My dad always says that there are two main components in martial arts training:
1. Self-Preservation (Self-Defense)
Number one is by far the easier of the two. Self-preservation is relatively straightforward:
Avoid the fight.
Use verbal Jiu Jitsu (see video).
Control the distance.
Hit first, hit hard, and don't stop until your opponent is no longer a threat.
Some key components must be mastered, and of course, there will always be room for improvement, but you can learn to defend yourself fairly quickly.
Self-Perfection is a much longer journey, and self-perfection in our everyday lives is what martial arts is all about.
Peace, Serenity, Balance, Strength, Control, Determination, Discipline, Coordination, Patience, Humility, all of these and many more are to be taught through martial arts. There is so much more to it than punches, kicks, chokes, and armbars. Through the training, we find a means to perfecting ourselves and go back into the world better spouses, parents, coworkers, friends.
If you are not receiving these things through your training, then you need to re-evaluate immediately.
I have been on the mat my entire life but am still and will always be “self-perfecting” on and off the mat. The key to “perfection” is to break everything down into smaller easier steps. If you can figure out how to do this, then you will work more efficiently, and enjoy the journey, no matter how long it takes.
Let's take a look at an example of how we can do this on the mat.
In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I consider one of the most important concepts being to get to the top position (sweep or escape). So if I wake up tomorrow and set a goal that when I train with Joe (who has been kicking my butt every time we roll), I am going to put him in my guard, sweep him, and get the mount, then I most likely will fail. I will be frustrated, miss out on the benefits of training, and leave the mat with stress, anger, and disappointment.
Instead, I should set the goal just to put Joe in my guard.
Once I am successful, take it another level - this week I am going to put Joe in my guard and break his posture.
Then, put Joe in my guard, break his posture, and sweep.
Then, put Joe in my guard, break his posture, sweep, and control him in the mount.
If I take this baby-step approach, I will be much more successful, enjoy my training and receive the full benefits of martial arts while always perfecting myself.
A good example of this approach off the mat is Dave Ramsey's 7 Baby Steps for taking control of your money. I learned about these in a personal finance class in high school and they truly helped shape my approach to personal finance and budgeting as I went into adulthood.
Precision Nutrition also takes this approach with nutrition and lifestyle coaching. My students that go through this 1-year program with me as their coach are slowly introduced to one habit at a time to introduce into their lifestyle and change their approach to nutrition and fitness for long-term success. It is not a diet or sudden workout plan that is put into action. It's baby steps.
Break your goals down, evaluate your training, and make the adjustments needed to ensure you are working towards self-perfection. Many times these adjustments are in our attitudes and mindsets.
Most importantly, enjoy the journey!