Strength & Speed

"If you want something you never had, you have to be willing to do something you have never done."

S&S Articles

Mental Training for Better Marital Arts

Posted by Strength & Speed on May 8, 2021 at 10:25 AM

Daily life isn’t always conducive for martial arts training. I can’t get up in the middle of my office and start spinning the broom in the corner to practice my bo staff training. I also can’t train all day because I have other things to do and because honestly, it can be tiring. However, there are other options to make you a better martial artist that are available that can build upon physical practice. Let’s dive into mental training:


1. Visualization: Psychologist Alan Richardson did a famous study about training people for shooting basketball free throws. The abbreviated version of the experiment is he made three groups. One group practiced free throws, one group didn’t touch a basketball but visualized practicing free throws and the third group did neither. As expected the last group didn’t get better. What may surprise you is the visualization group improved almost as much as the actual practice group. This means using visualization plus training can help take your training to the next level. It is a way of adding additional repetitions when you don’t have time, access or ability to do more. This can help us put a dent in our 10,000 hours quicker.


2. Mirror Neurons: A second way to work on visualization is through mirror neurons. Scientists have discovered when you focus your attention and watch someone perform an activity, you brain actually fires in a way that looks like you are performing the activity. Again, we can use this to our advantage by watching highly trained martial artists perform the activity on YouTube or via the DVDs sold online. I use a mix of both, I like the DVDs because they are longer, usually have more production value and the teaching is organized in a logical manner as opposed to randomly watching YouTube clips.


3. Reading/Listening: I’ve heard that if you want to learn a lifetime of lessons in a day, you should read someone’s biography. There have been a lot of famous and successful martial artists from those featured in movies to those that step into the UFC octagon that have written books. Reading or listening to these can help get your mindset in the right place for both training and real world application. Choose an author that interests you and is closer aligned with your goals for best results. Interested in competing and tournament fighting? Read UFC fighters. Interested in more WuShu or performance based competition? Listen to martial artists from movies. Interested in just being in better shape? Try athletes who are also martial artists. I say listen or read because using audiobooks is a great way to consume more written content whether you do so on your drive to work or a conditioning run.


Overall, there are more ways to practice than just in the dojo. You can use some of the above opportunities to improve but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Being at to perform whether in a competition, a belt test or in a real life situation requires mental fortitude and confidence that is built upon through training. Train hard, but more importantly be consistent and you’ll find your improvement is consistent that will bring you to a level you once thought was impossible.


10,000 Hours of Martial Arts

Posted by Strength & Speed on April 23, 2021 at 9:55 AM

According to journalist Malcolm Gladwell, it takes an average of 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery. Whether you are practicing for sports, music, Obstacle Course Racing or in this case, martial arts he believes this 10,000 hour rule applie.

Critics like to point out examples where people achieve mastery with less practice. However, looking into the theory you’ll notice it states “on average 10,000 hours of deliberate practice”. As an average there will be people who are both above and below that benchmark. Furthermore, if you are just going through the motions (like my sensei calls “traffic copping” ) and not trying to get better that doesn’t count towards the 10,000 hours.


Let’s look at how this applies to martial arts:

1. Even the basics need repetition: How many punches have you thrown in your lifetime? How many front kicks? How many side blade kicks? How many spinning back fists? The point is just because you know the movement, doesn’t make you a master of it. Practice needs to be done to the point not to where you can do it right, but until you can’t do it wrong. During a tournament or a street fight you won’t have time to think. Your body will operate off muscle memory so practice until you can’t do it wrong.


2. Improvement takes time, don’t get discouraged: If you are trying to earn your black belt in as short of a time as possible, remember to be patient and enjoy the journey of learning. Like we said in bullet point one, even the basics need repetition. If you tried to achieve the 10,000 hour rule in a year, you would have to practice more than 27 hours a day…as in…it is impossible. If you train for an hour a day, which seems like a reasonable amount, and never take rest days you’ll hit 10,000 hours in 27 years. Check back here later for how we can leverage mental training to reduce the 10,000 hour requirement. Even the highest degree black belt once started as a beginner. As you stay in a dojo you may find that the appearance of success is simply those that didn’t give up, so stick with it.


3. Improvement takes time and the longer your race the smaller the gains: The longer you do something the harder it becomes to see improvement. Whether you are lifting weights, running or practicing martial arts, you can often see beginners improving every time they step into the gym or dojo. Remember the 10,000 hour rule and bullet points one and two. You are improving, you may just not realize it. There is a reason that dojos have a sensei to guide your instruction. They are helping you along the path in an organized manner providing critique and improvement from an unbiased source.

As with any hobby, skill or job, practice is essential and lots of practice is required to achieve mastery. Work hard, but more importantly be consistent. You’ll find that consistency and time brings the success you are looking for, just remember to be patient.