Updated: Mar 2, 2020
"Sensei, I'm not feeling well this week"
"Sensei, I'm injured"
"Sensei, I'm just not in the right head space"
There is an old martial artist's math problem that shows how out of 10,000 students, only 10 will make it to black belt. After 2+ decades in martial arts, you would have to be foolish not to notice many of the most common reasons that students fail to make sufficient progress or stop training.
Training While Injured.
As martial artists of any kind will tell you, minor aches, soreness, and pains are normal and to be expected, much as they are with rigorous fitness routines. However, it's critical not to ignore these things and just assume they will go away. It's crucial to build home care habits into your routine, especially if your goal is to train at a high level for as long as possible.
Countless martial artists "break" at a certain age because they simply did not build the habits that would maintain their bodies over the long haul. These habits include: proper stretching before/after and between classes, proper nutrition (80/20 rule of nutrition is the gold standard among serious martial artists - those in competition will often add 90/10 and "cutting" prior to weigh ins to "make weight").
Training While Ill.
Don't. This is the one exception for breaking your habit of "showing up" at the dojo and at least observing class when you can't train. The absolute worst thing you can do is infect your fellow training partners and cause everyone to get sick. This often leads to a round robin that takes weeks until everyone can train again.
However, once you are out of your contagious phase of an illness, showing up to observe class should be the first step in getting back into the routine of training. In fact, silly as it may sound, getting dressed for class and still observing without training is a valuable activity. Why? Because habits = progress.
Remember, the habits we build in our daily lives, though it seems they might make things mundane, are actually the key to achieving the highest levels of performance. All the theories of performance, from the "10,000 hour rule" to more complex studies of the human mind tell us the same thing: Habits = Progress. What we do most often becomes what we are best at.
As it is in life, it is in the dojo. The first step is simply showing up consistently over the long haul.
See you on the mat,
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