My stories as I remember them during my journey in the Martial Arts

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Balance Your Training

When injury or sickness interrupts our training it can be very depressing. For those of us who look forward to training and make it part of our daily routine, it is like missing an old friend. Recently I ended up with pneumonia after having a fairly nasty cold; I just kept going along and ignored the shortness of breath, the chest congestion, and fatigue. My body gave me all the signs that something was wrong but I missed the sign posts. By the time my wife had nagged me enough to go to the doctor I was down for the count.

Of course I was upset it is always hard for me to miss training. I am unhappy when I miss my daily routine. How we deal with training set backs though can have a very positive influence on our future training. If it is an injury that puts us on the sidelines we can review how the injury could have been avoided or how modifying training would have prevented an injury. One thing I know at times I am guilty of is over training or starting out into a new training regime with too much enthusiasm. We should always step back and take note of how we are training and listen to what the body tells us. A little twinge in a muscle somewhere that becomes persistent should be followed up on with either a little rest for that body part or trip to an expert i.e.: a doctor, a trainer, a coach, or physical therapist etc.

Now when the time comes that something happens all is not lost. Even a major injury that we know we will recover from can offer benefits. The positive thing about having some down time from training is: that it gives you a chance to catch up on positive and motivational reading. There is no such thing as to much food for the mind. Injury down time can provide a chance to review nutrition and read up any new nutritional advice that might be available. Keeping a training journal can be very helpful and I highly recommend doing so. When there is down time in training this is the perfect opportunity to go over what gaps we have in training and what areas that maybe we find could use more or even less work. Keeping a training journal allows you to go back in time and review what you have worked on and compare old work outs to new ones or come up with ideas for even newer and more innovated training for yourself.
Balance applies to training just as it applies to other areas of our lives. Too much concentration in one area or another can leave you with voids in fitness. For example: too much concentration in aerobic training can lead to atrophy in muscles not used for that training. Strength training is needed for balance. Too much concentration in strength training can leave you gasping for air while sparring or doing katas. If we skip our stretching routines we will lose our flexibility or create an opportunity for injury.

Most Martial Arts organizations will have several areas of training that would all need attention. For example most schools will have a component of self defense, and/or sparring. Many have a component of forms/Kata. Each area needs to have a balance of attention. You might have a preference for one area or another, but the best progress will be realized by balancing your practice and work outs evenly. The exception would be: preparing for a tournament or other type of competition. In these times, of course, you would concentrate on the areas of training relative to the upcoming event. Once the competition has passed, returning to a balance is important.

One area of balance I see many advanced students leave behind is the basics. Regardless of level basics are important and working on basics should always be part of any Martial Artist’s routine. Basic sparring drills, basic form drills and self defense drills should not fall by the wayside in an advanced student’s training. In my own training I most often use some type of basics as a warm up at the very least. I also include basic drills to help with conditioning. When basics are done with intensity they offer great conditioning and will keep skills sharp. Often times during the judging of forms at tournaments I have seen many advanced competitors perform very challenging techniques only to be marred by poor basics. For example a 360 degree round house kick executed very well but then landing in a weak stance. The performances that are done with good solid basics will always stand out. It is always apparent when a competitor has worked on basics, their stances are solid, their basics strikes show power and precision. Many times these components of a form are just as, if not more important than advanced and difficult techniques. During competitions the competitors that have attacked training with balance will have the edge.

Balancing training will avoid injury, keep skills sharp, and help keep progress moving forward. Working on all areas of training creates a Martial Artist that is skilled in every area. Do not neglect basics they are the foundation of the house of skill. Without good basics as a foundation all other skills will collapse, just like a house with a poor foundation. When setbacks or injury do occur take the opportunity work on personal self development. Review your training assets like nutrition, and time management. Balancing training will make for a smooth ride since when any wheel is out of balance the ride gets bumpy, keep all your wheels balanced.


  1. There are always ways to train

    My background is physical education. I recall a study demonstrating at an advanced level mental practice is just as effective as physical practice.

    Thus even in a hospital bed, one may train

  2. I believe that mental practice can certainly enhance performance, but I am not sure it could replace physical practice.