For just over 3 years I have been training in Kung Fu and Muay Thai. Learning any martial art is a physically and mentally challenging process that takes years of practice to master. Here are 4 tips I wish I had known that can improve your training and reduce the time it takes between novice and grandmaster.
1. Stretch, stretch, stretch
Flexibility is a fundamental trait of any good martial artist. Having this early on in your training will help boost you ahead for many reasons. Firstly, the more advanced techniques in martial arts require you to be extremely flexible, it’s impossible to begin learning them without the required flexibility to do so, and thus you will be learning advanced moves earlier in your training if you’re already performing a perfect split. Secondly, you need to kick high, sometimes higher than your own head. If you’re training in a martial art that is fight orientated, such as kickboxing, being able to kick your opponent in the head is one of the best moves you have in your arsenal of attacks. If you are studying an art such as Kung Fu, flexibility will dramatically improve your technique in forms, helping you to score those extra points in competitions for your technical ability.
2. Be the guinea pig
One of the best ways to learn, I have found, is directly from the horse’s mouth, in this case your master. Typically, in your classes, your master will demonstrate a technique that they want you to practice with a partner. If they don’t ask for volunteers before performing each technique, go ahead and tell them before the class starts that you would like to be involved in the demonstrations. This will help you get a real feel for what they’re trying to show you, as you can miss subtle techniques that may be out of your vision. Volunteering to be demonstrated on can seem scary, but remember that they are a master of what they do, and they won’t actually be performing the move with the intent to hurt you.
3. Start sparring
Hitting pads is good for when you’re learning a new move, but you will find you begin performing the technique in a much different way when faced with something that will hit back. Simple things like remembering to cover your head when throwing a kick or punch will become second nature after being punished for dropping your guard, even for a split second. You may be asked or required to participate in a fighting tournament at some point of your martial arts journey, and the best way you can prepare for this is sparring. Remember that it is for the purpose of learning, not knocking each other out as quick as you can. You will begin to learn how to spot and react to your opponent’s openings, and how to defend against different moves. Forget being stronger or faster than your opponent, being an intelligent fighter is what will give you the advantage come fight night.
4. Perfect practice makes perfect
Your training doesn’t begin and end when you enter and leave the doors. My Kung Fu master always told us that “practice is good, but perfect practice makes perfect”. When you train at home make sure you are performing each technique properly, as if you were in class, bad habits form fast and are extremely hard to be undone. Purchasing a large mirror is a great investment so you can analyse yourself at home. Also watching videos of other people performing techniques will help you to see how different techniques should look when you’re not at class.