“I can’t wait until I get more experience at this and it all becomes easier”
I remember very well the day that one of my students said this to me, it was mid-training and I was explaining the intricacies of controlling body movement and re-directing an opponents strength back on themselves through their own grip on the limb they were trying to immobilise. it was during basic Ikkyo practice and they had become frustrated with themselves.
I also remember the look on their face when i told them i often thought the same thing, it was a mix of confusion and humorous disbelief. Very quickly I mentioned that was the whole point, and was in fact one example of how well they were doing. That they found it difficult was a a demonstration of their improvement.
Even more confusion ensued.
To understand the importance of maintaining the challenge of training, it is important first to recognise the need for progression and the manner in which we deal with it, both as student and also as instructor.
Progression in traditional martial arts is measured in many ways, for some it can be determined and identified with through the attainment of grades or belts, for others it is a less physical and more personal issue and comes from personal perspective and introspection. Both are at one extremely valid and often misleading. On one hand, display of a grade or completion of a grading shows a level of technical ability to a common standard but often does little for the students personal belief in themselves. This expresses itself often after a grading where students feel they do not deserve what their instructor determines they have achieved. On the other the level of personal understanding serves the individual very well but can inhibit their interaction with others who are unable to recognise their ability, thus limiting the level of training which they may accomplish together, thus affecting how both feel about their technical ability. I have experienced this in the past when the club only wore traditional white or black belts, other clubs did not grasp the ;level off an individuals ability, and likewise the students found it difficult to know where on the developmental route they were. The curse of western mindset and thinking. We really do need to know where we fit in – so that we can see a way forward.
It is vital therefore that both the personal, and external, aspects of development and improvement are catered for during the students development. That way both they and their instructor can work together to forge a path for the student to develop. A path in which they not only believe in themselves and appreciate the efforts they put in to achieve what they have, but also a pathway which they are capable of displaying that progress in externally, – not in a bid to show superiority, but to show that they indeed are on the same path, just in a different place and with different requirements for the next stage of development.
Measuring of progression allows for the eyes to remain on the future and the requirements to be met, but it also serves to remind us of where we have come from and what we should work hard to maintain hold of. In martial arts, just as in life the past holds the key to the future and everything that a student has done up to any point in their training is just a placeholder for the next part of that particular developing phase. It serves to be the foundation for the future building blocks upon which development occurs. They are never forgotten or over-written, they are merely altering themselves to suit the individual martial artist that we personally will become…….
(to be continued in Challenging Progress? – Part 2)