Speed Your Martial Arts Learning
by Craig S. Kiessling
Do you have trouble understanding and
assimilating your martial arts as quickly as you would
like? Or, have you had the disheartening experience
of a teacher saying, "I thought you said you
practiced?" The problem is that we do not pick
up everything that is being taught to us. We have
to learn how to learn more effectively. Here are eight
simple techniques to speed your learning.
1- Keep A Notebook
In your backpack or car -- keep a notebook to jot
down the subtle points that the teacher pointed out
in class that could be forgotten. This is also a great
place to put theories, strategies, and philosophical
tidbits, as well as mistakes that the teacher pointed
out in class.
2- Perfect, Maintain, Use & Watch The Basics
"If your horse (stance) is weak, then you have
nothing at all." This common phrase exemplifies
the importance of mastering the fundamentals of your
system. You may be ranked "Grand High-Master
of Cool Moves," but if you don't have a solid
foundation, how do you expect to exert maximum power?
By revisiting the basics of your style, often you'll
find that advanced techniques will be much easier
to pick up.
3- Be Committed
The term "kung fu" literally means hard
work, although it is a generic term used to refer
to Chinese martial arts. You get out of it what you
put in. From experience, I can tell you that if you
don't practice outside of class, it shows -- and in
a big way. Ask yourself this question: What if the
teacher put forth the same amount of effort in teaching
as I do in training? Make a specified time for your
training and stick to it. Commit yourself to betterment,
be it by the day, week, or month.
4- Be Open-Minded
Bruce Lee often used contrasting images of an empty
and a full cup of tea as a way to symbolize the concept
of an open versus a full mind. You may already know
a certain way to achieve end result X, and feel that
it is the best -- but keep your mind open. Consider
that a set of movements will many times hold numerous
nuances you never considered.
5- See The Whole Picture
In a seemingly simple movement, such as striking while
stepping forward, there are usually countless hidden
subtleties that play key roles in the application
and its variations. So although it may seem obvious
that our attention as a learner of the example above
should be drawn towards the hand movements, that is
not the case. You should observe the instructor's
footwork, waist movement, etc.; pay attention to whole
6- Be Mindful
After having practiced a certain movement hundreds
of times, you'll come to a point where you don't have
to consciously think about "how-to-do-it"
anymore. Unfortunately, many people stop there, and
end up simply "going through the motions."
Push that technique to another level by visualizing
the opponent as you execute the technique in a form
(kata) -- see the application, feel the energy and
7- Be Adaptable
Take a familiar application and vary the possibilities.
What if you were to use the same technique from another
stance? What if the opponent were taller than your
usual training partner? What if you took the same
movement and "translated" it into a joint-locking
maneuver instead of the obvious strike it represents?
8- Ask Questions
This one may seem obvious, but needs to be emphasized.
Fill in the blank: "Practice Makes _________.."
Consider the possibility that after many repetitions
of a certain movement, you find out that you've been
doing it incorrectly. Now imagine trying to correct
that movement. We know how hard habits are to break:
A lot of time and frustration could have been saved
by asking questions of the instructor. And one of
the most important questions to ask before going home
to practice the move is, "Is this the way to
Sometimes it may feel uncomfortable if you ask the
teacher a question that initially seems to stump him,
but don't let that prevent you from doing it again
in the future. Any decent teacher loves a challenge
-- it lets them momentarily pause the teaching mode
and explore the movement in an "out-of-the-box"
method, which is not only educational, but just plain
You don't need a photographic memory. Just apply
these guidelines and with practice, your learning
skills will improve. In no time at all, you'll find
your techniques have really improved and if you go
to tournaments, you will also find that you come home
with more than you went in with.
About The Author:
Atlanta-based freelance author Craig S. Kiessling
divides his time between teaching and studying Chinese
martial arts, working in the IT industry, and fine-tuning
his writing craft. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His website is:
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