One of the truest statements that applies to martial arts is “what you put in, is what you’ll get out of it.”
If we assume that it requires 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to achieve mastery of a topic, we can make huge gains by getting an extra 10-20 minutes of value from each practice session. So lets look at a few ways you can make the most of your MMA, BJJ and Muay Thai training.
1. Attend Class Regularly
The more you show up, the more the coaches can observe your habits. Once they identify your behaviors, they can provide more corrections and build upon previous lessons. You will also develop friendships with the other students in the class which will keep you motivated.
Just like learning a language, regular practice is critical.
2. Come in with a learning attitude.
We enter life with a very open mind but as we grow older, we start to close ourselves off. I’ve always found that the people who come in and learn as if they don’t know anything improve the quickest. The individuals who have pre-conceived notions are always slow learners.
3. Engage in Active Learning
Specifically, ask questions , take notes, and reflect on practices.
In all forms of learning, you benefit by writing things down. When you were in college (and paying for it), you took notes. You are paying to learn the martial arts so maximize your learning by taking notes.
Division 1 athletes are told to keep journals that record their thoughts. This helps them to stay motivated as well as identify patterns and problems. You should do the same.
4. Be professional.
Most of us are not professional athletes… but it helps to think like one. Act as if you were being paid to get better and make the most of each practice. Show up prepared with your equipment and on-time. If you think you’re injured, then go to a doctor and find out what’s wrong. Tough it out through minor aches and pains – they’re the natural result of working out.
5. Make a commitment to a goal
Studies demonstrate that early commitment to a subject is one of the biggest factors, in how fast a person improves. Individuals who see themselves as “lifers” not only had a better chance of reaching the highest levels of their field, but they also improved more per training session. In other words, it’s not only that these people were putting in more time, but that each hour was actually more productive.
Likewise, you can mimic this effect by getting “off the fence”, and committing to a goal – whether it is to lose weight or win the World Championship.
6. Be honest about your goals.
Vince Lombardi once said, “The successful man is himself. To be successful, you’ve got to be honest with yourself.” You don’t need to impress anyone. In fact, nothing gets you labeled a BS’er than saying you want goal X and not doing anything about it.
7. Listen to Your Coach
Respect authority and expertise. Remember that we are on the same page. We want you to improve and do better. You want to improve and do better.
8. Think Big Picture
In contrast to the training montages in movies, it takes time to develop your martial arts skills. Developing muscle memory, understanding body mechanics, and other aspects of martial arts take time to develop. Give the natural learning process time to occur.
9. Focus on Fundamentals
Its very popular these days to look for ‘hacks’. Unfortunately, you can only get so far without a solid mastery of the fundamentals. Fundamentals doesn’t mean “stuff that only works on beginners”. It means the “necessary pieces of other more advanced techniques”.
Focus on stance and proper positioning, before you worry about acrobatic techniques.
10. Be prepared to sacrifice.
I once read a program guide for a successful Division 1 wrestling program. In it, the coach clearly states that college consists of three parts: academics, athletics, and a social life. But if you want to be successful, you’re going to have to pick just two (he recommended academics and athletics).
It’s always going to be a challenge to balance all the different aspects of one’s life. Be prepared to pay the price for what you want to accomplish. It can be as simple as giving up 4-5 hours of Netflix a week in order to get to the gym. Or it can be as big as quitting your job to pursue athletics. Whatever your goal is – accept the sacrifice that will be necessary.
11. “If Everyone Did What You Do, Would the Team Become Better or Worse?”
Perhaps the Golden Rule is one of universality. In other words, would the school become better or worse, if everyone acted the way you did?
If you always come late to class, would the school become better or worse?
If you can’t control yourself and injure your training partners, would the school become better or worse?
If everyone keeps asking himself this question, the school will continue to get better and better.
Training in martial arts can be one of most rewarding experiences of your life. Make the most of it!