Although it might be admirable to do so, you don’t have to live on a mountainside and train like an ancient samurai warrior 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to reach a reasonable level of proficiency in self-defense. However, knowing how to train for maximum effectiveness is very important.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice, a hobbyist, a professional, or a serious practitioner – if you use these eight techniques that I’m going to share with you, you can progress in your training much faster – in some cases reaching your goal years sooner – than the average person who doesn’t use these techniques. (By the way, these techniques can also be used outside the realm of self-defense and martial arts. When you understand them, they can be applied to many areas of your life.)
1) Hear it. Don’t just listen passively to what the instructor is saying – really hear it. There’s a big difference. You need to make sure you truly understand what you’re being taught.
2) See it. Some people are auditory learners, and some people are visual learners. Seeing a demonstration of a technique imprints a picture in your brain, which reinforces what you just heard.
3) Do it. Try it for yourself. Literally go through the motions. This also helps you to internalize the skill. Don’t worry if you’re awkward at first; you’ll get better with practice.
These first three techniques are as far as most people go. If you stop here, your progress will be average. If you want to maximize
the effectiveness of your training, however, put the remaining steps into practice, as well.
4) Drill it.You need to put in some time. You need to break a sweat. Make it real for yourself. Drill on a bag, in the air, with a partner. They say it takes up to 10,000 repetitions of something to create muscle memory. Ten thousand may sound like a lot, but you can do it in a relatively short amount of time if you’re moving at a reasonably fast pace. And once you build that muscle memory, your body never forgets. And that’s when you begin to really learn.
5) Write it. This is huge. Writing something down makes it real for you. Hearing something is fine, but when you write it down, you’re mentally programming it in your brain. If it’s a certain kind of punch or kick, or a move, or a technique – write it down in your own words, because your words mean more to you than anybody else’s. Once again this reinforces everything else.
6) Practice it. Get out of that static environment where you’re drilling in a classroom or with a friend. Take the initiative to practice on your own, alone, without being told to by somebody else. This reinforces your training.
7) Rehearse it. Mental rehearsal is something I can’t preach enough. Build a scenario in your head, and go over and over and over it. Maybe you’re getting out of your car, and some guy comes up to you, and he’s asking for your wallet. Or he’s just asking for directions but you feel uncomfortable. What would you do? Maybe you’re tackled to the ground by someone trying to take the money you just got out of the ATM machine. What technique would you use? Maybe you’re out late at night and someone who is intoxicated comes up to you and becomes verbally abusive. What would you do? Remember, we’ve discussed how your mind doesn’t know fact from fiction. Make it real for your mind, and it becomes real for everything else.
8) Teach it. Find somebody else who wants to learn these skills, and try to teach them what you’ve learned. This is the ultimate reinforcement. It’s been said you don’t really understand something until you can explain it clearly to someone else. Just be sure you diligently go through all the other steps first, and you’ve got it down. Passing on incorrect information is embarrassing for you, and
could be dangerous for them.
No matter what level you’re working at, whether you’re a novice, a hobbyist, a professional or a serious practitioner, you can use these techniques to improve the effectiveness of your training. If you’re a serious practitioner, drilling or practicing on your own might involve four hours every day of intense training – working hard, sweating, only stopping to drink a glass of water and eat a meal. If you’re a novice it might be doing a few moves three or four times each on a Saturday afternoon. Either way, you did do it. And that means you’re getting the most out of what you’ve learned, and making serious progress toward your personal goals, whatever they may be.