The 5 School Principles

Martial arts training is much more than the fighting techniques practiced on the mat. In an authentic martial arts curriculum, the students are developing themselves both on and off the mat. Below you will find five principles described in the FILKENJUTSU manual that we want our students at Progressive Martial Arts Academy to take to heart. 

We are not entirely sure where these began but suspect the origin is in Okinawa and they have been passed down from teacher to student over the years. 

Check out this 1971 "GI Joe Adventure Team Karate Manual" below that lists the "5 main rules of a karate student." The text for this manual was prepared by George Pesare, one of my father's teachers!

Effort

Practitioners of FILKENJUTSU should strive to work as hard as possible - not just some days, but throughout life.

Remember that consistency beats natural talent, so dedicate yourself to the art and show up repeatedly. You'll look back ten years from now and have acquired an incredible skillset due to your effort.

Sincerity

Train for real! If you train just for rank, you will never truly learn the art and philosophy of FILKENJUTSU.

Honestly give your best every class. Be honest first and foremost with yourself. Martial arts is about self-discovery. Then take this honesty into all aspects of your life. 

Character

Be honest and forthright - both in your training and to all with whom you com in contact. 

Develop character through your disciplined training. Show up to class day after day and perfect your technique - this builds the confidence needed to handle potentially threatening situations. You cannot imagine the inner strength and peace that you will gain from this trust in your technique. This confidence is one of the clearest examples of how something you do on the mat will affect your life off of the mat.

Etiquette

We help our fellow students learn. There is no pride in defeating your fellow student in the dojo - remember, we train for defense outside the dojo. Salute your partner before and after they help you in class.

A good martial arts class always begins and ends with etiquette. 

Perfect your character by treating others the way you would want to be treated. That is the true meaning of respect. Treat all you come into contact with this way - your training partners, your loved ones, complete strangers, law enforcement officers, and even rude individuals!

Self-control

The fist is like a treasure in the pocket. A kind demeanor can stop most conflicts. Don't take the initiative to start an argument or a fight. 

Self-control means controlling your actions, despite your emotions. Demonstrate self-control in all aspects of your life, so that you have strengthened that muscle for the most difficult situations.

The Importance of Martial Arts Training for Children

The following is an excerpt from a letter by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, to the President's Conference on the Fitness of American Youth, June 16, 1956:

"We tend to overlook one important fundamental which you emphasized:

That national policies will be no more than words if our people are not healthy of body, as well as of mind, putting dynamism and leadership into the carrying out of major decisions. Our young people must be physically as well as mentally and spiritually prepared for American citizenship."

Well, I guess he made this blog post easy! 

Martial arts and hand to hand combat are some of the oldest forms of activity that we have on record. We are even pretty confident that athletic events like wrestling have existed since the stone age men. They had to figure out how to use strength and skill to provide for themselves, and thus physical combat was necessary for survival.

When you look back in history, you will see close range struggles from the Egyptians to the Greeks, and the Assyrians to the Japanese. Before warfare developed to include long range weaponry, victory came to the strongest people that knew how to fight. Things like courage, bravery, self-respect, strength, and athleticism were encouraged and often necessary. 

Fast forward hundreds and thousands of years to the United States of America (and many other developed countries) and you will find a country full of individuals who expect to be protected. We assume that nothing bad will happen to us. The police protect us from the bad guys. The military protects us from invading countries. Even those in the military have said that they feel protected from hand to hand combat because of their weapons, drones, and machinery.

While all of these things are partially correct, the world is still full of individuals who can cause harm to you or your family, and there will not always be someone or something there to protect you.

Martial arts training is an incredible way to prepare a child (or and adult!) for combat, as well as for life. Due to its rigorous nature, a child growing up in the martial arts must learn to overcome failure and develop coordination, poise, and efficient use of their body. The physical and psychological benefits are tremendous.

At our academy, we introduce a student to the difficulties they will face in the martial arts gradually so that even the shyest and most timid boy or girl has a chance to overcome their fears and benefit from the practice of the arts.

For example, a student will practice defending against a strike in the air before doing it with a partner. Then a student will learn to defend against strikes to their body, before dealing with strikes to their face or head. This training allows the confidence to build gradually, so they have the tools to overcome anything.

Learning to grapple against other kids develops physical attributes that you see many other species in the animal kingdom develop in their youth. Imagine a couple of bear cubs wrestling with each other. This training will produce mental preparedness for other challenges through youth and adulthood such as bullies, social hierarchy, joining the workforce, and handling themselves with confidence and patience in arguments. Most importantly this hones their self-discipline and self-reliance.

Competing in the martial arts, like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, brings out essential qualities such as the drive to succeed and learn from failure, strong moral fiber, and courage.

We see children that may have been previously labeled as awkward, weak, or shy overcome their fears and develop their weaknesses. We don't change their personality, but allow them to highlight their positive attributes and strengthen their weaknesses.

Unfortunately, many children stop training martial arts during their teenage years due to other aspects of their lives competing for their attention, such as sports, extracurricular activities, friends, dating, driving, and even jobs. This timeframe is an ideal time to teach young men and women martial arts, especially competitive sports such as wrestling and jiu jitsu because this is such a formative period in their lives.

While team sports offer significant benefits as well, the individual nature of martial arts gives the student an opportunity for self-expression that may not be available in other activities. And while their training partners and teachers are vital components of their training, once they enter a match with another student or opponent, the outcome is entirely in their hands. 

In a fight, there are not any timeouts when it gets tough, and the battle must be won with a student's intelligence, skill, and pure determination. Martial arts training will teach your child to take the initiative in stressful situations and control their body in physically demanding situations. It will provide them with mental alertness, physical toughness, and the courage to get back up when they fall.

I remember Ryron Gracie stating once that there are two activities that his children will not have a choice in learning and practicing - swimming and martial arts. About 70% of the earth's surface is water-covered, and thus children should learn to swim. Over 7 billion people are living on this earth, and thus children should learn how to defend themselves.

The need stated by the president above is even more evident in today's world than it was in his time (although I wasn't around then to be sure). I'll leave you with our mission statement at Progressive Martial Arts Academy:

1. To enrich our students' lives through the study of martial arts.

2. To strengthen our community by developing the character of our young students.

3. To uphold and pass on the techniques, traditions, and philosophies of the martial arts as taught to us.

4. To present a progressive martial arts curriculum and fighting style in a safe manner, with respect for all individuals, resulting in a calm, confident, and courageous student.

Please share with someone who needs to get their kids into martial arts!

Maximize Your Repetitions - 5 Tips to Get the Most Out of Every Training Session

In January of this year, our Youth Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition team began ramping up their training in preparation for their next tournament. We set our sights on NAGA Atlanta on April 29, 2017.

The team was now 19 members strong but all of the kids would either be competing for the first or second time. Thinking back to our last tournament in October however, I sat down to lay out the curriculum for the next few months by trying to do more of the things that led to success at the last tournament, and fix some of the errors our kids were making the most.

It's an interesting process because there are thousands of techniques and variations they will learn in the coming years.  I have to boil these thousands down to the most essential techniques to learn in the limited amount of training sessions between January and April.

So with this limited amount of time and practice, one of our themes at competition practice has been "Maximize your repetitions." The kids must have heard me say this 100 times over the last few months.

You only have a limited amount of time on the mat to practice the techniques being taught to you. Each repetition needs to be maximized, and I believe most of the time they aren't. 

What does it mean to maximize a repetition? 

It means to learn the most you possibly can from each repetition. 

Here are five tips to maximize every repetition on the mat:

1. Fully Engage Your Mind

Fully engage your mind to the smallest of details of the technique and analyzing them. We often just go through the steps without any thought as to why we are doing them, or what makes them work.

2. Learn Both Sides of the Fight

You can learn twice as fast if you also analyze what the person on the other end could do to stop this technique from happening. You can often learn to counter most techniques by just thinking about what makes the technique work.

Example: If you are learning a collar choke, and the first step is to open the collar with one hand and feed a deep collar grip to the other hand to keep the opponent close,  then we could deduce that if we are the other guy we should immediately establish posture and prevent our opponents from getting deep collar grips. Understand? 

You can do this with every technique and learn twice as fast. While most students are learning one side of the fight, you are learning both.

3. Practice Full Speed*

*Note: Full speed should be the fastest that you can do the technique smoothly without losing any of the details.

Try the technique at a faster pace to see what it will feel like when done in a live scenario. Often mistakes are disguised by speed (we'll talk about this more in another post), so be careful not to lose any of the details.

If you catch yourself leaving something out, figure out why, slow it down, and get that piece back in there. This will also help you realize which details are the most essential, and potentially find new details that make the technique work for you.

4. Don't Goof Off

Training is incredibly fun. Don't let yourself relax too much on the mat though and waste valuable practice time. It isn't good for you OR your partner.

5. Practice Kata & Randori at the Appropriate Times

In Japanese arts, training is divided into "Kata" and "Randori." 

Kata is the technique practice. This is where you learn a technique and practice it in the air or on a partner. At this time, no resistance should be included. The partner should set the technique up perfectly for you, and you execute it as close to perfect as possible.

Randori is the live practice or sparring. This is where you and your training partner have different objectives, and you are no longer just allowing your partners to practice the techniques.

Both of these are vital to success but do not confuse or blend the two. During technique training, do not try to stop your partner from being able to do the technique, and don't ask your partner to give you resistance either. That also means that you should strive to keep the technique refinement out of the randori practice. Don't stop a sparring session to ask about a technique, or correct your partner's technique. This can be done later and is not very beneficial. 


At both tournaments I have taken our kids to now, I have had referees, other coaches, and parents let me know how impressed they are with the PMA team. The kids act like total pros, and their technique is improving so quickly. I am unbelievably proud of them all and having more fun than I ever could have imagined coaching this team.

Check out a couple of matches from this past weekend's tournament:

Match #1 - Grady Fox

Grady was one of our most dominant competitors this weekend. You can always see the determination in his face, and he is focused from start to finish!

At eight years old and weighing in at a little over 40 pounds, he is usually fighting kids a little bigger than he is, and this match falls into that category. He went undefeated in his matches to win double gold in gi and no-gi!

Match #2 - Alex Torres

Two of our competitors, Alex Torres and Aiden Hemsley, did not have anyone in their division registered, so we chose to bump them up in skill level to the Intermediate division.

Alex's first match was a kid older than him with a couple of years of high school wrestling experience. The referee told me afterward that he thought Alex was going to get obliterated! Once the fight hit the mat, Alex's Jiu Jitsu took over, and he controlled the positions on his way to a 15-2 win. Alex went on to earn a silver medal in both gi and no-gi in the Intermediate division!

 

 

 

If at first you don't succeed, try again. And again. And again.

Full disclosure: I cannot do a pull-up.  Not one single, half-hearted, with a running start and a jump, legs swinging pull-up.  And it is the most frustrating thing.  Why?  Because I’m trying.  And I’m still not where I want to be.

It’s also okay.  Why?  Because I’m trying.  And that’s what matters.

Some days it doesn’t feel like that’s enough.  When my arms feel like jelly from the effort I’ve put into my upper body workout and my hands are blistered from gripping the pull-up bar and my abs are screaming from the exertion of trying and failing to pull my lanky, 6’, 180 lb. body up to a metal stick that I’m sure is about to rip from the ceiling despite assurances from professionals that it’s safely and solidly welded to the frame of the building, trying doesn’t feel like nearly enough.  But, as long as it’s my best, it is.

A year ago I couldn’t jump up and hang from the bar.  I’d leap up and my hands would smack the metal, but my upper body strength was so little that I couldn’t even grip the bar before falling.  So instead of focusing on pull-ups, I focused on improving my upper body strength in general.  I started doing body weight exercise, and wouldn’t you know it, six months later I still couldn’t do a pull-up.  But...I could jump up and grab the bar. 

Of course, I still wasn’t strong enough to dead hang.  I’d leap up and grab the bar and then as my weight came down, gravity would try to rip my shoulders from their sockets and I would come crashing back down to the ground and the harsh reality that I still had a long way to go before I’d achieve my goal.  So after eating my feelings, I increased my upper body workouts and added some additional core work.  Three months later...still no pull-ups.  But...I could jump up, grab the bar, and dead hang.

I could also do an assisted pull-up.  I was still not where I needed to be, but I was making progress - all because I never stopped trying.  If I’d let myself become defeated the first time I realized couldn’t do a pull-up, I would never have gained the strength to jump up and grab the bar.  If I’d given up the second time I tried to do a pull-up, then I wouldn’t be strong enough to dead hang.  If I’d given up the third or fourth or fifth time I tried, my push-ups/planks/sit-ups wouldn’t have improved.  If I’d quit after the tenth or twentieth try, I wouldn’t be able to do an assisted pull-up.  If I’d stopped trying the hundredth time, I would never have been able to do a flexed hang.

Some days, all we can see is what we can’t do or how far away we are from our goals.  But if you stop trying you’ll never discover what you can do or see how far you’ve come since you started.  So when you feel like you’re  facing an impossible goal, don’t give up and don’t get in your head.  Give it your best, every time, and never stop trying.  I can’t do a pull-up yet, but I’ll let you know when I get there.  What are some of the “impossible” goals you’re working toward now? 

You Are Normal

Do you ever get home from work or school and not feel like going to class?

So do I.

Do you struggle to follow healthy nutrition guidelines and find yourself tempted by junk food at every waking second?

So do I.

Are you nervous about starting martial arts because you're afraid you'll make yourself look like a fool?

So was every martial artist out there, excluding maybe those who began training when they were too young to care!

Do you get nervous about sparring because you are afraid of performing poorly and getting hurt or embarrassed?

So do I.

Do you look in the mirror and think negatively about your image?

So do I.

All of these things are just part of being human. And we all have people that we think are superhuman that we put up on a pedestal but guess what - they are just like you too.

Now it is true that some people seem to have everything figured out in areas of life that you are struggling in. They are just further along in that aspect of the journey, but they were where you are at some point. And in other areas of their lives, they won't be quite as far along.

Plenty of highly successful business people are overweight.

Many famous people have unstable lives.

Tons of professional athletes and musicians struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Many people that make millions of dollars go broke.

Lots of incredibly fit people have poor relationships with their friends and family.

In many cases, high levels of success in one area of life leads to other facets being neglected. We act surprised when we see someone that seems to have "had it all" fall apart, but it's because we forget to see that they are just human beings. 

We are quick to judge and criticize others because it makes us feel better.

When we talk about how much weight someone has put on, we feel better about our fitness journey. When we gossip about someone's personal life, it comforts us.

So next time you catch yourself rationalizing why you shouldn't go to class tonight, get up within 5 seconds and go. Even if it isn't time yet! Go early and practice or update your notebook. 

When you start convincing yourself why you shouldn't start your martial arts training, fitness program, nutrition plan, etc. yet, get up within 5 seconds and start. Don't wait for Monday. Take the next small action you can take towards beginning.

When you find yourself putting someone down, thinking you are better than someone, or participating in gossip, stop right away and intentionally do something positive for that person instead.

All of these thoughts and actions are human things, but our goal should be to strive every day to be a better human. That is the "Martial Arts Way of Life." Don't let the fact that it's "normal" help you rationalize staying where you are.

The fact that you are normal is comforting. Realize you aren't alone. It feels good, doesn't it? Be kind to yourself. Now, since all of these things are normal - strive to be weird!

For more on this, check out one of my favorite pieces from Precision Nutrition - 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/that-fit-person-whos-got-it-all-together-doesnt

Is Jiu Jitsu Dead?

This is an article I wrote seven years ago that was published on GracieMag.com. Let's revisit it, and at the end, I'll address if anything has changed since then!

With the results of the most recent UFC event, people are already starting to pop the question, “Is Jiu Jitsu dead?” 

We watched Renzo Gracie get obliterated on his feet, BJ Penn had his belt taken from him on his feet, and Damian Maia lost his title shot to what started as a very impressive performance but turned into three rounds of running around the ring by Anderson Silva. 

Renzo Gracie, BJ Penn, and Damian Maia – you would be hard-pressed to find three better men to represent the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the UFC. So is this the end of an era? 

Jiu Jitsu dominated the UFC in the early years, was it just a phase?

Let’s imagine for a second that football has been around since the beginning of time, but all anyone ever did was a passing game. Then, all of a sudden in 1993 a team came out with a running game, went undefeated and won the super bowl. 

For the next few years, other teams started implementing running games into their arsenal and before you knew it – EVERY team had at least some running game in their playbook. 

Now, this year in the playoffs all of the matches were running teams versus passing teams. All of the passing teams won. After so much success, should we stop using the running game? It seems ridiculous to even ask such a question. Of course not, on this night the passing teams had the running teams numbers, and nobody could do anything about it. They just came out with a better strategy and implementation.

Jiu Jitsu is not dead, not by any means. In fact, there were some aspects of those fights last night that proved how alive it truly is. 

Anderson Silva and Matt Hughes, arguably two of the best fighters in the history of the sport said that there was no way they were going to the ground. They trained to keep that fight on the feet, just as the jiu jitsu players trained to get it to the ground, the Jiu Jitsu players just couldn’t pull it off. 

If anything is to be taken from these fights, it is the evolution of all martial artists. Jiu Jitsu in the United States has evolved tremendously. Fighters are taking the words of Bruce Lee to heart and using no way as way. Matt Hughes' Jiu Jitsu includes more aspects of fighting than Royce Gracie’s. His wrestling skills combined with the training he has in Jiu Jitsu enabled him to take out some of the best of the Gracie Family.

So what will I train? I will continue to train my jiu jitsu skills, both the sportive aspect as well as the street. I will continue to train my standup skills, but I will not limit myself to Boxing or Muay Thai, my standup will include Kenpo, Kali, Wing Chun, Muay Thai, Western Boxing, Wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, Judo, and other martial arts that our family has incorporated into what we teach.

Where we believe some schools error is in calling their singular art “THE WAY.” There is no way, and once someone starts to tell you that this is the way, and no other martial arts are worth learning, be wary. 

However, don’t be fooled by the hype of the outcomes of these fights, on any night anything can happen. Watch them, appreciate their place as a competitive sport in which some aspects of the martial arts can be proven on the canvas battleground, and continue to train a very well-rounded program. 

Jiu Jitsu is not dead!

So 7 years after posting this article, has anything changed? If we look at that stats it seems that more fights (while still close) are being won by the strikers rather than the grapplers. 

Check out this post from my father:

No this does not mean Jiu Jitsu is dying but in fact the opposite. More and more fighters are learning it, which makes them much better at defending against it. Why are they learning it? Because the early success of Jiu Jitsu in this format proved it is a necessity.

However, every round starts standing up, and this plays into the hands of the striker - the fight starts where they want to be, so they just have to avoid letting the grappler get it to where he wants to be.

So, what are you training? Are all three sides of this triangle covered? If not, there could be a huge hole in your ability to fight in all scenarios.

Size Definitely Matters

When a new Jiu Jitsu prospect walks in, my favorite part of our interaction is watching their reaction when I tell them Jiu Jitsu allows a person to use momentum and leverage to control a much larger opponent.

The reactions are always a mixed bag, but my favorites are the faces of people who consider themselves at a physical disadvantage - whether it’s because of their gender, strength, or height - as they alight with hope or excitement.  On the other hand, my least favorite reaction, unfortunately, is probably the most common one: the non-believers or skeptics.
    
As a woman, sometimes they target their disbelief specifically at me. “There’s no way you can throw me!”  “You really think you can hold me down?!”  
    
Sometimes, their reaction is born from fear.  They want what I’m saying to be true, but whether from their imaginations or respective experiences, they can’t quite bring themselves to trust me - or, as a result, the technique.  “Are you sure this will work?  I don’t know.”  “Well, what if they do this? Then this? Or this? What about this?”

Whatever their reaction - excited or skeptical - every person eventually finds their way here: “They’re too big.”
    
Some prospective students acknowledge this right off the bat.  They see a room full of men and women of various sizes, but they zero in on the bodybuilder that looks like he could bench press a semi and, oh yeah, just happens to be seven feet tall.  They take one look at that guy, and think, There’s no way I can use leverage to control that guy.  He’s huge!

Some people have enough success with training partners similar in size to silence the worries in the back of their heads about bigger students.  These people usually start to doubt their abilities when techniques that have worked perfectly on smaller partners don’t work as well on larger opponents.

Their concerns are not without merit, and here’s why: size DOES matter.  Read that again if you need to, but don’t panic because while size absolutely matters, it CAN be overcome with technique. 

Here’s how I want you to think about this.  If an untrained person with the size and strength of a tank walks into a dojo and rolls with a smaller, well-trained opponent, the smaller man can win.  Take a look at this video to see this theory in action:

Now, if a trained person with the size and strength of a tank walks into a dojo and rolls with a smaller individual who is also well-trained, size is going to matter.  It can still be overcome with technique, but it will be harder.  The larger person has an advantage because they have size AND skill on their side.  
    
A perfect example of this is to watch one of the match ups between Mackenzie Dern, who is arguably the number one pound for pound female black belt in Jiu Jitsu, and Gabi Garcia, another talented BJJ black belt competitor who outweighs Mackenzie by nearly 100 pounds.
    
They’ve competed against each other multiple times with different outcomes.  When Gabi Garcia wins, Mackenzie Dern is still able to hold her own during the match.  Check out the video below to watch Mackenzie come up victorious in a match against Gabi at the 2015 Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu Jitsu Championship.

Sometimes, size does matter, but it can be overcome.  So don’t let that discourage you; let it challenge you.  And don’t let it make you a skeptic; let it make you excited!

Who Should Train Martial Arts?

“I wish I could train martial arts.”  

“I would train, I just have this __________ problem.” 

“There is no way that I could fit training into my schedule.” 

“I want my kids to train but…” 

Tonight, I thought back through my day and realized there are very few things that should keep someone from learning martial arts. Usually, the excuse given is out of fear or stubbornness but rarely should prevent them from training.

Here was my teaching schedule today:

10 AM - Beginner's Jiu Jitsu Class - Average Age of 40 with a myriad of joint issues, back problems, tight schedules, etc.

11 AM - 33-Year-Old Female - Takes time off from work to learn self-defense and relieve stress.

12 PM - 56-Year-Old Male - Private Lesson - This individual also uses his lunch break from a stressful 60-80 hour work-week career to learn the martial arts. Often wears a knee brace or pads to support his knees after having a surgery years ago.

12:30 PM - 67-year-old Male - Private Lesson - Trains martial arts to learn self-defense as he is sometimes involved in physical altercations with unruly patients at the hospital he works at and wants to be able to defend himself while controlling a patient without bringing them harm. Thus, he trains in Jiu Jitsu - The Gentle Art.

5:15 PM - Juniors Class (Ages 8-12) - These kids range from very athletic and outgoing to shy and physically weaker. Their parents come from all walks of life, and for some, the tuition for their children is but a small dent in their monthly income, and others work very hard to scrape together the money to get their child in the martial arts. For all - it is life changing.

6:30 PM - Adult Kenpo Class - The youngest in this class currently is 16 years old, and our oldest is 71. Some have issues jogging, jumping, kicking, etc. due to various health problems or injury, but all find a way to push their limitations and enjoy their training. 

These were just the classes I taught yesterday, but other instructors at PMA taught others. We have students with autism, cerebral palsy, asthma, chronic injuries, and many learning disabilities. We have moms, dads, teachers, doctors, lawyers, mechanics, engineers, scientists (it is Oak Ridge!), butchers, veterinarians, salespeople, mail carriers, college students, police officers, entrepreneurs, pharmacists, military personnel, security guards, retirees, children, and everything in between.

Anyone can train martial arts.

Everyone that trains martial arts will run into obstacles and limitations, but part of the journey is the ability to overcome these perceived barriers. 

Martial arts empowers people of all ages to live their lives to the fullest and enables them to conquer the same obstacles and stress of their daily life that we all face. 

The intent of this article is to motivate those that have hesitated to begin their martial arts journey due to certain limitations and motivate those that may have quit training for one reason or the other. 

Check out this video published by Ryron and Rener Gracie last week emphasizing a critical point:

If you are training now, keep it up! When obstacles present themselves,  handle them accordingly but never let them stop you from training for the long haul.

See you on the mat!

Using the “10,000-Hour Rule” and the “20-Hour Rule" to Your Advantage

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of “Outliers,” proposed years ago after studying experts in many different fields that on average it takes a person 10,000 hours to achieve excellence at his job or hobby.

This concept is so important for us to remember as martial artists. It helps to prevent frustration along the journey when we are not improving as fast as we think we should be. It’s a long process, and it takes a ton of practice, but time is going to pass anyway so why not be a talented black belt in a martial art ten years from now?

It helps to remember the five steps to learning martial arts (or anything!): 

1. Learn
2. Practice
3. Master (Mushin)
4. Functionalize
5. Maintain

If we have adopted the martial arts way of life, and plan on continuing to train martial arts after receiving our Black Belts (maintain), then what is the rush?

Every practice will be focused on improving your skill and technique, regardless of the color belt that is around your waist. So take your time, enjoy the process, and keep chugging along towards your 10,000 hours.

Now, this past week I’ve been talking about a concept from this video I recently watched about learning anything in 20 hours. The concept is that the 10,000-hour rule came from looking at the elite performers in a given area, but if you are a white belt walking into your first martial arts class the situation is entirely different.

While it may take you 10,000 hours to become an Olympic Gold Medalist like Helen Maroulis, within 20 hours, you could learn to wrestle really well compared to where you are right now. I have seen it happen so many times with new students.

Without a doubt, a new Jiu Jitsu student after 20 classes would demolish their former selves in a grappling match. After just 20 lessons! But they won’t often see it that way because they are too busy comparing themselves to the other people around them who are also improving every class, and many of whom are farther along the journey then they are.

So I propose that you keep both the 10,000-hour rule and the 20-hour rule in mind, and use them to your advantage. Remember that it will take 10,000 hours to reach excellence, but 20 hours of solid practice can make a huge impact on your skill level. 

Since you are likely already 20 hours into your martial arts training, you should use this rule for more specific skill-sets within the martial arts.

Want to get better at kicking? Spend 20 solid hours working on your kicks this month, and I bet there will be a huge improvement.

How about guard passing? Spend 20 hours this month practicing your guard passing with a partner, and starting every roll inside your partner’s guard. There will be a massive improvement.

Want to improve your forms? I think you get the idea…

It is normal to get frustrated with your progress, but when was the last time you spent 20 committed hours to developing or improving one skill? Next time you see an area in your life that could use some improvement, don’t whine about it. Fix it!

You don’t need the perfect workout plan or a magic diet. There usually aren’t any secrets behind the curtain, just many hours of hard work and discipline. Sometimes 20, and sometimes 10,000.

And if you haven't started your martial arts journey yet? What are you waiting for!?

3 Things to Avoid Saying to Your Training Partner

It’s hard to believe that I have been training for over ten years now!  When I first started my martial arts journey, I was an awkward seventeen-year-old who thought Jiu Jitsu would be the perfect fit for someone like me - gangly and graceless and likely to trip on air.  I figured if my training started on the ground, my lack of coordination and surplus of clumsiness wouldn’t be noticeable.  

I was right and wrong.  My lack of grace was, and is, very much noticeable, but despite this, Jiu Jitsu was perfect for me.  And from it, my love for training expanded into other areas of martial arts.

Brittany sparring with her friend and training partner, Elizabeth, at 17 years old.

Brittany sparring with her friend and training partner, Elizabeth, at 17 years old.

Now, with ten years of experience under my belt, I can say a lot has changed - both for me personally and for the dojo that I call my home. 

Personally, I have grown faster, stronger, and healthier.  I’ve received a wealth of information that has improved every aspect of my well-being, from my knowledge base and execution of techniques to mental strength and peace of mind. 

I’ve also acquired a number of valuable friendships and acquaintances over the years.  I’ve had the privilege of training with partners of every shape, size, age, gender, skill level, temperament, etc., and I deeply value the relationships that are built among training partners.  

You have the ability to learn invaluable tips and tricks from them, and the honor of returning the favor with helpful skills of your own.  Your training partner is there to help you, encourage you, and constantly challenge you.  Training with others forces us to be vulnerable (it’s how we learn and grow as martial artists!), and because of this, there is a level of mutual trust and respect that is necessary for any training partnership to be healthy and beneficial.

Many things can get in the way of a healthy training relationship - ego, pride, and hygiene are a few that come to mind - but the way we talk to and about each other is paramount when building the rapport needed to maximize our mat time.

I can speak from my own experiences, both positive and negative.  I have unfortunately put my foot in my mouth more times than I’d care to count, and I’ve also been on the receiving end of a few too many well-meaning “can you believe a girl did that?!” jokes.  From these experiences, I’d like to share a few basic comments or quips that I’d love to see leave the mat.

1. Compliments are appreciated - patronizing is not.  

Please don’t compliment your partner’s technique and then undermine it by telling them you were really/actually trying to escape or maintain the position.

While the sentiment can be appreciated, I know personally that I will always try my best in class and hope my partners will do the same.  Please follow the instructor’s directions where intensity and resistance are concerned within a specific drill.  If he or she tells you the goal is to maintain the mount, please give it your all and assume your partner expects that of you.  While there may be some exceptions, you typically won’t need to tell them.  The favor will be returned when you switch top and bottom.

2. Please do not comment about anyone’s fight/feistiness to them or anyone else.

I hate overhearing one training partner telling the other that they “have alot of fight” in them during a roll.  It’s a pet peeve of mine that might come second only to hearing someone warn the class to “watch out - she’s/he’s a feisty one!”  

Always assume that your partner’s skill has more to do with their focus, execution, and consistency in training than their feisty personality.  Your partner might have successfully landed that sweep only after weeks or even months of practice and failed attempts.  Don’t take away from their moment of success by belittling their hard work.

3. Let the instructor be the instructor. 

I know it can be hard, and it almost always comes from the best of intentions, but try to avoid coaching or teaching your training partner - especially during sparring/rolling.  When your working technique with someone, it’s natural to point out a tip you use to make something smoother or share something someone told you that helped you remember which side your blocks start on or which hand goes on top in a Palm Up - Palm Down choke, but don’t overdo it.  

Don’t spend the majority of your practice time breaking the technique down for your partner, and try not to ruin their enjoyment by pointing out too many mistakes they’re making in the technique they just learned five minutes earlier. 

Avoid slowing down the flow of a roll or the momentum of a sparring session by stopping to point out something to your partner.  Instead, try to remember the details to discuss after the training session is done so you can both get the most out of your randori.  

Something that goes hand in hand with this is focusing on your own training.  Don’t play down your partner’s recent improvements by saying things like, “looks like someone’s been getting some extra training” or “you must have learned that in a private lesson.”

Instead of making excuses for why someone’s forms might be looking sharper or why someone is suddenly having success completing all of their arm bar attempts, try taking advantage of the training opportunities that are available to you.  Try maximizing your repetitions in class as an alternative to worrying about how much mat time other people are receiving. 

Let the instructor worry about teaching and keeping track of everyone’s material while you simply enjoy the class.

At the end of the day, no matter our respective motivations, we all just want to have the best training experience possible.  In order to learn and improve, we have to help each other - as training partners, as peers, as human beings.  Communication, among other things, can help build mutually beneficial and strong relationships with our training partners and even our instructors. 

So let’s build each other up and encourage each other with our words as well as our actions!

Do you have any other comments or habits that you'd like your training partners to stop doing? Or maybe something you enjoy that you'd like to see more of? Leave me a comment below!