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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Beat stagnancy in its tracks

"When you're green you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot" - Ray Kroc

(Part 2 of a 4 part series about the internal (mental, emotional, spiritual) aspects of martial arts and self improvement.)

We all hit a stagnant phase in our martial arts training. That feeling of almost being "bored" in our art. This feeling of stagnancy may manifest as a "lack of interest", a feeling of not feeling motivated, or feeling as if things remain the same even if you try hard.

Someone asked me once some years back, "Wow, 30 years studying martial do you do it for that long? Doesn't it get old?"

"Old? Not really...." I responded. "I guess I got lucky enough to find something else fun and exciting to play with in my martial arts all this time..."

To best explain why I chose to keep going in the martial arts, beyond the "hobby" phase, I'd like you try this simple visualization/meditation:

From the standpoint of being a martial artist in the present time, ask yourself, "Why did I get into martial arts in the first place?" (insert any long term activity here if you're not a martial artist).  How long ago was it? Did you get into it because you saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Did your parents get you into it to learn about fitness and self discipline? Whatever the reason, think back to that time. What was your first lesson like? Try to remember as many moments of that lesson..... Were you excited at the prospect of learning "ancient fighting moves"? Did you start dreaming of using a staff like that one Ninja turtle? (I forgot which one had the staff!).

Now think about one time where you realized you really "got" a particular technique. Allow yourself to feel that sense of satisfaction and pride in yourself that you "did it". Allow yourself to feel that "reward" of being able to do that same new move again, and again. The trick now is, to find ways to bring that sense of excitement back....otherwise, things might start to be "same old, same old"..

Most times, we grow out it, or something piques our interest enough to get back on the bandwagon and go "gung ho" into the training again. 
If you find yourself hitting a stagnant period of your practice, ask yourself "am I really 'training' or am I merely practicing at a comfortable level?" If someone is practicing the same Kata over and over again, it can get a bit monotonous if you don't approach your training with a mindset that motivates you to find a new twist to the Kata or the finding a way to apply the Kata in a way that improves other facets of your training.

For example, let's take the basic Kata or routine from your art. Do it once, as best as you can. Okay, looks great...but how to improve? How about putting a new weapon in your hand, one you haven't worked with before. I taught a basic Eskrima class to people who had little or no weapons experience, and the addition of an apparatus really brings one's awareness back into the form...instead of just "doing the Kara", now you have to think again! Puts a different spin on the same Kata!

Try doing your kata slow. I mean really slow, with stances lower than you normally would. At my school we call this "low and slow" training. The trick here is to not cheat by making the transitions between movements too quickly....instead think of making the pace consistently slow throughout the form. Your legs in the low stances might remind you they are working. :) You might find your balance a little off, or that you might lose your place in the form a time or two. This "tai chi" type of training can aid in keeping your awareness in each movement.

Sparring: Let your imagination drum up different ways to approach sparring. How about sparring one handed? Maybe not allowing kicks with one leg? How about adding the "push hands" or "chi Sao" sticky hands exercise to your drills? There are many possibilities!

Let your creativity go wild in finding different ways to train your self defense, sparring, forma and fitness. Creativity is one way to beat stagnancy! I would love my readers to share their own methods and ideas for fun alternative training drills and activities.....please post!

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