It is said that a martial arts student will reach his peak within 5 to 10 years of study, from the day he begins his first day of training. I believe that number is a little less, between 4 and 6 years of training. Either way, it is true that the martial artist will arrive to the pinnacle of his physical skill within the first decade of his martial arts study. During the first 10 years we are younger, so naturally we have the advantage of age and youth. At the same time, we are excited to learn more and usually we will have more time (before kids, marriage, career) to practice. As we get older, we end up with more responsibilities and therefore practice takes a back seat to those things.
But I have a theory.
The younger student is often hungry for more development and more knowledge, and this is what fuels his drive to train harder. In addition to that, the younger student believes everyone around him is better than he is so he strives to improve as well. As the student makes the transition from student to expert, he becomes satisfied or complacent with his skill and begins to chase other things, like higher rank, more information, and notoriety. This is inline with the saying that the moment a man becomes satisfied with his martial arts skill, he stops progressing in the martial arts. The young man is dissatisfied with his skill, and therefore he strives to improve. The older man no longer wishes to improve his skill, choosing instead to pursue other things he deems more important than how well he can punch, kick or fight.
This is the same condition that plagues so-called “naturals” in the martial arts. You know what I mean–the athletic types, the former dancers, gymnasts, and students of the martial arts. These are the guys and gals who join a martial arts, and right away are complimented on how fast they learned or developed. By the time they reach the advanced beginner level, they look like they are advanced: they are limber, they can kick high, the stances look stronger, they have more powerful upper bodies… But by the time they reach the advanced level, they have either quit, or they are now mediocre. Why? Because while these folks were good beginners, they were actually poor advanced students. But since they could do the splits, or had nice forms, there was no incentive to train hard and improve, and their skill reached a plateau. Basically, this student–who was “good” as a beginner–thought he needed no improvement, and either he or his teacher were satisfied with their skill. This “satisfaction”, my brothers and sisters, is dangerous. There is a very thin line between satisfaction or complacency–and arrogance. Don’t allow yourself or your students to fall victim to it.
So the secret to growth in the martial arts, is to recognize a few basic truths about skill:
- regardless of how good you are, you can always improve
- there is always another level to reach: in flexibility, strength, speed, timing, and overall skill
- there is always a bigger, stronger, faster, more knowledgeable opponent out there… waiting to meet you
- failing to improve prevents you from reaching your peak in the martial arts. The question is, did you ever truly reach your peak?
I am going to close now, but I hope you find value in this article. Thank you for visiting my blog.