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The Mental Game: Keeping Your Martial Arts Momentum

This week on The Mental Game we take a closer look at how you can keep that precious training momentum you've likely been building up from the New Year. It's a fairly well-known fact that people who make New Year's resolutions, no matter what they may be, tend to give them up around oh-, now. Hopefully this week's lesson gives you some help with staying focused on your martial arts goals for the year, whatever they may be.

Enter today's lesson:

Keeping Your Martial Arts Momentum

Continue reading to find out how you can manage and maximize your precious training time!

(inspired by Lifehack)

The most important part of keeping any significant life change is to make it a habit, quick. The sooner your brain accepts the idea that 'This is how we do things now.', the sooner it will stop berating you with a thousand excuses to not do them. While you should absolutely celebrate your determination if you've managed to stick to your goals this long, you must stay focused. In the wise words of one Han Solo: "Don't get cocky!"

Now is the time that those awful distractions really seem to double their efforts. Your mind tends is at a vulnerable point, strong enough to have pushed ahead this far, but not quite to the point that those changes are second nature. The road to change may have been an arduous one thus far, but be aware, there's a steep climb ahead. As always, you can breath easily. All you need is a little mental recharge via the tips below and you'll be just fine.

Learn the basic idea.
Learn It:

Luckily, this week's lesson doesn't require you to learn a whole new system or series of rules. It's just a long list of solid tips that, while simple in nature, can prove invaluable if you keep them in mind.

  • Don't Break the Habit. A no-brainer, but still, important. If you start to find your brain getting lazier about sticking to your class schedule, or making excuses not to practice your studies at home, you just need to focus twice as hard. There's no real secret here. Just put your head down and do it, no matter what. Do not break the habit!

  • Reward Yourself. If you've managed to set aside all distractions or plans for the sake of sticking to your greater goals, you my friend deserve a reward. So treat yourself to a little extra television after training, or make a special stop at that frozen yogurt shop you like. We're simple creatures, and even something as trivial as an unexpected smoothie can be all the motivation our brains need.

  • Make Things Fun. It's true that what is good for us is seldom fun, but if you aren't enjoying the new martial arts goals you've set for yourself, you're going to have a hard time staying motivated. Add some music to a new routine, try finding a practice partner, treat yourself to a more enjoyable routine/kata after you've worked on your more difficult lessons. Do whatever you can to keep things fun and interesting for yourself!

  • Get A Friend. That's not to imply that you're a reclusive old hermit or monk who only keeps his own company; many times the motivation introduced by a friend can be exactly what you need to keep yourself focused on the martial arts path.

  • Track Your Progress. You've probably already been doing something to keep track of your daily or weekly successes, but if not, start. Whether you're scratching a big old 'X' on a calendar or marking off a digital checklist, sometimes all the motivation a mind needs is seeing that progress successfully tracked. Remember the 'we're simple creatures' bit?

  • Start Small. If you're already full on into a routine, chances are you've passed this point. But if you've just taken up a new style or lesson that you're finding difficult to stick to, try breaking it up into small parts. Focus on each part for small lengths of time. Whatever you have to do to ease the difficulty of starting in the first place.

  • Find ways to apply it to your training.

    Apply It:

    The list above provides some solid groundwork to forge ahead with just about any goal you could possibly set for yourself. But how can you make it apply to your martial arts training specifically? Simple:

    • Make every scheduled training appointment. Do whatever you can to ensure that you make every class you say you will make. That may be once a week or once a day, but either way you need to KEEP GOING. It's essential at this point that you don't break your routine. Make all other goals secondary (use your best judgement here) to making it to class.

    • Set milestones and reward their completion. The cool thing about martial arts is that it lends itself rather easily to the setting and tracking of new accomplishments. After all, what do you think belt test is? Break up your goal into separate, smaller goals and assign a reward for yourself with each one. The extra incentive may provide the boost of motivation you need on your more sluggish days.

    • Work your way up slowly. Whether you're joining the martial arts for the first time or taking on a brand new style, biting off more than you can chew is a quick path to failure. Start easy, get comfortable with a light routine, then scale up gradually. Maybe start with one class a week and go from there. Maybe add one extra training day into your schedule and build up to five days per week. Either way, slow and steady will win the race.

    Repetition makes perfect!
    Repeat It:

    Whatever changes you make or approach you take, repetition will be your key to success. It doesn't matter what you're doing, just do it. Make a chart, mark your calendar, or even have a friend pester you weekly to keep you on track if that's what you need.

    It's going to take some time, but soon enough you'll work your way past the inevitable hump and cruise on in to a solid, life-changing habit.

    Final Thoughts

    I want to reiterate how fantastic it is that you've come this far in your martial arts goals. Most people don't last long enough to hit a wall. You also deserve a pat on the back if you're just beginning a martial arts adventure. I wish you the best of luck and know that, with the right preparation, you'll achieve success.

    I also want to dispel any looming fears you may have if you've just only started progress on your goal. Hitting a wall isn't some dreadful point that will crush any hope of accomplishment, it's simply a natural process your body will go through. The important thing is to be able to identify this resistance as it happens. The sooner you can identify it, the sooner you can work towards pushing through it, keeping that wonderful momentum as you go.

    Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! We love to hear from you!

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