Regular Attendance - Probably the single most important thing that we can do to be successful in the martial arts is simply attend classes on a regular basis. Most of us are able to look at our schedule and pick two or three times each week that we can set aside for training. Even with a busy schedule or rotating work shifts, we can usually sort it out from week to week to get our training time in.
Support System - Having friends and family that support, or at least accept your commitment to the martial arts is critical to your success. Sometimes the people close to us need to be reminded that this is important to us, reduces our stress, and keeps us physically and mentally healthy. Regular training will improve the quality of our lives and the lives around us, and help us live longer, too.
Positive Attitude - At any point in our journey it’s important to keep a positive outlook on our training, our partners, and our teachers. We all have bad days now and then, but a bad attitude is a direct line to failure. Being optimistic and bringing some enthusiasm to training will not only keep our own energy up, but contribute to an environment that people enjoy being in.
Coachability - One key to longevity in the martial arts is the ability to listen to constructive input from our coaches and senior students. Sometimes we have a tendency to shut down when someone tries to help us improve because we feel like we already know it or just prefer another way. But, we need to remember that people with more experience probably know a little more and can help us to improve. Instead of shutting down we need to see these as an opportunity to grow and get better.
Adaptability - Most of us do start our martial arts journey with some goals in mind. These can vary from one person to the next, but will very likely change as we progress. It is important to adjust our goals periodically, especially once we achieve intermediate and advanced levels in our training. It is very common to get to a certain level in our training and get to the ’_____ Belt Blues.’ This can happen at any of the levels we reach, but it is usually just a time when we need to refocus and grind through whatever is getting us down. The best goal to have is to simply enjoy the training and realize that it will improve the quality of our lives and the lives around us.
We may be faced with other challenges in our training over time including changes to the gym, staff, or training partners. Having the ability to adjust and adapt to these will enable us to continue to enjoy the benefits of training for many years.
Surviving Setbacks - From time to time things will happen that will make it difficult or even impossible to train. This can be an injury or illness, financial challenges, or a change in our family life. Usually, with some effort, we can work around the setback and continue to train. In a case where this just isn’t possible, we should focus on working through our situation and do our best to return to training as soon as we can.
Working Through Valleys - Our progress in the martial arts will rarely be in a straight line. Instead, it will be filled with peaks, valleys, and plateaus along the way. Some days we will be bursting with energy and feel like we’re making great progress. On others we will feel like we’re wasting our time or even slipping backwards. The crazy thing is that often in the times when we feel like we’re doing poorly that we are learning the most, and we are likely on the verge of real progress. Remember that identifying a need for improvement is the first step toward improving. Adults can generally deal with this well, but when children have a bad day or experience a bit of burnout they may feel like they don’t ever want to train again. In this case their parents can help them understand the peaks and valleys and encourage them to continue.
Minimize Drama - Since the martial arts are based in human interactions, we all need to keep healthy relationships with our training partners and instructors. This means being friends with the people there, but also...keeping them in the ’friend zone’. It is not healthy developing feuds with other students or instructors, OR flirting with or dating other students. This kind of thing will likely result in one or more students leaving the gym. Students should also avoid falling into ’cliques’ of friends as this will alienate other students and often breed negativity.
Sometimes a student will enter the dojo who has a personal culture of toxicity. Sometimes that student will start out saying and doing the right things. However, before long they reveal themselves to be someone who enjoys causing drama and making trouble in the gym. When someone begins to do this it is OK to try to gently correct the situation but, if that doesn’t work it’s best to inform an instructor and let them handle it. These students usually wind up leaving the gym.
Stay Humble - As we gain more experience we need to stay grounded and be careful not to let the skills and abilities we gain go to our head. This is especially true when we naturally start to take on some leadership responsibilities in our art. As a more experienced student it is important that we model good technique, behavior, and attitude in training. As someone who newer students will look to as an example, we should carry ourselves in a way that is ’down to earth’ and helpful towards others.
Patience - In long term training we may be faced with some disappointments or frustrations. These can be anything from not receiving a stripe or belt when we think we should, to simply feeling like we’re not progressing the way we should. The best thing to do when this happens is relax and refocus on what we can do to make that thing that we want happen, and less on the expectation that we’ve given ourselves. As long as we do our best to follow the habits noted and enjoy the training, the rest will take care of itself!