By Paul Walker
If you are a member of any serious martial arts school with a reputable instructor then you will have no doubt heard in class the words "Be sure to practice at home. Martial arts training goes beyond the dojo." Often, this advice is given without any suggestions or tips on how to actually do this. How do you practice at home? How do you develop an effective training plan? How often should you practice?
If you have been practicing martial arts for one year or more then you have probably made it to the intermediate ranks of your style. You are probably going to class twice a week and ideally you are also practicing at home. Here are some tips to help you develop a plan to fit into your schedule and reach your goals.
- Find out when your next rank promotion test will be held and what material will be tested. This is a simple task. Just ask your instructor and get a copy of the school's grading syllabus and write the date of your next test in your schedule.
- Decide how many times a week you intend to go to class. To be successful in any martial art you should go to class at least twice a week. Avoid going four or five times a week because this will lead to burnout. Your classes are the place to learn your material, check that you are doing things right, and to find good training partners with similar goals - not the place to escape the realities and responsibilities of life.
- Set realistic time blocks at home for additional practice. I recommend short, focused sessions two or three times a week instead of long daily sessions leading to burnout, fatigue and excess stress. A balanced training program will include two sessions a week in class of about 1 hour each plus three 30 - 45 minute sessions at home three times a week.
- Set yourself up for success by practicing at home at a time that is both quiet and uninterrupted. If this means that you have to get up earlier, or stay up later, then do it. After all, you do want to achieve your goal of the black belt, don't you?
- Don't practice the same things in every session. Decide in advance what you like most about your training and what feels like hard work and not much fun. Begin your training session with something fun and upbeat to give you energy, then take on the challenge of the task or drill that you least enjoy or are having the most problems with; and then finish your session by rewarding yourself with the opportunity to practice the aspects of karate that you most enjoy and are best at. This way you start and finish on a high but still manage to practice the more difficult things too.
- Be consistent in your training. Set a schedule and stick with it. If something comes up and forces you to cancel, be sure to give yourself the same respect you would offer to anybody else with whom you had an appointment, and reschedule your training session. The moment you start accepting your own lame excuses to not practice at home will be the beginning of the end of your successful journey to the black belt, and the true mastery of your style.
These tips should help you to be successful in your chosen martial art and the bottom line is this... The real secret to developing an effective personal training plan is to simply take the time to make a plan and then to stick with it.
Paul A. Walker, is a 5th degree black belt karate instructor with over 25 years experience in the martial arts. He trained at Master Hirokazu Kanazawa’s Headquarters Dojo in Tokyo for three years from August 1996 to July 1999. In 2008 he was awarded his 5th degree black belt by Master Hirokazu Kanazawa.