Plodding along...

I have seen a number of people begin with enthusiasm but who end up quitting at some point down the line. They could have graded to the first belt or be a senior grade, it doesn't seem to matter. With some it is that other commitments take over, with others it can be because they've found a shiny new thing to interest them and their existing training regimen has (to them) become a little tedious.

It is always encouraging to see the effort people put in during class to get to where they are, but after a while it becomes less of a challenge to get techniques right (at least in their mind), and some people start to take it easy during classes and only begin trying a few weeks before they are next due for grading. The best way to keep improving is to listen to the instructors while at class, tuck away any little gems of knowledge they drop as well as noting any corrections or advice they offer. Then later you can practice these things at home between classes. Everyone practices between classes, right?

If you have a class routine of kihon (basics), kata and sparring and find yourself thinking that you can't wait to get through the basics so you can get onto the "good stuff" in later parts of the class then perhaps you are not putting as much effort into your basics as you could be. My suggestion is at this point you should concentrate even more on your techniques - am I punching to my target; is my other hand tight against my side (or where-ever it should be); am I making a good fist. These are some of the things you can check and ask yourself every time. Correcting yourself with the things you know and seeking help for the things you don't is the best way of improving. If you wait to be told, you could be waiting a very long time indeed. A dojo is not a primary school.

In my opinion there are four stages to learning:

  • Unconscious incompetence - this is when you stink at something but don't realise it.
  • Conscious incompetence - you still stink but now you know about it and are working to fix it
  • Conscious competence - now you can do it right while you're thinking about it
  • Unconscious competence - doing it the "right" way has become ingrained as habit.

    My observation is that most people drop out of classes in the second or third stages. Only because to reach the fourth stage can take a long time and by the time you reach that level you've devoted years to your training and development and visiting a dojo to train is as much habit as taking a shower (or at least your training buddies hope so).

    During the second and third stages there are many many things that need to be concentrated on at the same time for any single technique. This can be very difficult to do for some of us. So work on one or two things, get those right then pick up the next couple of things. When everything that contributes to making the technique work effectively has been addressed, well then it's time to go back and re-check it all.

    Personally I find that when I'm training and doing these things, my instructor has the annoying habit of finishing his counting and moving on to the next technique before I'm done with this one. We could have a session which focuses heavily on kihon (basic technique) but still isn't long enough - it's over before you realise it.

    - Mick Todd