Martial Arts Belts - Black BeltAfter a decade of teaching Martial Arts in Basingstoke and nearly 40 years  of learning and teaching several Martial Arts, my experiences is that we all reach plateaus in our training. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hard combative martial art like Karate, Judo or Ju Jitsu (from Japan) or Muay Thai, Pencak Silt or Taekwondo (from South Asia) along with the many hard styles of Chinese Kung Fu difficult. Many people even say that learning a soft Martial Art such as  Tai Chi, Aikido, Pa-Kua or Hsing is even harder.

There is a typical scenario that happens with practitioners. When they start practising, they know nothing, so progress can be made rapidly and new things are learnt almost constantly. The beginner tends to feel energised and is generally pleased with their progress. It can be said that a beginner has an empty cup, so lots can be poured into it.

As they consolidate and hone these skills and their knowledge, things become flatter in terms of the feeling of success and accomplishments. Many students become unhappy or disillusioned with their seeming lack of progress and quit their training. For those that stick through this phase the rewards when they come out of the plateau are great. It’s often like a light switch has been turned on and that persons skills  have been multiplied. There are many different factors that impact upon development in the Martial Arts.

  • Firstly the type of Art you are studying and associated with this is your teacher.
  • Secondly, is your personal ability to learn the art you are studying and whether you have chosen the right art for you.  Typically someone choosing Tai Chi as their main art has different desires and goals than someone practicing Brazilian Ju Jitsu. (BJJ) 
  • Thirdly, your personal stage of maturation both physically and mentally does have a major impact on both your ability to train and also how you train.
  • Life is the last thing, families, work, school, shopping, friends and the host of other things that we choose to spend our time and money on all have an impact upon our ability to improve our skills.

By the time a student gets closer to their coveted Black Belt, their Instructor or coach should be pushing them much harder, both physically to perform their techniques and mentally to demonstrate their understanding of the art. Their skills are much greater, speed and power are really starting to come together and their understanding of the art is much greater.  However it’s generally one of the most dangerous phases, because many people lose heart and the will to persevere and give up, when their goal is so close, due to the anxiety and stress that they feel is encroaching upon them.

All of us who have reached their Black Belt have experienced these plateau in our own training and if we are honest, we still experience them as Black Belts, even at very senior levels. Personally speaking I’ve had times when I’ve felt like I’ve regressed in terms of skill and ability. When I was a 2nd Dan, I went through 12 months of everyone in the Dojo from Yellow Belt upto Black Belts being faster than me, stronger, more skilful and basically able to beat me every time I fought them, and beat me convincingly. One day at training it all fell into place and the  old me was back. Actually that wasn’t quite true, it was the new highly improved me and I could do it again, only better than before. I reflected long and hard about that experience and my conclusion was that my belief in training had paid off and my diligence to train and the will not to give up had proven themselves invaluable.

So next time you go through that feeling that you aren’t getting anywhere. Dig deep and keep training and learn from the experience to make yourself a better Martial Artist.

On the other hand when the going starts to get tougher, you could always just give in to that little voice and give it all up. Just remember though that little voice will years later say “If only I’d………………………..”

You can be a Black Belt or lazy. You can’t be both.