Once upon a time, all our ancestors were migratory nomads. Live was very difficult. They traveled from place to place, following the herds of animals, hunting food, scavenging and gathering wild things to eat. It took a long time for them to learn that staying in one place and farming the land and herding their own animals was better and easier. Even today, we feel driven to bounce from one thing to the next. We all hit plateaus in life and feel like “moving on.” Plateaus are times when we don’t seem to improve or where our interests might diminish. We do this in school, in our careers, and in relationships. Imagine how much better we could be at all those things if we “stuck with it.” In martial arts, it is frustrating for us instructors because just about the time that people start to show some modicum of skill, they sometimes move on, never really achieving what their original goal was, not even cracking the surface of what their full potential might be. It’s far better to work through the tough or slow spots to see real achievement. In video games, we often must grind experience to be able to face the boss, but it always makes it easier in the end. Today we call it grinding XP. In martial arts, it is called embracing repetition.
In martial arts, when we earn a new rank, we get to move on to learn new things. This was always a driving force for me. The rank mattered far less to me than the learning new things. I think for most students, this is true.
I love how most professional martial arts schools today have expanded to offer more to their students. In our Black Belt Club, students who have proven themselves as planning on sticking with it, are given the opportunity to train in weapons, sparring, advanced ground fighting, combatives and grappling. In our Master’s Club, they learn new weapons, throws and take-downs as well as all the cool kicks and tricks we see in film. This way, we can keep students interested through the plateaus, so they can work past it. It just makes them better martial artists across the board too. Their skill increases with each thing they practice and their toolbox of abilities is expanded so they are more prepared for potential situations, not just ground fighting, kicking, or boxing situations.
The best way to keep excited about the training is to remember (or to be reminded by trainers and parents), this is how you improve. Count how many times you repeat a technique, just like repeating our ABC’s, repeating our multiplication tables, swimming laps, or running miles, they all make us better. Migrating on to the next thing, just keeps us from reaching our full potential.