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11 Things

You can do to get better at martial arts

Here are 11 things you can do to get better at martial arts faster

  1. 1
     Come To Class REGULARLY
  2. 2
    Take Meticulous Written Notes
  3. 3
    Take Meticulous Mental Notes
  4. 4
     Self Practice
  5. 5
  6. 6
    Practice The Parts Of Martial Arts You Are Weak At
  7. 7
    Challenge Yourself 
  8. 8
    Sign Up For A Few Private Lessons
  9. 9
    Work On Fundamentals
  10. 10
    Think About Competing
  11. 11
    Always Be Practicing


11 tips for beginners

Interestingly, some of my students asks me this question, "How do I become a better martial artist"?  When I teach classes, I often tell students to steal my kung fu. 

First, to become a better martial artist, I want you to realize that it is always the student's responsibility for how much you progress and how much you learn.

In contrast, many times students will put the responsibility on the teacher for whether they are learning or not.  This is the exact opposite of the mindset I want to cultivate.

To begin with, the fastest way to become a better martial artist is to take full and complete responsibility for your own progress.

1.) Come To Class

It is impossible to progress in your martial arts journey without regular attendance. Simply put, there is just too much to learn and not enough time to to learn it. In the beginning, your rate of progress is mostly dictated by how often you attend class. Next, let's say that you are an intermediate student. Now, your progress is determined by how often your instructor can refine and correct the small inconsistencies and mistakes in your form. 

Finally, there are two things that you need to improve faster in the martial arts. First, you need the guidance of your instructor, Second, you need to drill with a multitude of different types of people. Both of these valuable assets can be found in class. 

2.) Take meticulous written notes

So, how exactly does you take full and complete responsibility for your own progress?

Take meticulous notes.

In particular, I'm not talking about written notes, rather mental notes.

When I first stated training in Kung Fu, I was 19 years old and I was not very interested in taking notes. Today, my teacher is no longer with us. I wish I could somehow go back in time and take notes. He gave out gems of knowledge in almost every class. In all probability, I may have retained 50% of the nuggets of information.

3.) Take meticulous mental notes

There is a mental checklist that I recommend you go through whenever one of my own instructors shows a move.

In the beginning, students will only be able to focus on either what the instructor is doing with his hands or they will focus on what the instructor is doing with his feet. However, it is only when you can comprehend a large number of the fine details that you will be able to truly advance in the martial arts.

Of course, once you realize that you are in charge of how fast or slow your progress in the martial arts you can then start to speed up your own progress using the checklist. You can now steal my kung fu.

The mental checklist is as follows:

  • What foot is in the lead? Is it the right or left?
  • Which direction are the instructor's feet facing?
  • Which hand blocked? (Right? Left?)
  • Which hand strikes first (Right? Left?)
  • Did the instructor's feet move? (Advance? Retreat? Side Step?)
  • Is the instructor doing multiple things at once?

4.) Self practice

Next, the second tip is to train on your own.

Martial Arts Tip 2. Self-practice is the core of becoming a better martial artist. In fact, I would go on to say that you CANNOT get to any type of high level in the martial arts without self-practice.

The best way to practice at home? It's not a heavy bag. It's shadowboxing and forms.

Above all, take the time to go through your form once per day. If you do this over the course of just 3 months I guarantee you will improve by at least 100% from where you were.

5.) Visualize

Martial Arts Tip 3. I read and study about how effective visualization can be when performing at high levels. As for me, I can't always remember all of the details. However, I try to remember the key points.

Researchers took a group of people and divided them into 2 groups. They had the fist group visualize throwing a basketball into the hoop. In short, these subjects were only allowed to visualize but not actually practice. However, the second group was allowed to practice with real basketballs and hoops. After a few weeks, they measured the improvement inability to score and the results were nearly identical.

Surprisingly, you can use this exact type of training for martial arts. Sometimes, you don't have to practice with a partner. Instead, visualize an opponent in front of you and go through various scenarios. First, see them throw the punch at you and think about how you would react. Practice counter attacking them and see yourself winning the fight. Do this a few times a week and you will see massive improvement.

6.) Practice techniques you are weak at

Martial Arts Tip 4. As human beings, we want to be successful with anything we attempt. Consequently, it is in our nature to only practice things that we are already pretty good at. However, a great martial artist is well rounded. They can perform well whether they are on offense or defense. They force themselves into uncomfortable situations to challenge themselves.

For example, if the sidekick is your worst kick, then you know what your homework is. (the sidekick). Work on it until it becomes your best move. As part of your training, you could set it up the kick from multiple positions and practice throwing the kick with either leg. Eventually, it will improve and it might become one of your best moves. Once it becomes your best move, move on and choose another kick.

In conclusion, go through your entire system until you have mastered every single kick. This is your path to black belt.


7.) Challenge yourself 

Sooner or later, you will have to make a conscious decision regarding your progress. Once you decide to challenge yourself in every aspect of your training, your progress will take off.

When you first start, you feel like you are always playing a game of catch up. You can feel like you are drowning when you compete against some of your more experienced classmates. Obviously, you are still developing your basic skills. However, there comes a time when you have enough knowledge that you can sit back and become complacent. You need to find the next challenge. Definitely, make sure that anything you are working on is HARD. You want to find techniques and strategies that take you months of work. Ultimately, you can do keep searching for new higher levels of training and opportunities to progress, indefinitely

8.) Sign up for a few private lessons

Generally speaking, Private lessons are a great way to get custom instruction on the parts of martial arts that YOU want to work on. In addition, a one on one session with your instructor will give you both, teaching that is at your pace and  correction on proper execution of techniques.

Furthermore, a private lesson will allow your instructor to communicate a new plan for your next step in the martial arts. Your instructor can give you a plan and method of practice to get you at the level you want to be.

Finally, private Instruction can give you the path to a very fast progression in the martial arts.

9.) Work on fundamentals

To be sure, there is no coach that will not tell you to work on the fundamentals. Your core skills require maintenance to keep them up. Without regular work, your skills in the fundamentals can actual decrease! Yes, you can reverse in progress in the martial arts.

Additionally, if you ever have to apply your skills in a self defense situation, you need to drill the fundamentals to the point when you cannot get it wrong. Remember, in a real life confrontation you will be under extreme pressure. If you haven't put in the work you will not be successful. 

Lastly, fundamentals are fun to work on. You got this far because you love the style and the training.

10.) Think about competing

Basically, one competition can be worth 3 months of training. Preparing for a tournament makes you train harder. You know that the competition date is right around the corner. Your intensity rises in class. This prep phase sharpens your all of your existing techniques.

You will expose yourself to different types of styles and fighters that you just can't work against in class.  

Finally, you can test your favorite techniques against new opponents who have never seen your stuff before. In class, you classmates know how you fight, they have figured out ways to counter you.  In addition, you have figured their game out as well. 

When competing, you know nothing of this opponent, and they know nothing about you.

12.) Always be practicing

In my opinion, if you have to set a time to practice every day you will not be successful. Instead, think about ways you can incorporate practicing into your DAILY routine. For example, while showering, train to hold your Kung Fu stance. Or, try balancing on one foot while you brush your teeth at night. Also, as you sweep your deck, do it as if you are practicing the Shaolin Staff.

Sometimes, our lives are hectic and we do get busy. However, you will be surprised at how much practice you can get in a day if you follow this advice.

Indeed, as teachers, we are always trying to tell students to make martial arts a part of their life. This is the way to do that. In conclusion, take martial arts and use it as a vehicle to improve yourself.

In conclusion, these martial arts tips should help you become the best you can be

As you can imagine, over the 27 years that I have been teaching I have heard all of the excuses. Most people don know this, but I am tired of hearing them. There is only one path to progress in the martial arts. This path is consistency. Did you know that, over the years we have lost more people to life changes than to any other reason? I know that some thing can't be helped. For instance, a divorce or loss of a job. However, To really reach the higher levels of the martial arts you need to set up your life in such a way that will allow for years of constancy. This is the only way you will ever get there.