School Training + Self-Training = EXCELLENCE!
Take two individuals who are both training in Jeet Kune Do (or any martial art for that matter). Person A goes to class twice a week for an hour or so but does nothing the rest of the time. Person B takes attends the same classes for the same amount of time, but then also spends 10-15 minutes each day shadow boxing or working out on equipment, going over what they learned in the lesson and experimenting on their own. Putting aside individual differences and all things being equal, which person do you think will make better progress and develop their martial art skills faster? The answer is Person B. Combining class training with self-training will give you much better results than either form of training by itself.
Let’s take a closer look at both types of training --
Class training is geared for a group of people and is designed to lead them in a particular direction, to help guide them. Class curriculum is designed by the teacher to supply the group with whatever the instructor feels they need at a particular time. And while there will obviously be differences in skill levels amongst individuals in any class, the curriculum is designed to move the members of the group forward at a steady rate of progress. A teacher cannot simply instruct the students in their class to “do your own thing.”
In addition, most class curriculums are primarily designed to teach towards the middle of the curve, or the majority of the group. If the material being taught is too complex or difficult, then those at the lower end of the curve can feel lost or get left behind. If, on the other hand, the material is too simple or easy, then those at the higher end of the curve may possibly become bored and lose interest.
Another part of the reason for designing class curriculum in such a way is a matter of necessity. It would be very difficult in a class setting, for example, to have all the members of a class throw 500 lead hand straight punches or rear hook kicks in one workout, especially if the workout is one hour in length. If a person threw 10 punches every minute it would take them 50 minutes to complete. I’m talking about good punches as well, not simply thoughtless, mechanical or robotic repetition. You would also need to add in the boredom factor. The average martial art student today would get bored very quickly of doing the same punch over and over for one hour straight.
In spite of their restrictions, group classes can still offer a student numerous benefits including such things as supplying them with the building blocks they need to develop a good foundation, and giving them the opportunity to work out in an environment of shared energy with multiple partners of the same and/or different skill and training levels.
Self-training is about your own personal cultivation. With self-training your focus is on what you feel you need to work on or want to work on at that time. While in a group class you follow the teacher’s instructions and often move at the pace the teacher sets for you, when you are training on your own (or with as training partner) you decide the length and the pace or intensity of the training session. Whereas in a group class you may have only had enough time to throw fifty repetitions of a punch (such as a three-minute round), now you may choose to spend thirty minutes on it and work it for three hundred repetitions instead. Perhaps you decide that you want to develop your ability to bridge distance very quickly and work your push-shuffle footwork two hundred times in a row. It’s totally up to you.
Many people who train only in group classes often simply try to fit their bodies and actions into the teacher’s instructions during class as if they were following orders, and usually are mainly concerned about whether or not they are doing something “right.”
Those who train on their own, on the other hand, are inquisitive about what they’re learning and experiment with what they learned in class by asking themselves questions such as, “How does this feel to me?” -- “What effect is the technique or action I am practicing having on me?” -- “What effect is it having on my training partner?”
It is when you start to practice on your own that many real and oftentimes subtle insights occur. When you’re really listening to your body and learning to focus your mind as you practice your movements, techniques, etc., it will allow you to feel, observe, and be present with all your senses, which in turn will develop your intuition about how to train.
Self-training allows you the opportunity to work on anything you desire. The following are merely a few examples of different facets you might choose to develop or cultivate during self-training. Some are physical, some are mental, and some are a combination of both --
• Remaining in your position when you finish a technique or action for an extra few seconds in order to be aware of such things as your balance, coverage, ability to recover, defend or continue.
• “Immersing yourself in the moment” -- the idea of being fully present and totally involved in whatever you are doing during training.
• Investing your action with “emotional content” – this relates to the depth of feeling you put into your action -- whatever you do, do it with full investment of self.
• Use of “whole-part-whole” training method when developing or cultivating specific combative tools or actions – you may choose to work a motion in its entirety or focus on one particular aspect of it, such as the explosive initiation portion of a kick.
• Focusing on different aspects of an action -- this may change depending on skill level – For example, a beginning student may need to focus their attention on their footwork when using an advancing lead straight punch, whereas for an advanced student their focus will be on lighting fast arm extension.
• The 3 Stages of Cultivation of a technique – Self-training will primarily focus on what is known as Stage 1: “Synchronization of Self” (because the other two stages usually require training partners) – synchronization of self deals with the concept of muscle memory and allows us to develop our understanding of, and ability to use a particular tool or skill .
• Closing your eyes in order to more effectively feel a movement or action – by removing our sense of sight we have to feel much more with our body – this can be very useful training method when working on such things as developing or heightening one’s sense of “tactile awareness.”
• Principle of “line familiarization” – a single motion or action is fed or repeated over and over again as you learn to deal with it effectively, such as developing your ability to slip an opponent’s lead straight punch, etc.
• Breathing properly while training – many people tend to hold their breath or restrict their breathing at certain times during training which can cause them to become tense and make their movements tight or restricted.
• Spend time analyzing various techniques from other martial arts -- look at such things as structure, delivery system, etc. –this can help you develop what is referred to in JKD as the “educated eye” and the “discerning mind.”
Self-training can not only include martial art techniques or movements, but also non-technical aspects of training such as strength, agility, coordination, flexibility, etc. that support the delivery of your techniques.
To truly understand JKD and develop your skills and capacities to their highest level, in addition to training in a group class or one-on-one with and instructor, you have to do your own self-training. You cannot simply rely on going to classes, even if you’re going several times per week. Yes, you will develop, but In order to develop yourself to your full potential, you need to go further.
A lot of it will depend on a person’s perception of their martial art training. If, for example, a person views their training solely as a form of recreational activity or some kind of social event, they’ll more than likely go to class 2 or 3 times a week and that’s it. They’ll probably give little or no thought to it the rest of the time. If, on the other hand, they view it as a vehicle personal growth in all aspects of their life, they will expand their training to include work outside the class lessons.
Whether you attend group classes at a professional school or work out in a small backyard or garage training group, engage in your own individual program of self-training in addition to your class training (as long as what they are working on in their self-training is not going against what they are working on in their class training ). Don’t bifurcate into an either/or frame of mind. Instead, utilize both class training and self-training as integral components of your overall development as a martial artist. As the titlte of the article states, “School training plus self-training equals excellence.