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There is way too much to learn during martial arts training! Countless strikes and takedowns along with the defenses to each of them; Thousands of submissions, sweeps, reversals, guard passes, drills along with an infinite amount of ways to blend all of the above together. That’s not even counting the many different strategies a martial artist can put to use during competition. I’m going to share with you the most important training tip of all when it comes to progressing as a martial artist:
When you learn something that is useful, never forget it!
In fact you need to do more a lot more than that. You must become obsessed with blazing that information into your brain so that you’ll have it with you forever. Not some or most of the thing you want to remember; I’m talking ever single minute detail that makes a martial arts technique what it is. Always act as though you will never be taught that same thing again and that if you forget even the smallest technical detail, it will be rendered completely useless. It’s going to take plenty of thought, lots of writing/reading, some listening and a crazy amount of repetitive practice to do so but like I tell my students:
“Champions put in overtime!”.
Winners practice both when they feel like it and when they don’t feel like it. Nobody accomplishes great things in martial arts or life in general without doing way more than the people that come up short of reaching their goals. Fortunately, if you really love the sport then martial arts overtime is not as dreadful as the regular kind of workplace overtime. Well maybe it is, considering the bumps, bruises and lingering injuries you’ll sustain along the way. Regardless, it needs to be done if you want to become the best martial artist you can be.
Many martial artists today are spoiled and lazy!
They have access to so much technique but rarely take full advantage of it. They can learn skills at seminars, via online resources, from their own instructors, by training with great training partners and a number of other places as well. But again, they often don’t take things seriously enough to improve their skills rapidly. They skip out on seminars, train occasionally, avoid training with people that challenge them and wonder why they aren’t progressing as fast as they would like.
When I first started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu back in 1994 there wasn’t one single BJJ instructor in the entire country! I learned the art –for the first 4 years– by studying the few BJJ Instructional VHS tapes that were available on the market at the time. After that, when instructors came up to Canada to teach seminars in the mid to late 90’s I attended them every chance I got. In fact I can still share with you the most useful techniques I learned at those events nearly two decades ago.
It’s pretty crazy that some students allow themselves to quickly forget what they practiced last week in class and are only able to flawlessly perform a small percentage of the techniques that they’ve learned since beginning their training. Without a doubt a huge amount of valuable time and energy has been wasted especially by those looking to pursue professional MMA fighting as a career in the future; A job that essentially triples the amount of techniques one needs to learn in order to compete at the highest levels.
I’m going to share with you one of my secrets to learning things fast and remembering it very well. Putting this information to good will help you on your way to becoming a master at whatever martial art you have a passion for. I’ve used it to develop striking, wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skill as well as abilities outside of fighting such as acting, bo staff skills (watch video) and other fun things as well. I’m sure you can do the same!
Step 1 –>Pay Attention to Details!
When you first learn something, make sure that you pay good attention and focus every single detail. Ask the instructor every question that comes to your mind. Never assume things, always ask and take advantage of your instructors experience. Remember any answer that you receive because many times the instructor will only give it to you once. Some of my most effective techniques are things that an instructor showed me off to the side, once, after I asked about a certain situation.
When watching a technique being physically taught, make mental notes as to where each of the instructors hands are, as well as what their feet are doing during the movement; notice the posture of their body and where they seem to be distributing their weight. Those are some of the very important details that make a technique work well. Never focus your gaze on the same place during each of their physical demonstrations. Every time they show the technique, look for details in various places and if you feel as though you missed something politely ask your instructor to show it again either in front of the group or off to the side. When possible ask the instructor to execute the technique on you so that you can feel where they put specific pressure. After that, while practicing the technique on your training partner, move slowly while trying to mimic the instructor’s movement exactly from start to finish.
If you need to see the technique again, you can ask to see it again if you feel comfortable doing so. Another option is to watch the instructor as they move throughout the gym correcting others. Sometimes, by listening closely while other students have their questions answered you can pick up additional details that you’ve haven’t seen yet.
Note: If you are very new to the sport, I suggest simply practicing what the instructor shows the class. It’s not the right time to ask many questions about “WHAT IF” situations. Instructors can sometimes get annoyed by the new student that constantly questions everything they show with a “What if the guys does this…”. Instead, ask questions that directly apply to the details of the technique you are practicing. Master the basics first and many useful questions, that you can ask in the future, will begin to form within your mind.
Step 2 –> Write Notes ASAP!
On the same day that you learn a technique or multiple techniques, write down everything that you can remember about them.–Which will be everything because you did such a great job analyzing and drilling it in class, right? :). It will take some time because I want you to be ultra specific with your description. Specify what your LEFT and RIGHT hands and feet are supposed to do. Clarify the action order of each movement and note where you should place your body weight and/or pressures. Be sure to note which position you start in and finish in and why your applying this specific technique in the first place (ie. because he’s playing the spider guard). Add anything to your notes that you think will help you practice the techniques perfectly in the near future. As long as your notes make complete sense to you that is all that matters. You don’t need to write them so someone else will understand them. That’ll take way too much work. Know that your note taking ability will improve with practice so just keep at it.
Once you’ve created them, read through your notes often. I use a great application called “Evernote” so that I can read my notes on my phone, computer or tablet anytime I choose. Also, when I edit a note, it updates on all of those platforms instantly.
As you read through your detailed description of a specific technique, take your time and visualize yourself performing that specific technique with precise detail. For more effectiveness, Envision yourself performing each technique multiple times before moving onto the next one.
Skim through your notes before training as well and work hard to pull off those specific techniques during your rolling/sparring sessions. When you run into a problem while attempting a technique, go back to your notes after class and check to see if you were missing a detail or two during your execution.
Practicing on your own time, when the mats are free is essential; Get together with a training partner and after reviewing your notes, drill/practice your noted techniques with that person. Pay strong attention to every single technical detail. You must become your own instructor when one is not present so be tough on yourself and make sure you’re doing things right. Every time you drill, pick a few techniques to practice instead of way too many. I usually drill 3-6 techniques in an hours time.
Away from the gym, always keep your notes close at hand and anytime you have some free time, slowly read though them while visualizing yourself performing the movements they describe. You’ll be surprised at how useful visualization can be. It’s nearly as effective as actually practicing something. In a short amount of time the techniques you’ve been practicing, visualizing and reading repeatedly will be yours to use forever with very little effort or thought.
Step 3 –>Record Yourself
Lastly it’s time to create some audio files. I’ve been using this method for the last year and I feel that my skill set has improved drastically. Record yourself –I use apps on my tablet to record myself– breaking down each technique on your list. Share every detail that you have listed in your notes while speaking at a very slow place. Talking slowly will give you the time necessary to visualize yourself practicing each specific technique while you listen to your own instructions. You can also leave a second or two of silence after each description for extra visualization time.
I like to keep my audio files short –between 3 and 10 minutes– so that I can listen to the short ones when I have a limited amount of time and the longer ones –or multiple tracks– when I have plenty of free time. When I find that I’ve added a bunch of new techniques to my paper list, I create a new audio file with those techniques on it.
When should you listen to it?
I like to listen to it when I’m cleaning the house –wife gets a bit mad when I can’t hear her talking but sacrifices must be made to learn ;)–, cutting the lawn, before bed and most commonly when I drive. Placing your audio files on a mp3 player or phone will allow you to listen to your audio files –via headphones– anytime you have a free moment. That way nobody around you will realize that you are sharpening your ninja skills right in front of them.
Well, that’s it for now. Some details to help you learn faster and retain the important things that you learn.
I hope it helps you out in your training!
Train hard, train safe and most importantly have fun!