After 40 years of training nothing anyone says surprises me anymore. However all through that time I have been constantly amazed at how easily people write failure into their training ideas and schedule without even realising it. I thought it might prove useful to pick up on the most common misconceptions I have heard and seen during those years.
Success in the Martial Arts is no different to success in any other sphere of life. If you practiced swimming, cycling, ballet dancing, gymnastics, guitar, piano, archery or any normal skill based art or sport you would have to go through the same process. You would have to take regular lessons and practice every day to master the basics, how well you did this would stand you in good stead for the rest of your career in that sport or art. This would take at least 3 years. You would probably have to learn good posture, breathing, mental awareness, concentration and physical co-ordination right across all sports and arts.
To go to the next stage you will have to increase your training time and skill level, possibly needing to move up to a different level coach, class or club. This could mean going from local to county level. If you worked hard and developed your skill you would then move again to National and eventually International level, by which time you would be working at an in depth level both physically and mentally with your chosen art or sport taking a much larger part of your life and improving your life skills immeasurably – as we’ve recently seen with the great Olympian role models in Team GB at the 2012 Olympics.
It’s not mystical or rocket science. Find a good club and coach, follow the directions of the coach and attend classes and practice daily. 3 lessons a week and daily practice will get you there in 3 years. 2 lessons a week and daily practice will get you there in around 5 years. 1 lesson a week and daily practice will get you about half way in 5 years and then you need to change something to move forward.
Let’s break that down into Black Belt Dan grades. 1st Dan is that first 3 – 5 years of mastering the basics. It makes you an ‘Instructor’ able to pass on instructions that you have been given and able to bring students to about half way to your own standard. 3rd Dan is ‘Teacher’, able to utilise more skill and less effort within technique, able to explain the ideas and principles in your own words (and still be right) and consistently be able to produce students of good 1st Dan level. 2nd Dan is half way between the two. This is the equivalent to local level classes.
5th Dan is National Coach, you have become an instructor in charge of a group of clubs and travelling the country to teach and test your techniques and theories with a variety of people and with a good level of your own research. A 5th Dan would be able to consistently bring students to 3rd Dan level. A 4th Dan is halfway between 3rd and 5th. 6th Dan and above is International level where you would be teaching and in demand in other countries because of your level of skill, coaching ability and level of individual research with senior managerial skills and responsibilities at International Association level.
If you have not pursued your continued professional development in this manner – why would you want or need the grade?
This is common sense, yet so many people in the Martial Arts seem to live in ignorance with regard to effort put in and expected outcomes – and often they think they have an outcome when it doesn’t exist at all!
Let’s look at some examples:
“We started at the same time, why did they grade and not me?”
Because the other person turned up for lessons and seminars, paid attention, took notes, trained at home and progressed.
“I can’t attend the seminar because……”
The reason doesn’t matter, you won’t be there to learn, take notes and incorporate that knowledge into your training. So the outcome will be nil. What’s taught in a seminar is rarely ever taught or presented in that way again so the opportunity is gone forever.
“I’m increasing my fitness and CV levels at the gym each day.”
Fine if you’re in recovery from injury and unable to do your Martial Arts training but if the balance of what you’re doing is in favour of the gym, you will probably become more stiff, awkward and fitness oriented as opposed to developing Martial Arts skill. CV and Fitness can also be trained Martial Arts style as well increasing your skill levels at the same time.
“I’m really trying…..”
Yes you are – and won’t progress until you start doing, a significant difference.
“There’s so much to remember”
No there’s not, Martial Arts is one thing, not many. It must always be practiced with an inner smile with ideas for improvement ‘lightly suspended’ in the mind and they will become reality as they gradually soak in of their own accord and in their own time.
“I’d love to train with you but…..”
Stop right there. You’re not going to train with me so why make excuses, I don’t need them.
“It’s getting boring repeating the same thing……”
Well, when you stop being crap at it maybe we can move on.
“I’m so busy I don’t get the time to train and attend lessons as much as I want to…”
As long as your expectations match your effort – no problem.
“You have to dedicate your life to it…”
Wrong way round. It’s the key to improving the rest of your life with all the health, confidence and other benefits it brings.
“I’m doing it in my own way…”
Better award yourself your own Black Belt then. (And many do.)
“I’m due my grade…”
The most commonly used term by the ‘Suburban Samurai’ who trained for 3 years to 1st Dan and have done no real developmental work since, they could have trained for thirty years repeating that same first three years ten times. They have bought or bargained for every grade since, maybe switching Associations when they didn’t get it when they were ‘due’ they are now a high Dan grade but really still an old, tired repetitive 1st Dan standard.
“Although he’s not worth the grade he’s been the Club Secretary for 20 years.”
The problem with ‘honorary’ grades is that they make the wearer look stupid. It’s better to give the person a ‘certificate of service’ or something rather than embarrass them in that way.
This is only a few samples of common statements made to give you the idea, but writing in failure is a deadly trap and we need to listen to the voice of experience and consider the consequences. It’s your choice whether to follow the advice or not.
A good Coach will tell you straight. Whether you agree with them or not is your choice but it’s the Coaches job to be honest. Most people nod their head or get upset because it’s not what they wanted to hear but in the long run the Coach knows how it will pan out from experience. There are many Coaches and clubs out there that will pander to those weaknesses and take your money and grade you anyway, but you have to live with yourself afterwards.