What an accomplishment! I've been training at Maryland Martial Arts since 2008 with one goal in mind since day one, which is student creed number four, "I intend to earn my black belt." The funny thing is that this goal never left my mind but so much has changed along the way. In the beginning I so badly wanted to be a black belt, and nothing else was on my mind. Not until I reached late gold belt or orange belt did things start to really change for me. I soon realized that helping others made me a better martial artist. It wasn't all about me anymore. Sure, I intended to earn my black belt, but I also started thinking about helping others earn their white belt and gold belt. This is when my road to constant improvement stepped into overdrive.
Around this time, I changed my diet and started to eat only healthy food that would help me get better at martial arts. When I say better at martial arts, I don't mean just punching and kicking. I mean better at living the martial arts lifestyle..Helping others, avoiding overly negative temptations, etc. And what do you know, this is student creed number one. "I intend to develop myself in a positive manner and avoid anything that would reduce my mental growth or my physical health." Well, it works. Stay positive and stay healthy for yourself, your friends, your family and the people around you that feed off of your positive vibes. This also correlates very nicely with student creed number two.. "I intend to develop self-discipline in order to bring out the best in myself and others." Through instructing, I've learned that not only what I say matters, but what I DO matters equally. People look up to me. They see me winning tournaments, blasting thru the ab-buster, challenging me to push up competitions. Everyone wants to spar me because I have great control and can spar at anyone's pace and skill level. This takes a tremendous amount of self-discipline and the ability to practice what I preach. With my personal growth and positive attitude, everyone that trains with me gets to experience this on some level and that's what is most important to me.
It's funny how goals change. I remember Sensei Jon's blog about goal setting. Should we set goals? I'm not really sure, but I do know that our goals are constantly changing. My first goal was to receive my black belt. My goals changed drastically while training, but in the end, I still reached that ultimate goal and now that I've received my black belt, everything begins for me. It was all about the journey, and now I get to pass this journey onto others.
I intend to earn my second degree black belt. When it happens, does not matter, only that it happens.
The last thing I'm going to leave you with is my best piece of advice. Giving to yourself is not selfish as long as you are helping others with your decision.
Should you practice your techniques on both sides of your body?
I have heard instructors state that you should be able to do your moves well with both sides of the body, left and right. I have heard other instructors preach that it is beneficial to focus on making one side as skilled as possible with a certain technique, with less need for balance. There are strong arguments to be made for either viewpoint, and I don’t know if there is a right or wrong answer. I recommend that students practice new moves on one side only, until they feel comfortable with the move, at which time they may start learning it on the other side.
While I do not have a definitive answer to the original question, I would like to explore certain reasons why either viewpoint has merit, and in which situations one might be more practical than the other.
Ideally, we would like to be able to do a move well on both sides of the body. Realistically, however, it is much easier to become proficient on one side of the body with most techniques, at least in the beginning. Generally, I would rather be very good at doing a technique on one side than mediocre on both sides.
However, with certain techniques and positions, such as escaping side control or sweeping my partner from half guard, I try to practice both sides equally. With these moves, I may be forced to do the move on either side of the body in sparring; I generally will not be able to choose.
So here are a few questions that might help us determine which strategy might work best in a particular situation:
1.) Do I understand the move well enough on one side to attempt learning it on the other side?
2.) How much time do I have to train? Do I have lots of time to learn both sides, or should I focus on one side only?
3.) Is this a move which I could be forced to do on either side of the body, or is it a move where I can generally choose the side, regardless of what my partner does, in a sparring situation?
Keep this in mind when practicing and you could see even greater progress!
Why is right now the best time to study martial arts?
There are many reasons why this is the best time to be a martial artist, or to begin training in the arts. One reason in particular really seems to stand out to me. In the past decade or two, the arts have really gone through a renaissance of sorts, taking them from an interesting form of exercise to a profound art of self-development.
I began training in the martial arts approximately 25 years ago. Since then, I have been very fortunate to study several different styles of martial arts with many great instructors. These instructors taught me wonderful things, and their teachings represented some of the best knowledge and material that was generally known at that time.
However, due to recent advances in training methods, techniques, and a deeper understanding of what actually works, I have made the majority of my progress in the last 4 years. I believe that the arts have come such a long way that one year of martial arts training now might be as valuable as 5 years of training would have been a few decades ago.
To understand why this might be, consider the recent surge in popularity of the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Here we have a sport that allows for a wide variety of techniques, with two fully resisting opponents. However we feel about such spectator sports, MMA has definitely opened our eyes to new ideas and training methods regarding self-defense.
There are some martial artists who were fortunate enough to be using these methods long before MMA became popular; for most of us, however, the growth of MMA represented an awakening that helped us identify gaps in our old training methods. Certainly, others will have had different experiences, but I feel that my own journey through the martial arts has been the norm over the past several years: a shift in training to place more emphasis on benefits to the student.
This should also come as no surprise if we consider all the advances being made in other fields. Professional athletes are able to enjoy longer and more productive careers thanks to a deeper understanding of the way the body works and improved training methods. However, the advances that have been made in the martial arts recently are, I believe, even more radical.
I have no doubt that right now is the greatest time to study the martial arts!
Over the past several months we have watched our adult classes grow to their largest size since our dojo opened. It is very exciting to see people of all ages reaping the benefits of the martial arts. We are also very happy to see how much progress our beginner adult students have made in a short amount of time.
Although I began my martial arts training as a child, I rededicated myself to my training during my college years, and I found that while the benefits I reaped as a child were outstanding, the impact that the martial arts had on my life as an adult were even more profound.
At first I started training because I wanted to be able to defend myself, then I continued training because it was fun, and I began spending more and more time and effort practicing. As my skills grew, I realized I could improve in other areas of my life if I would invest the time and effort. It was really an empowering feeling. For much of my life, I had believed that success was largely a matter of luck or genetics. I believed that hard work certainly played a part, but it wasn’t until I really immersed myself in the martial arts lifestyle that I realized how important of a part. It was a very empowering feeling, to have some sense of control over my success in life.
The only possible downside, it could be argued, was the sense of regret I felt for not applying myself in other areas of life. I felt like if I had worked harder and practiced or studied more, I could have done better in sports or school (although my grades were fairly strong in college, if you’ll pardon my boasting). But even these feelings were quickly appeased, when I realized that now I had an activity in which I could dedicate myself, the martial arts! I couldn’t go back to high school and practice harder before trying out for the team, but I wouldn’t want to, because now I had an activity that I could still practice, regardless of my age or the opinion of any coaches.
As an adult, if I didn’t have the martial arts, I feel that there would be precious few moments to break the monotony of the routine of everyday life. Every time that I enter the dojo, I view it as a big event, a challenge, to see whether I can perform better than last time. Training helps us to stay physically and mentally fit. The techniques of the martial arts depend upon skill, not mere strength or athleticism, so students don’t simply get older, they get better.
This is why I feel like the martial arts provide the greatest activity and personal growth opportunity to both children and adults.