How to conduct yourself in training

I copied this off the wall of the dojo the other night. As I’ve re-read it a few times and shared it with a few people, I find it more and more valuable and accurate – in contexts not necessarily limited to the martial arts.

I particularly like the bit about “when training – if you are strong, resist the urge to rely upon your strength.” I think that some of the hurdles I’ve hit in the past few years are because I’ve hit the limits of where I can get by with “strength” alone (whatever that means in a professional or personal context) … and now I need technique.

While a key element in the success of grapplers in real fights is their exposure to the pressure of constantly subduing and defeating a live opponent in training, this does not mean that training should consist of all-out grudge matches in which the sole aim is to make your opponent submit. The spirit in which you approach training is crucial to your progress. Rather than focusing only upon defeating the person in front of you, try hard to apply technique in a skillful, relaxed manner. If raw power and strength is the only means by which you prevail, something is wrong.

If you are strong, try hard to resist the temptation to rely upon your strength. Aim to utilize the technique in the most precise manner possible. Do not stick with the same moves. Rather, try to use new ones. Even if it means failing in the beginning. Training is for experimentation and learning, not win-at-all-costs. Let yourself be put in disadvantageous position so that you can familiarize yourself with them and work on your ability to escape. Operate with a feeling of finesse rather than brute power.

No one enjoys being forced to submit while sparring. However, you must accept this as part of training. The truth is, you will learn far more during the sessions where you are forced to tap out than those where you force others to tap out. Failure forces us into self analysis. From this self-analysis we learn what we did wrong. We question ourselves and think about how we might improve. By forcing us to think hard about our game and its weaknesses, the failure of today will lead to the success of tomorrow. Victory, on the other hand, teaches us little.

Accept the idea that you will regularly be forced to submit in training, especially when trying new techniques. Do not let it concern you. Focus instead upon progress, of which setbacks and failure are an essential part.

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