Sunday, October 31, 2010

What are you preparing for?

Martial arts training has become quite common today.  Ranging from thinly veiled daycare programs through MMA competitors up to professionals who must use violence on a daily basis.  Take a moment, and think about why you're training.

Some people train because they've got friends doing it, and the class is a social event.  Others train to compete, whether in traditional style tournaments or MMA.  Still others train because they've experienced violence, and want to be ready if it ever happens again.  There are people who train because they train; they enjoy the physical challenges and wouldn't know what to do with themselves if they weren't training.  And some people train because they have every reason to expect to need effective skills in using force.  (Let's not even consider the people who train because someone makes them...)

Nobody's purpose in training is superior; they're all merely different.  But that purpose will shape how you train.  A sport karate competitor has to train to understand, use, and apply the rules of the event.  A rape or domestic violence survivor's training may be very different -- and may have to be conducted with great sensitivity and care.  A cop, correctional officer, or soldier may train differently from each other -- and very differently from the guy who's simply "doing" martial arts because it's more interesting to him than bowling or going to an ordinary gym.

Think about why you're training.  Then assess how you conduct your training.  If the two aren't in harmony, you're not going to get the results you want.  If you're training to be able to effectively impose force on a resisting or combative subject in the streets -- you have to have partners who do that, and you have to do things like scenario training.  If you're training to win the next MMA event -- you need to spend time working on the various aspects of that game.  Including the conditioning  necessary to last through your fight!  And so on.  If there's a conflict between your training and your goals, start looking for weighs to fix it!

Minor housekeeping note

Readers may notice that the tone or voice of posts and comments under Piedmont Bando change occasionally.  Nobody here suffers from multiple personality disorder.  Instead, all of the instructors of Piedmont Bando have the ability to post and comment here under the main name.  So, sometimes it might be Jim, sometimes Debby, even occasionally Tristan...  If you're curious who wrote what -- ask us!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Training Responsibilities

Training mirrors life. When we begin training, our responsibilities are few.  Show up, follow directions, practice on your own.  As you advance in training, your responsibilities grow.  You may be asked to greet new students or assure that the facility is cleaned and prepared for class.  You might be asked to instruct new students or lead warm ups.  One day, you may find yourself responsible for a class or club.  Seems like it's a simple idea.  The teacher teaches, the student learns.  But there's more to it than that.

Let's start by looking more closely at a student's responsibilities.  To simply say show up and train is to almost trivialize it.  Students have the responsibility to show up in class.  To focus on class, and listen to the instructor and participate with integrity.  Why do I use integrity?  Because it means wholeness, not just honestly.  When you're in class, BE in class.  Bring the required equipment.  Pay attention; leave outside matters outside.  Don't chat about unrelated matters, don't disrupt class by being a what-if monkey..  Give an honest and intent effort to the exercises and drills.  If you've been training for months, and still can't do any more pushups than your first night... something's wrong.  You may be asked to assume other responsibilities, like unlocking the training facility, greeting or teaching new students.  You should be trying to bring a few new faces around... how else are you going to be sure to have playmates?!  If you're not specifically assigned something, and it needs doing -- step up and do it!  Unless it's something you don't know how to do or shouldn't do for some reason.  A visitor should never feel ignored or unwelcome, for example.  Every student can at least say "Hi, let me get the teacher for you."

But the responsibilities don't stop and start at the training hall door.  In my classes, we don't spend huge amounts of class time on pure fitness type exercises.  We don't have that much time, and I'd rather spend it focused on improving your skill, not your endurance.  So you have to spend some time outside the training hall to develop your phsyical fitness.  And you have to practice outside of class -- so that we don't have to spend class after class after class on the same material.  My teacher used to tell us how he'd go to see his teacher, and they'd work on the same move, again and again, from one session to the next.  My teacher finally realized that the reason they kept covering the same thing was because they didn't have it right yet! 

A teacher has responsibilities, too.  The teacher has to attend class, too!  There's no class if there's no teacher, just as there's no class if there's no student.  The instructor's primary responsibility is to be ready; have a plan, both for a particular class and for several months down the road, and to see that the training is accomplished safely.  The teacher should have some idea and plan to help each student reach their personal best.  The teacher also has to practice -- or the students will surpass the teacher!  That doesn't mean that a teacher's time is spent repeating the same basic drills or that a teacher who can't recall a particular form or kata on the spur of the moment is irresponsible.  Nor does it mean that the teacher should be bringing huge stacks of detailed lesson plans, or notes handouts.  But a teacher who consistently spends no time on training or preparation until they walk in the door...  They're probably being rather irresponsible.  There's plenty more here (like being able to be humble enough to recognize when you're not helping a particular student by your teaching)... but I'm going to move on.

There's another type of responsibility to consider:  Who is responsible for your training?  One of the hardest lessons, but biggest keys to growth is accepting that ultimately, YOU and YOU ALONE are responsible for your training.  Your teachers can put the information out -- but it's up to you to actually work with it and make it yours.  And -- eventually, it becomes your responsibility to seek out the training you need.  You might identify these needs through your own practice and even get guidance from your teachers -- but at some point, the spoon feeding has to stop, and you have to seek out what you need.  And you have to be responsible for your own development within the martial sciences.