Martial arts can take 10 minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master. A lot of people do not have the patience to master things in their life, such as their martial arts. We either become complacent at our current level or just give up. The exceptional ones know to push through to mastery level.
There is a view that you must commit at least 10,000 hours to an activity before you can truly master it. This is partially true. Rather, it is how you use each and every one of those 10,000 hours that is really important. True experts practice expertly, while ordinary people practice, well, ordinarily.
In class, you hear the instructors use the term “focus” a lot. You will not be able to achieve mastery unless you are doing “focused practice”. How you practice is far more important than how long you practice. While you might perform well, if you are not doing “focused practice”, you will not improve. So, how do you take the steps towards martial arts mastery? We have included some steps below….
Create A Clear Goal
Yes, we know that every self-help guru starts off on this point. And you know what? They are right. Every pilot has a goal before the plane takes off. How would you like to be on a plane where the pilot did not have a clearly defined goal on where they wanted to go?
The goals must be clear. Saying, ‘’I want to get better at martial arts’’ or “I want to defend myself” is not a goal. That is a wish. Saying, ‘’I will be able to apply my grading techniques against anybody in class while doing so in front of my instructors by such-and-such date’’ is a clear goal. If you can be more specific, even better. Once you can truly articulate your goal and believe in yourself, the more focused your practice will become.
Even before class, picture yourself being able to do the moves required for your grading. Better still, start drilling the moves before class. Visualising something…or doing something…activates the right areas of the brain. Once your brain can clearly picture your goal, your confidence will increase, which will help with your “focused practice”.
Motivation To Progress
Those on the path to mastery have clear goals, but they are also highly committed to succeed.
If you want non-stop motivation from external sources (such as your instructor), you really need to understand your ‘’why’’. We always ask new students, “what is important about doing martial arts to you?” The most common answers are self-defence or fitness, which you will naturally learn / get by doing your classes anyway. Others may say they want to get a Black Belt. But is having a black coloured rope around your waist really a motivation?
Instead, focus on what the value will be to you over the long-term. By instilling the virtues you learn in martial arts, by mastering one area of your life (e.g. your martial arts techniques), how will that help you in other areas of your life? Will it make you more confident with life’s other challenges? Will it make you a better person? How will it make you feel?
For me, I may appear confident in martial arts, but I am not a naturally self-confident person. I am a disciplined person. I find that martial arts helps me with my other challenges in life, as I can use that discipline to do what needs to be done, which then helps with my self-confidence. I enjoy that feeling of confidence and “can do” attitude.
Determine now how your “why” will fit into your overall lifestyle.
Our egos often prevent us from asking for help. What happens if you do not like some of the feedback you receive? You cannot achieve mastery unless you have a second set of eyes reviewing your performance. That is what your instructors and the senior belts are here for. They can help evaluate you, as it is really hard to evaluate yourself. So do not be afraid to ask for help.
Given how long I have been training in the Northstar Ju Jitsu system, I would argue that I have received more feedback than most. Some of it is good, some of it is bad. If I got upset at criticism, I would not be where I am today as a martial artist. Take all feedback as a learning experience, then go away and work hard at correcting it.
Another way in which you can get feedback is to look around class, especially during the opening 30 minutes. Have a look at how others are doing their moves. Learn from their mistakes and successes. If you cannot evaluate yourself, the next best thing is to evaluate others.
Put It All Together….Rinse and Repeat
If you cannot focus on the things that are really important to you, is it really important to you? If the answer is still “yes”, develop a mental toughness to never stray from your clear goal. This is where persistence comes in. Engage in “focused practice”. Make sure your “focused practice” is aligned to your “why”. If it is not, it will be hard to maintain the motivation required to put in the 10,000+ focused hours and effort required to achieve mastery.
Oh, and remain consistent. The other part to achieving martial arts mastery is simply showing up to class. If you do this together with focused practice, you will be on your way to martial arts mastery.