Monday, April 25, 2016

Martial Arts Growth is Not Linear

There is a saying I learned while I was in weight loss groups that has stuck with me:

"Weight Loss is Not Linear"

It refers to the fact that we gain or lose weight in spurts, and that it's unreasonable to expect, when losing weight, that it will consistently decrease on a daily basis.

Having lost and maintained about 40 pounds myself, I can testify that this is absolutely true. There were days I went up a little bit, long periods where nothing changed, and then boom, a few pounds would permanently go away.

This fact is also true in just about any path to growth or success.  It's especially true in the martial arts.

Image found here.
Recently I made what I would call a "leap forward" in my understanding of Arnis.  That is, I understand and execute some things I couldn't before.  I has a long period where I didn't think I was growing at all in Arnis, then suddenly - BOOM!

I don't think this is due to any one single thing.  In fact, I didn't quite realize it was going on.  Just all of a sudden, I understood some stuff I'd been taught or shown over the prior year in a way I hadn't before.  I can "see" things in a way that is deeper than it was not too long ago.

It's interesting, because I've been struggling so hard in my study of tonfa, and now I'm actively studying Ryukyu Kempo too (right now, just working on forms).   My brain has been in that part of my study.

So how or why did my Arnis suddenly seem to take off?

I suspect a few factors are at play.

Long hours of repetition absolutely played a part.  Sometimes becoming good at something is just a simple slog of doing stuff over and over and over again.  What happens at some point is that your brain and body can finally execute it to the point where you don't have to think too hard at it, so now you can see... other stuff.

So yes, I do agree with the idea that if you want to see progress, you gotta carve out the time to practice over and over and over.  The more time you can devote to this, the faster you will progress.

And on and on and on...

Teaching others played a part.  Our program will be a year old come this summer, and I've been teaching at my teacher's school for several years now.  Teaching other people definitely makes you think hard about what you do, and why you do it, and come up with creative ways to teach a variety of people the material.

I've had a pretty intense year or so of seminars.  Part of the "leap forward" recently hearkens back to a lot of the things I've learned at all those seminars.  It just took time for some of that stuff to sink in and become integrated into what I do, and I suspect some of the things that hasn't sunk in yet will, eventually.

I've also noticed that as I'm working in Kobudo and Ryukyu Kempo, I'm seeing all sorts of Arnis-y stuff there.  Not that I'm claiming a relationship - there isn't - I'm just saying that the things I'm studying there is reinforcing what I already know well in Arnis, and sometimes, helps me understand it a little bit better than I did before.

Still, sometimes... there is no reason, it just is the way it is.  Growth is not linear.

It isn't something that is a slow and steady progress.  It comes in leaps and spurts and sometimes a step back becomes three steps forward.

It's frustrating for us, as we want to continually improve - to be better today than we were yesterday, and to know that tomorrow we'll be better.

There are some periods where you get bored and you think, "Why am I bothering? I'm not going to learn more."

Been here, done this.

That's when a lot of us quit or move on to something else and abandon what we're doing.  Obviously, I believe that's a huge mistake.

If I'd abandoned Arnis during these plateaus, these new insights would never have happened.  When you get them,  it's almost like you fall back in love with what you are doing.  The long period of boredom is forgotten because you're excited about it all over again.

This is how you get guys quitting their art and going on to create their own art way before they've mastered their original, as they don't have the patience to get through these plateaus to growth.

Patience, y'all.  Keep at it.  Martial arts growth is not linear.

How do you weather your martial arts growth plateaus?  Tell us about a time you made one of those great leaps forward... let us know in the comments!