I’m going to tell you the fastest way to improve as a martial artist.
There are several steps to this. For a full breakdown of these steps, be sure to watch the video (above) or listen to the podcast (below). But here are the main points:
- Learn from other martial artists.
- Put in the reps.
- Get feedback.
1) Learn From Other Martial Artists
Try not to let insecurity or jealousy get in the way of this part, because it’s super important. You need to learn as much as you can about the martial art you’re practising, and an effective way to do that is by watching other martial artists.
Watch how they train. Watch how they compete. Watch how they get prepared for a class at the dojo. Pay attention to how they learn new skills. Do they drill things out? Do they have helpful routines and rituals? Make note of how they get focused for a performance. Figure out how and why they do the things they do. And not just the martial arts techniques themselves, but their mindset, their mental prep, their diet, their cross-training; learn everything you can about what makes those people awesome.
And the cool thing about this part is that we can learn something from everyone. We don’t need to be training alongside high-level athletes to learn something valuable. We can learn something from every other martial artist. Even those of a lower rank than us, chances are there’s something they’re doing that’s really helpful or effective, and we can learn those things too if we’re willing to pay attention.
We learn a lot by watching. But make note: this isn’t enough on its own. Watching isn’t doing. Which leads us to the next step.
2) Put in the Reps
The more repetitions the better.
To get better at martial arts we need to put in the reps, and as much repetition as possible. The more work the better. But there are some key points I need to make here about those reps.
We can’t train on autopilot.
Have you ever driven somewhere, only to arrive at your destination and realize you can’t remember how you got there? This is autopilot: doing something without our full awareness. Chances are you’re doing at least some of your training while on autopilot, but this is not how we improve at martial arts. If we’re only partly paying attention while training, we’re not putting in our best effort. We need to be as present as possible while putting in those reps.
Train with a focus in mind.
Training with no clear focus is similar to training on autopilot. It can be difficult to arrive at your destination if you have no clear sense of what that destination is (and aren’t really paying attention along the journey anyway). Pick a focus or a plan for every training session. Do you want to get faster? Improve your stage presence? Increase your intensity? Work on your pacing? Pick something to work on for every training session, and you will get much better results.
So pay attention, and have a clear intention for that session. You’ll improve much faster.
Specificity is important.
If you want to improve at some aspect of martial arts, the reps you put in need to be specific for that goal. Want to get better at free sparring? Do more free sparring. Want to get better at performing? Perform in front of an audience more often. Make those reps as specific and relevant as possible to the results that you want.
Errors are important.
You need to push yourself hard enough that you’re making mistakes. I know, I know: we hate making mistakes. But mistakes don’t get in the way of progress; they’re actually an important part of it. Greatness happens when we train at the edge of our capabilities, that area outside of our comfort zone where we fail, we screw up, we fall on our asses at times. But that zone where all the messy stuff happens: that’s where we improve the most.
Push yourself to the point of making mistakes. That’s how you know you’re challenging yourself enough to improve.
Rest is important.
Rest and recovery are a critical part of this process. You need to get in as many quality reps as possible, but that rest and recovery time in between those reps is crucial for improvement. Just as with strength training where rest in between sets allows for optimal muscle growth, we get stronger and learn the most when we allow for sufficient rest and recovery in our martial arts training.
3) Get Feedback
This last step goes back to the importance of errors. Those mistakes will only help us improve if we’re willing to learn from them. And feedback is a really important part of this process.
After those training sessions, belt tests, and tournaments: get feedback. Get feedback from others. Get feedback from yourself. How did a particular session or technique feel? How did that kata look in the mirror? If you can get your performances or training on video, watch those videos back and analyze your performance. What went well? What can use improvement? We learn so much by getting this feedback, not only from others but also from our own analysis.
Keep in mind with this whole process that getting it done is better than getting it perfect. You need to watch other martial artists to learn skills and techniques, but you also need to get in there and do the work yourself. Put in those reps. Progress happens along the way because you’re doing the work, not because you’re avoiding failure. So get in there and put in the reps, make lots of mistakes, and then get back up and learn from it. That’s how you can improve as much as possible on your martial arts journey.
Thanks for reading and listening. Happy training!
Podcast Show Notes
Do you want to improve faster in martial arts? Join me in this latest episode of The Karate Shrimp Podcast in a discussion of the key elements to improving in martial arts.
Thank you for joining me on my martial arts journey, and in the exploration of all the ways we can perform better in life and martial arts.
If you’re interested in starting your own podcast, I highly recommend Buzzsprout. The platform is incredibly easy to use. If you sign up for a paid plan through my link you’ll get a $20 credit, and you’ll help support my show! Here’s that sign-up link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/?referrer_id=2039494