Sunday, 23 March 2014

Bluebeltitis

‘Training doesn’t get easier - You get Tougher’.
One reason why some people become derailed along the way in their Martial Arts training is due to a condition known as ‘Blue-belt-itis’. This condition was first explained to me by my former training partner Simon Hayes who is probably the only person to be a multiple black belt in BJJ, Judo & Tae-kwon-do and also an Oscar winner.
This occurs when the student reaches a fairly significant milestone in their martial arts training, for example they achieve their Blue Belt in BJJ or compete in their first amateur fight or they win their first gold medal. What happens next? Suddenly they find lots of excuses not to turn up to training. Lots of injuries that they had previously been training around suddenly show up & make it impossible for them to turn up to class.
Why does this happen? Why do some people go to all this effort & then waste it? Wouldn’t it make more sense to continue with your hard work and keep improving & building on the progress that you’ve already made rather than cutting down on your training or dropping off & pretty much throwing it all away?
Previously my training partners & i believed that the cause of Blue-Belt-Itis was that the newly awarded Blue Belt was now under pressure & had a target on his back. All of his training partners who were still white belts would now be gunning for him trying their hardest to tap him out in every session. The pressure would be too much and rather than coming in to face this pressure on a nightly basis the newly promoted blue belt would suddenly get bogged down with work even though they had somehow managed to make it in to training every day for the last six months leading up to the promotion.
I’m not sure if this idea of pressure from your training partners really explains it all though. I think the big reason is that the student pushed really hard to get to the point where they did their best performance but they just aren’t prepared to keep making anything close to that same effort day in & day out to keep improving or maintain their level.
The truth is that no matter how difficult something is it is always possible to get through it if you just need to do it for a short time. This is the reason why some people can get good results with short term drastic diets but as soon as they stop the diet they go back to a worse position than they were before. Martial Arts isn’t a short term solution like a fad diet, its a long term solution where you are continually trying to make small improvements.
For this reason I always like this quote but not sure where i heard it from. ‘It’s not about who’s best, it’s about who’s left’ Anyone can come in and train hard & rough up their training partners for a few weeks, a few months or even a year. Try to keep doing it consistently for five or ten or twenty years. Its this kind of discipline that makes Martial Arts different from other sports.

Its also possible that the student has reached his goal but has then forgotten about the reasons that motivated him to get there in the first place. Maybe they were doing it all for the wrong reasons anyway. But whatever the motivation was that got them started its more important to focus on all the benefits that they gained from training on the way to achieving their goal (for example, fitness, confidence, weight loss), are they really prepared to throw away all these benefits & the progress they’ve made & go back to how they were before?
To get over all these problems I think its important to look as Martial Arts training as a long term part of your life rather than something that you just do for a short time and then forget about. Receiving a belt in BJJ or any other martial art is just an indication of what level you were at on that day but you need to look at it as a level that you need to maintain & improve upon rather than seeing it as a final destination.



Monday, 17 March 2014

Success in your Martial Arts Training

Why do some people succeed with their Martial Arts training while others never get anywhere?

Over the years of running our gym I’ve seen lots of different students coming through the doors. Many have gone on to be really skilled & some have been successful as competitors & fighters. Others have turned up trained regularly at first then dropped off after a while and are really no better at martial arts afterwards than they were before they started training.
What are the qualities that make the successful competitors improve so much while the other guys don’t get anywhere? Are they turning up for secret invite only training sessions? Are they taking some kind of new supplements that make them better than everyone else? Are they just genetic freaks who are physically gifted with superhuman strength, speed & ability to learn & use martial arts techniques?
The successful people had just the same access to the training sessions, classes & instruction as everybody else. They had the same amount of hours in the day as everyone else. The difference comes down to what the unsuccessful people didn’t do. I have seen many talented people come into the gym who would have gone on to be international competitors by now if they hadn’t done the following things to sabotage their own progress.

A – Lack of motivation & consistency.

As an adult its your job to motivate yourself to turn up to training so you can improve. At first everyone is excited about a new activity when they start doing it. The problem is that when the novelty wears off you need to be able to keep turning up & putting in the hard work. This isn’t a problem if you are just training for fun or recreation. However, if you have ambitions of one day becoming a black belt or a competitor you need to be able to force yourself to turn up to train even on the days when you don’t feel like it & it won’t be as much fun. This is the number one key to achieving success. When kids don’t feel like going to school they are forced to go by their parents & teachers. When you become an adult you are given a choice over what to do with your time however there are always consequences to the choices you make. I’ve never seen anyone improve who doesn’t turn up to train consistently.

B – Waste time working hard on the wrong things.

Spending too much time at Fitness First pumping weights in front of a mirror is really good if your only ambition in life is to take lots of pictures of yourself to put on Facebook. If you are serious about becoming a fighter or a skilled martial artist then its a waste of time. I’ve been doing this a long time & I would advise anyone who is serious about improving their skills to only do weight training or other types of conditioning if you are 100% certain that it won’t interfere with your skill development/ Martial arts/ fight training. People who devote a whole two or three days of their week to only lifting weights end up looking good but they don’t win fights.

C – Taking time off

Sometimes its just impossible to train due to life & work commitments, injury, needing to rest after a long period of training & competing. But even in those situations you have to weigh up the cost of taking time off against the benefits. Ask yourself, does this slight injury really justify taking three weeks off training & losing all the progress that I’ve made over the last nine months? wouldn’t it be better to just come along to class and do whatever I can so at least I can try to keep on improving? If a high school student decided to miss out on three weeks here and there very few months would you expect him to pass his exams at the end of the year?

D – Focusing on the wrong results & being too competitive.

Martial Arts training & fighting often looks like its just two idiots rolling around trying choke or punch each other. The truth is that its usually the smarter people who make more progress. If I turn up for my first ever Jiu-Jitsu class & manage to headlock one of the other guys I might be happy with the result & feel pretty pleased with myself. However, if after six months I am still trying to squeeze out that same headlock then, even if I can tap a few people out, I’ve pretty much wasted six months. Try to avoid relying on your natural attributes. If you are already naturally strong when you start training try not to rely on using strength when you are sparring. Try to use the techniques that you have spent all this time learning. Focus on working on your weaknesses. Winning & Losing in training means nothing, the only people who think it means anything are the same ones who will only ever be able to win in their own gym against their training partners.

F – Not listening to the coaches.

There is only one reason why we as coaches teach certain techniques & give advice to correct peoples movements & skills. It’s because we think what we are showing them will give them the best chance of winning in a fight. When we give advice such as ‘ keep your hands up’, ‘Don’t change stance’, ‘stop trying to bench press your opponent off mount’ its not because we are trying to withhold some secret advanced techniques that you’re not ready for. The real reason is that we want to avoid that awkward moment after you lose a match due to making a stupid mistake where we have to put our arm around you and give you the ‘don’t worry buddy, we’ll get them next time speech’. We want our fighters & competitors to dominate their opponents & win every single time they step on the mat or in the ring. Obviously this is going to be difficult to achieve but you have much more chance of success & improving your skills if you listen, try to understand & act on the advice given to you by the coaches