Learning and becoming proficient in the martial arts can be an overwhelming task. It may take years, if not a lifetime to reach an accomplished level. At times, progress can be made rather quickly. For the most part, noticeable change is painstakingly slow.
In order to progress at the fastest rate possible, it becomes necessary to organize your workouts. As with most any other venture, the more organized, and consistent you are, the more you achieve with your time. It does not matter what style of martial arts you practice, I guarantee that you could practice twenty-four hours a day and accomplish very little, unless you have a plan. Therefore, time is crucial; Planning is crucial. Every workout should be a quality workout. You should begin each session with a plan and stick to it as best as possible. This will not only help achieve more during your training, it will also give you the information you will need to track your progress. There is nothing more frustrating than working as hard as you can for several months and, seemingly, achieve nothing. This is how you can feel if you are not organized in your training.
To help organize your sessions, I have found it efficient to start by breaking things down into four separate steps.
When practicing a newly learned technique, the steps should be followed in the order written above. Jumping around only slows down the process and may possibly create bad habits that will have to be undone later. For example, If you were to learn a new type of punch and begin trying to slam the heavy bag without first achieving the proper form, you may substitute proper technique with muscle. Muscling a punch like this may hinder your speed as well as ruining your form. Following the steps, you most likely will find that much greater power is the result of proper form and speed.
In addition, proceeding in the proper order will not only help with power, it also saves time, preventing the necessity to back track and fix what was not learned in the first place. Worse yet, is the fact that without following the correct sequence in learning, you may have practiced the form incorrectly, long enough that it becomes extremely difficult to repair.
The from stage of the process includes learning the mechanics such as what part of the body moves first, where the power is derived, or what type of footwork goes with it. For the best results, all aspects of the movement should be taken into consideration. 1) The muscles involved in the action 2) Footwork 3) Timing 4) Body alignment 5) Balance 6) Flexibility involved 7) What the movement is used for.
Once analyzing all facets of the form, a program of drills can be developed to work these attributes either separately, or in conjunction. Usually, the beginning practice sessions should be slow repetition. Performing the movements slowly does several different things: First, it enables you to monitor and constantly correct the balance throughout. It strengthens the muscles involved, increasing endurance and coordination specifically for this motion. Additionally, practicing slowly lets you feel it every step of the way. When it feels right, it usually is.
After sufficiently breaking down the form and practicing it until it looks and feel right, you are ready to move on to speed training.
Speed training, again, can be broken down into separate categories: 1) Relaxation 2) Initiation speed 3) Performance speed 4) Mental speed 5) Reaction speed and 6) Alteration speed
Again, define drills and exercises to work each factor specifically. You will find that in many cases, improvement in speed may require additional work on the form. Even though you may have been able to perform the motion beautifully at a slow pace, doing it quickly will require different types of muscles and a different feel altogether. Repeating the speed drills will train the muscles to perform easily at that pace. (In my next article, I will get more specific on speed training)
As mentioned earlier, you will find that just being able to move quickly and in proper form, power will almost be there on its own. Breaking down the components of power you have: 1) Form 2) Speed 3) Muscle strength 4) Joint and Ligament strength 5) Timing 6) Distance
Again, create drills and exercises to enhance each component. Continue to work on form and speed as previously outlined. Add supplemental exercises such as weight lifting and calisthenics. For timing and distance, drills on the bags or with a partner can be beneficial. Overall, the heavy bag is one of the most useful tools in the development of power.
Fluidity is the process of putting it all together. Having practiced form, speed, and power, now it is necessary to add the new technique to your arsenal. Being fluid with a technique means that you are able o use it in combination with other skills or freely by itself. To work on fluidity, identify the uses of the technique: 1) In combination 2) As a counter 3) As an attack 4) Without preparation
There are many ways to work fluidity, either on a bag, shadow boxing, or most importantly, sparring.
From there, the four steps should begin again. In order to maintain and progress further, techniques are periodically put back through the steps. The steps become, not only a guide to learn a new technique, they are also a means to sustain and enhance existing techniques.
After going through the four steps, a new technique becomes useable. It will be quick, efficient, and potent. In the final stages, it will work without preparation or thought. The ultimate is when 'it hits all by itself'.