yourself then you will. Once you believe that you know it all and have attained all that is possible, then you have ceased to grow and have in essence given up on the journey. The true journey of the martial arts warrior is a life long journey.