Sometimes as a coach in any sport it’s easy to feel like a nag, constantly reminding students to ‘bend their knee’ or ‘pull their hand back’ or ‘grip the uniform differently’ or whatever is specific to a particular sport.
The focus of Sunday’s monthly coaching meeting was how to create effective and fun new ways to develop skills without seeming like we are nagging. Sharing experiences and knowledge of Gymnastics, Judo, Tennis, Karate, Tai Chi, Teaching in academic situations and discussing how we can relate this experience to Andragogy and Pedagogy.
Just asked the kids at the end of one of the Karate classes, in Basingstoke, if they had any questions and was asked “what did we learn today cause I just had fun.” We discussed it as a group and this is what they learnt.
Our drills warm up was team oriented and included a class discussion on how we deal well with winning and losing.
‘Yes, but it’s easy for you’ are words I hear frequently when coaching, typically when asking students to challenge themselves with something they cannot yet do. Yes I’m a Kata World champion, European champion, British champion and multiple sports award winner but what you don’t know is what I have had to do to get where I am.
Typically, I don’t reply with anything other than ‘it’s not about me, it’s about you. Keep working on it’. However, next time you think about giving up, or making excuses because you believe that someone else finds it ‘easy’ and you don’t, I want you to think for a moment about this; just because someone makes something look effortless, doesn’t mean it took no effort to attain the skill. ‘It’s easy for you’ is an assumptive, blasé comment which is often said without thinking, to excuse the fact that someone feels embarrassed that they can’t currently do something the way they would like to or because they can’t be bothered to put the required work into developing the skill.
Just think for a second, if you could do something to perfection already why would I be asking you, as a coach, to work on it? Why would I be asking for you to practise and giving you help and advice on how to improve if not because I believe that you can be better, that you want to be better? It is my way of making things ‘easy’ for you. As martial artists we need the things that we practise to come easily to us, if we feel uncoordinated, clumsy and slow in the way we move we will never be able to defend ourselves effectively. It should be our goal to work hard enough to make things appear effortless. As a coach, I do not want to spend my time being impressed by what you can do, I want to be impressed by the effort and attitude you put into what you can’t do.
I’m not perfect, no one is, but don’t ever believe for one moment that just because I can do something and do it well that it’s easy for me. Everything I have achieved I have done because I have worked continuously hard over an extremely long period of time. Every one of us is different; there are things which I have picked up quickly which someone else will struggle with and vice versa. I seek out the best instructors and I take the time to listen to what they have to say, and often what they say is critical. I write copious notes on everything which I often refer to and I put in hours and hours of practise, sometimes repeating individual moves hundreds of times over until I succeed in doing something so that it feels right. I ask questions, I research what I’m doing. It’s important to understand not only how to do something correctly but why it is the correct way. None of this is easy.
Learning is a constantly evolving process. Complacency is dangerous, if you allow yourself to believe that you have mastered something you become complacent and cease to practise with the correct mindset. In this case you are now just going through the motions like a machine; not thinking, not feeling and not intuitively improving. All training should be done with an open mind, ready to change, adapt and improve. As we grow older physical limitations make it necessary for us to adapt. We lose flexibility, speed and strength but at the same time we should be learning how to adapt our movements so we don’t lose the skills we have worked hard to master. People often become frustrated when they find they can no longer train and move the way they did in their youth. It no longer feels ‘right’ which is why we need to be open-minded when we train. What was right when I was 20 is no longer right for me now I’m in my 40’s. I have had to continue to adapt and continue to work hard.
For those who continue to train, to work and to develop their skills, there can always be improvement. These people find that their movements become softer, more fluid, smaller, wiser and simultaneously more effective. At this point many of us look back and wish we had known when we started that things could be gentle on the body and yet effective. This is when, to the novice, things look effortless and ‘easy’ for those who have developed these skills.
Whenever you become frustrated that someone else appears to find something easy when you find it difficult consider that they were once where you are now. Looking at someone else wishing they had those skills, wondering why it seemed so easy for someone else. They are possibly still looking at someone else wishing their skills were at that level rather than the level that they are but, in their case, knowing that this will come with time and work and understanding that this hasn’t come easy – it has come through continuous effort and hard work.
Where I am hasn’t come easy for me, it has come as a result of many years of hard work. I have trained in martial arts for over twenty three years. I train, on average, for twenty hours per week with a mixture of personal training, private lessons, coaching and fitness work. I do more when I can. Just one year after I started training in martial arts I was diagnosed with M.E (also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). As a result this has been anything but easy for me but I have never given up. You never know what anyone has struggled with or is currently struggling with and how hard they have worked to attain their goals and reach their current standard but I do know that with my own achievements I have felt an enormous sense of pride, this is not something you feel when something comes easy to you.
With this in mind, next time that you are faced with a challenge and someone else is making it look easy, ask yourself how much you want to achieve, how hard you are willing to work and how important it is to you to get there. Just because it looks easy for someone else doesn’t mean it came easily to them. Consider and appreciate the effort they have put in and then match that effort with your own.
We are all afraid of something at times. Anyone who tells you that they’ve never been afraid is lying.
For some people it’s Spiders (Arachnephobia or Arachnophobia) or Clowns (Coulrophobia) or Heights (Hypsiphobia) or Flying (Pteromerhanophobia) or Darkness (Lygophobia) There is even Fear of being laughed at (Gelotophobia) and Fear of Knees (Genuphobia.) Some people have even invented fear of new things like Bridges (Bridgophobia ;->)
What’s this go to do with Martial Arts? As successful Martial Artists we constantly place ourselves into positions where we are afraid or at the very least out of our comfort zone. If we stay within our self imposed boundaries, we simply won’t improve, in fact we’ll stagnate and often our skills will degrade.
This ‘fear’ can be from many things
Moving up a class in your club
Taking a grading
Training against someone much higher (in belt terms)
Taking part in a competition
Losing at a competition
Learning a new form or Kata.
Fear of being mugged/beaten up
Within our syllabus we progressively encourage people to push those boundaries to develop their skills, knowledge and themselves. It’s not easy to do, it can be challenging mentally and physically but the sense of achievement when that barrier is overcome is palpable. When someone is ready to take their Black belt, we give them a specific challenge that is pertinent to them and relevant to them improving their skills, they are definitely not easy to complete, but those that have risen to the challenge have come out of the other end as much more accomplished Martial Artists .
Einstein puts it quite well ” Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” So do something differently.
Identify what you want to achieve
Understand why you want to do that thing
Plan how your are going to achieve it
Work through your plan and any set backs
Measure your success
Adapt your plan
Be accountable to yourself
A good Martial Arts coach, will all been there and worn the T Shirt and is in fact still doing it, so you are not alone on the journey. A good Martial Artist will keep pushing their own boundaries to improve and enrich themselves.