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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 body movement.

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 intent.

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 do it?"

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 fun.

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.

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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 iamnwind@aol.com. His website is:

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