Learn Martial Arts

The #1 Trick to Learn Martial Arts (or anything else in life)

Do this one thing to learn martial arts faster than everyone else

So much of our life is not determined by what we take in, or even what we put out, but the lense through which we view ourselves and the world around us. Whether you want to learn martial arts or if you need to improve in any one area of your life, this applies to you.  Learning is growing, and once you stop growing, you begin dying. This is why it’s so important to let in learning wherever you find it, whether you’re on the mat, in the office, at home, or in the classroom. Learning happens all the time if you let it.

But that’s the big key. You have to let it in. In life, you have to put yourself out there and take chances. You have to take risks. Sure, you can retreat to safety and avoid danger at all costs. But if that’s the case, why ever step into a Dojo in the first place? I have found two monstrous enemies that stops learning.

Learn Martial Arts

#1 You CAN’T learn martial arts if you’re afraid

Of course, the call to learn martial arts may come from something intimidating. Whether you have a bully giving you hell, or you need to overcome some other obstacle, fear may drive you to learn martial arts in the first place. But it takes courage to take that first step and get into the gym for the first time. It takes courage to admit that you’re lost and you need direction. You have to overcome the fear to ask for help. Even once you’re on the mats, you have to be brave to speak up and ask questions. Challenge yourself, and overcome the fear. Ask that first question. Try that new technique. Push through the fear of the pain in that last rep and transcend what you once were. Take that first step. Next time it will be easier, and you won’t be quite so afraid.

If you’ve ever noticed in any classroom, the outspoken students are often the smarter ones (well the more mature ones at least, not the class clowns). They aren’t afraid to speak up. They ask questions. They challenge what they are told. The quieter students are often less successful because they’re so afraid what people think of the question that they ask that they don’t ever learn the answer. But again, take the first step. It will be easier, and suddenly that fear will start to fade. The more you learn, the more confident you become. If you’ve ever taken a martial arts class, you know the feeling of just starting out as a white belt eager to learn martial arts, but surrounded by more experienced students. It’s terrifying! Instead of giving in to the fear, take a chance, put yourself out there, and get closer to those more advanced students that can be so intimidating (as long as the intimidation comes from their skill and experience, not personality. Don’t become a lapdog to a bully.) You’ll be surprised what you can learn from them. Conquer the fear, and the learning will happen. And the more you learn, the less you will fear.

Although the article says 1 trick, I’ll thrown in a couple extra for you here. Don’t worry, they all go back to #1.

#2 Check your ego at the door if you want to learn martial arts!

Nothing holds you back from learning more than assuming you already know it. You may or may not have heard or seen the reference about trying to pour water into a cup that’s already full. If not, just watch the movie The Forbidden Kingdom. I love that movie.

To be honest, I’ve been guilty of this myself. I’ve been a striker for years, but my knowledge of grappling is limited. When I jumped into a BJJ or submission wrestling class for the first time, I expected to do well due to prior martial arts experience. And yes, while athleticism gives you an advantage, it is NOT the same as style-specific skills.

I’ve heard countless times from coaches that they’d rather train somebody with no experience than an experienced martial artist due to the blank slate and open mind they have to work with. Guess what. If you’re walking in the door to a martial arts school for the first time, you’re going to be treated like a VIP. Some of my favorite classes to teach are the beginners. It’s easiest to learn martial arts when you’ve never trained before. There are going to be struggles at first, but the most rewarding experiences for me as an instructor is when a student has a breakthrough.

As with any new skill, the sharpest learning curve occurs for beginners. Because there’s so much to take in, you’re like a sponge soaking up new information. Or at least you should be. But what is more effective and absorbent? A sponge that is already used and soggy is much less effective for cleaning a mess than a brand new one that comes right out of the package. That’s a perfect metaphor for the brain.

Back on track – Whether you’re starting fresh or coming in with experience, listen to your coach. Take their feedback and apply it. If it doesn’t work for you, talk to your coach. Have an open dialogue. Whether you can’t do something because of an injury or different musculoskeletal structure than other people, your coach needs to know to give you alternative training methods. If you feel that a certain execution of a technique is more effective than what you’re being taught, discuss it. Ask your coach to check your technique. Maybe you’re doing something wrong that he can tweak.

#3 To learn martial arts fast, practice, practice practice!

Certain studies have shown in exercise science, that it takes a minimum of 1000 reps of any technique to commit it to muscle memory. So should you jump into my 1000 kick workout? Not right away. That’s something you have to build up to, both in terms of technique, and endurance. Here’s the thing – If you’re exhausted and your technique starts getting sloppy, but you’re just trying to do MORE REPS, MORE REPS, MORE REPS! then you’re going to start adapting compensatory movement patterns, and using muscle groups that you don’t normally use for the technique.  My coach and friend Eric goes over that in more detail in this video in regards to injury. Eventually you’ll start recruiting inefficient movement patterns that do not lend well to long term improvements. That means you need to make each rep the best you’ve ever done.

Wait… what does that mean? That means that you should strive with each rep, to give 100% to the technique. Maybe that means taking it slowly to make sure you’re doing it right. Maybe that means kicking a little higher, a little harder. Maybe that means if you get fatigued, you need to rest. Either way, that means no sloppy reps. You don’t want to develop poor habits. Because it may take 1000 reps to establish muscle memory technique, but it takes about 5000 reps to correct it. So it’s better to make sure it’s right the first time around. So if your coach is a stickler for technique (as I like to be) don’t just take it with a grain of salt. Apply it now, and it will be easier later.

4. Learn Martial Arts in layers

I like to adopt what I call layered instruction. What that means is I don’t teach every single aspect of every single technique from the beginning. Wait, isn’t that contradictory to #3 where you need to commit good habits to muscle memory? Bear with me here. For example, when you do a roundhouse kick, you need to raise you knee (chamber), point your toe, rotate your supporting leg and your kicking leg, drive your hips forward, extend your shin, retract the kick, resume the chamber position, set the foot down. Holy crap, that’s a lot of steps! If you try to focus on every single aspect at once, you’re going to get overloaded and frustrated. Pick one that is going to be your main focus. Once you gain mastery of one aspect of the kick, like hip rotation, move on to the next such as the recoil of the kick. Maintain the hip rotation, but now that you’ve got that down, develop the recoil. You’re not going to have perfect technique when you first start to learn martial arts. But constant improvement is what we’re looking for. That means you don’t want to degrade what you’ve learned already. Gradual, consistent progress is the name of the game. Very often, focusing on one technique, like rotating the supporting leg, will cause others to follow – rotation of the kicking leg, driving hips forward, etc. So it’s all symbiotic. Just like building a house, you lay a foundation, build the frame, then the walls, etc. and finally the finishing touches with furnishings.


What all this comes down to is go ahead and jump in. Take things one step at a time. If you’re afraid to start classes, discuss your fears openly with the coach you’re inquiring with. Is it safety? prior injury? lack of experience? If your coach has a reasonable response to assure your concerns, then check out their classes. However, if you get a response that “Injuries can and will happen” or he’ll pair you up with the most experienced, roughest meat head in the gym, GTFO of there. They do not have your best interest in mind.

If you’re looking for a coach that takes his time to listen to you, Enter your Information Here, and we can touch base. You’ll get a few free gifts as well for taking action and getting started on this journey.

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