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5 Things Fitness Students Can Learn From Martial Art Students

1. It is a long process.

When martial art students begin training, it is generally understood that it will take years of study to be proficient. In most traditional systems, a black belt is recognized as a basic level of proficiency. In any legitimate school, the student is well-informed that this will take a great deal of time and hard work, and that they may never reach that level. It is certainly never promised. It may even seem impossible at times.

Conversely, in the fitness business unrealistically fast results are the general expectation. Tell most fitness clients the truth (that if they are a beginner it will take years of training to reach their goals) and they will quit and leave, and find one of the many fitness gimmicks that tell them what they want to hear, rather than what they need.

Exceptions are few and far between.

2. Your instructor will teach you new exercises when you are ready, not when you want them or are bored.

In traditional martial art schools students are “given” new techniques when the teacher feels the student is ready. It may be years before a martial art student learns any additional techniques other than a handful of basics. It is considered very rude for a student to ask to learn anything not given freely by the instructor.

It is accepted that the teacher will show a new technique at the appropriate moment, and that the student is in no position to judge this by themselves. Why? Because this is the way the master's master taught them. It worked then and has been proven over several generations of masters.

The thought of a student at any level becoming bored with even the most basic technique is completely alien in martial art training. It is understood that a student is always learning from even the simplest movement and they are never “good enough.”

In our modern exercise world, things like Youtube and the multitude of fitness blogs give a constant stream of distraction to anyone working on their fitness. There is nothing a coach or trainer hates hearing more than about some great training routine that is sweeping the Net, or about the twentieth “new” variation of pushup or squat that came out in this month's issue of whatever fitness rag that they picked up at the supplement shop, guaranteed to make “sick gainz.”

Instructors are often to blame here too. It is not uncommon for trainers to be unduly influenced by such media themselves. Unless they had a good coach that reinforced the basics, they are also subject to these distractions. However, fitness instructors should also be confident enough in their teaching to understand that this type of curiosity is a sign of a good student, and focus this energy appropriately.

There is beauty in basics. If you aren't learning and getting stronger with basic exercises, you aren't trying.

3. Respect your training area.

Martial art starts and ends with courtesy. Students remove their shoes, bow to the instructor, to the flags or to the training area, and wait for permission to enter the school. In most schools it is required to bow before stepping on or off the training mat. It is unthinkable to break these school rules, especially during class times. The training area is treated as a sacred place.

Tracking dirt across the training floor is not acceptable, just as bad as wearing muddy shoes into a church. Wearing a dirty uniform is also very bad manners.

In most any gym, you'll see people leave weights unracked, chalk on the floor, hand or footprints on the walls and windows, empty bottles left for cleaning staff, sweat towels laying around, various spills from sports drinks, etc.. And if your gym has a locker room or shower area? Well, we won't even go there...

4. Teaching others requires years of study and dedication.

In the martial art world, a black belt instructor certification gained via mail order or online is obviously a joke. Oh, don't get me wrong, they exist. I remember ads in the back of martial art magazines offering correspondence courses to become a black belt in a few weeks. These have always been viewed as worthless.

In most martial art systems a first-degree black belt is when students begin teaching others, although there are exceptions. Regardless, no student becomes a teacher without years of study and a master's permission to teach others. Teaching without expressed permission by a higher ranked instructor is not allowed.

In the fitness world exceptions to this rule are few and far between. An online course or quiz, a valid credit card, and you are ready to go.

Along these same lines are weekend instructor certification courses that don't require some kind of rigorous skill requirement that took months or years to prepare for. Attaining an instructor qualification for simply showing up is pretty weak.

5. It is about adopting a lifestyle, not just spending a few hours per week to attain a superficial goal.

A true martial artist lives and breathes what they do. To paraphrase a familiar martial art maxim, it is said that one who has attained mastery in one thing reveals it in their every action.

Martial art students are aware that no amount of physical training time and effort can overcome poor preparedness, inattentiveness, or slow action.

Serious martial artists train to protect themselves, and a defensive mindset is rarely “turned off.” Are they sitting in a defensible position in a restaurant or coffee shop, or sitting in a spot that leaves them vulnerable? Did they park in a place that would allow a criminal to make them an easy victim? Dressed in clothing and shoes that permit fast, defensive movement?

Conversely, I have seen time and time again fitness clientele completely sabotage hard effort in the gym through poor lifestyle choices outside the gym.

A latte filled with sugary garbage, an order of french fries, muffin, or beer completely offsets a few days' hard effort in the gym. Getting in shape is a 24 hour per day job. Sorry, that's how it is. You have to be as diligent with what you eat and drink all day as you are for that hour in the gym.


Idaho Kettlebell Strength and Conditioning

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