Martial arts, particular traditional ones, are often based on rules which resemble military regimes. In many Dojos it’s common to refer to the master/instructor/coach as “master”, “sensei”, “sifu”; in my opinion this is often excessive and encourages an unnecessary distance between students and instructors. I always allowed my students to call me by my first name and establishing a collaborative role where I share my knowledge and experience. At the same time I make sure they respect me for my experience and ultimately my position of authority within the club they have decided to join.
I always aimed at running a club which is accessible for anybody to join, train and improve their technique and overall skill. I enjoy training with instructors and advanced people that help me challenge my technique and fitness; at the same time I also train regularly with beginners and intermediate students so they can experience first-hand my teaching and feedback. All of my instructors are encouraged to do the same.
I am aware of many so called fight clubs, particularly boxing clubs, where there is a very strict hierarchy about who can train or be trained by whom. In those environments only the key fighters have access to high quality tuition while the others, inexperienced or just not good enough, have to accept being considered less valuable students. This, in my opinion, might discourage potentially good fighters who did not yet get the chance to move up the skill ladder.
Of course meritocracy has to an important role to play and it naturally does. Students who train more often, attend to more lessons, tournaments and become more involved with all club’s activities are automatically more visible. They get more exposure to key lessons and more naturally get chosen as training partner by the most experienced students and instructors; the more this happens and the better they get, a very natural selection. So if you are an advanced or intermediate student who is already getting the right kind of attention from instructor you are in the right place. At the same time if you feel a bit invisible within your club and would like to change this you should try to get more exposure toward the better part of the class; train more often, try to learn better techniques and keep practicing; it’s a long journey.
Although martial arts are not team activities there are many elements of cohesion that motivate martial arts practice more that any other sport. Let analyse why this is true:
- Practicing a martial art is a long time investment in your health and well being: the time to proficiency is often long enough to establish good habits in your life, those that last for a long time. If and when you stop training for a while you’ll miss it, both physically, mentally and emotionally.
- Most martial arts teach a broad variety of techniques that keep you busy for many years just to master them all. In this you see a natural progression and having continuously new things to learn it makes it very interesting. Many masters state that perfection can be aimed but never achieved, therefore even after many years of training you are running after perfection while you keep adapting your knowledge and techniques to you ageing body.
- As are you naturally going to meet people that are better than you it will be natural to have a sense of challenge to improve day after day, session after session. In general the progression is easy to monitor and to measure therefore it is relatively easy to compare results against effort.
- The achievement of a certain level of proficiency, lesson after lesson will release endorphins that naturally make you feel good. At the end of each training session, with the natural tiredness you’ll have a feeling of well being that is quite addictive.
- Although martial arts manifest in many different ways and levels of intensity the overall training will ensure the practitioner to be a well round, balanced athlete with a decent level of fitness, stamina, strength, flexibility and coordination.
- Although martial arts are usually practiced in pairs and groups, some of the training can be rehearsed solo: that allows the practitioner to keep training, at least on some of the exercises, when she is on her own.
- Martial arts practice involves a reasonably complete workout rather than concentrating on a single part of the body. Different styles will put more emphasis on different areas of the body while practicing a balanced mix of exercises.
- Martial arts are a great stress relief: the aggression accumulated during work or while at school can be easily channelled and released in a controlled manner toward the practice of your techniques. It’s likely that after training the amount of aggression you had before starting is reduced or completely gone and you feel calmer and more in control.
- Martial arts training ensures that your whole attention will be directed toward your training, with minimal distraction. Even when your feel at an adequate level of proficiency and most moves come naturally without the need of thinking too carefully, your partner / opponent is there to punch you, to kick you or to throw you. Self preservation will naturally motivates you to put full attention in what you are doing.
- The sense of challenge and cooperation that can be found in many martial arts club I have experienced can foster friendship and social entertainment outside the training hall (dojo, kwon, dojang…).