5 Tips For New Martial Arts Students
New martial arts students are a nervous bunch. So much is unknown…
- What are the rules?
- Will I get hurt?
- Do I look like a complete idiot?
- Why can’t I remember anything?
- Why am I not getting any better?
The answer to all of those questions is DON’T WORRY!
All beginner martial arts students start with those same feelings. Don’t let them stop you!
In most cases, your teachers and classmates will be happy to guide you in the right direction. But if you’re still worried, let me give you a few tips on how to fit in, earn respect, and get the most out of your martial arts training.
5 Tips for New Martial Arts Students
These tips work—trust me!
Tip 1) Be On Time.
Being on time is great. Showing up early is even better.
Give yourself time to change clothes, warm up, and get your mind focused on training. This not only prepares you for learning, it lets everyone know you’re a serious student.
Strolling in late, taking ten minutes to change your clothes, and asking someone to catch you up is annoying and counter-productive.
So, show respect for your teacher, fellow students, and yourself by being on time.
Tip 2) Keep It Clean and Safe.
I hate to say it, but every school has at least one student who stinks. Heads up—if you can’t think of anyone, it might be YOU!
Don’t be “that guy”. Wash your uniform. Use deodorant. Skip the cologne and perfume. You’re going to a martial arts club, not a dance club!
And if you eat hummus or pesto for lunch, carry some breath mints in your bag. Seriously—martial arts is an intimate, close-quarters activity, so here’s the rule…
Also, if you practice in bare feet, keep some baby wipes in your bag. Before class, especially if you’ve been wearing flip-flops or open-toed shoes all day, a quick wipe down can avoid bringing any dirt or germs on to the mats with you.
Plus, after class, you can wipe your feet off to avoid taking any dirt and germs home with you.
Now, let’s talk about safety…
Long nails on your hands and feet, piercings, and jewelry of any kind can all lead to unnecessary injuries to yourself and others. Trim your nails and remove any bling that can get snagged on your uniform or in someone’s hair.
If you do happen to get cut or scratched, I recommend carrying some Band-Aids and athletic tape in your gear bag. Getting blood all over your uniform might make you feel cool, but getting blood on MY uniform? NOT cool!
So, wash up, dress your wound, and get back on the mats as soon as possible.
Tip 3) Bring a Notebook.
It’s shocking to me how few students take notes in a martial arts class. You kept a notebook for every subject in academic school, right? So, why would you treat a martial arts school any differently?
You don’t have to carry your notebook around on the mats with you, scribbling down every word your teacher says, but you should definitely make it a habit to write down what you learned after every class. The advantages are many—
- Writing notes is a powerful way to reinforce learning.
- You can review lessons anytime, anywhere. Especially before class.
- You will be able to keep track of your progress.
- If you teach someday, you’ll have a manual of exercises, drills, and lessons ready to go.
If writing down your notes is too much trouble, then how about recording a quick voice note or video on your phone?
I leave the methodology to you, but commit yourself to making a deeper connection to what you’re learning by putting lessons into your own words. Trust me on this—a notebook is a game-changer!
Tip 4) Hold Your Questions.
They say there are no dumb questions… but that’s a lie! For example, if you ask a question about a technique before you actually practice it, that’s a dumb question.
I can’t believe how many times I’ve seen instructors—world-class, legendary instructors—interrupted by hotshot students who think they sound smart by asking “what if” questions…
“What if he’s not wearing any clothes?”
“What if he’s got a hatchet?”
“What if he doesn’t have a head?”
Hey, Karate Kid! Zip it! The answers to all of your questions will be revealed by practicing, not talking.
Let’s be clear—a teacher’s job is to introduce an idea. A student’s job is to take that idea and then go practice and explore it.
If something is not working, or if a discovery is made, NOW you can ask a question. And it’s going to be a smartquestion because it’s based on experience, not imagination. So, my advice to all martial arts students—
Tip 5) Prepare for the Plateau.
Being a white belt is the best of times and worst of times. It’s the worst of times because you’ll often feel like you’re drowning in a sea of new information. But it’s the best of times because you’re never going to learn so much, so fast again. It’s thrilling!
Sooner or later, though, all martial arts students hit a wall. You’ll either end up thinking, “I already know all this,”or “I’m never going to learn all this!” Either way, you’re wrong.
Here’s how the learning process works…
Your skills make a jump… and then they plateau.
Sometimes the jumps are big and dramatic, and everyone can see your improvement.
Sometimes the jumps are small. So small that you might be the only one who notices.
Sometimes you might make two or three jumps in the same month.
Sometimes it might take a year to make a jump.
Sometimes you might think that you’re getting worse! But you’re not! It’s just the way learning goes.
So, don’t give up. As long as you’re doing the right work, the right way, you’re still learning… even if it doesn’t feel like it.
Remember, no matter how long you’ve been training, there is always more to learn. So, in your head, always be a white belt. That’s the secret!
Keep thinking like a beginner and you’ll be a master before you know it. Maybe 50 years or so.