So you wanna be a martial arts badass.
I'm with you, my friend. I'm all about the badassery.
Of course, being a short, overweight middle-aged woman will limit me some in that regard. But after pursuit of this funny little hobby of ours of acquiring bruises for funsies for a while now, I've learned a few things that helps me overcome being the world's worst candidate for badassery.
Here's a few of those things:
1) BE OPEN MINDED
No nerd rage over esoteric and unprovable points about mythical situations is ever as heated as it is when martial artists start arguing about what would and would not work "in the street" and why.
It's our equivalent of insisting that Captain America would defeat Batman in a fight(1), or over which Star Trek captain is "the best"(2).
I suggest, instead of insisting that you know how all fights work for all people, or which martial arts technique is "best", you keep an open mind and see what you can pick up from other people's point of view. It doesn't mean that you have to adopt what others do or accept their solution to martial arts problems. But, if you listen with an open mind, you might pick up a perspective on what you do agree with in a way you hadn't considered before, which makes your own way to solve the problem better.
2) PRACTICE DAILY
This is a lesson I relearn over and over again. You have to practice. There's no way around it. Even if you run through a drill or a form (if you do them) for five minutes, it helps, dramatically.
How you define "practice" is not just physical, though. Simply thinking about something you've been working on is practice. If you have a long commute, instead of listening to that podcast, why not visualize a drill you've been working on or something in your forms?
Just the thinking part has helped me suck less, much less the physical part. So give your martial arts training some time on a daily basis and watch how you grow.
3) TEACH OTHERS
Whenever the opportunity presents itself, train other people.
This can be different depending on your style and your association's rules. In my style we're encouraged to teach others no matter how experienced we are, as my style spread via seminars and it's the easiest way to retain what you learned. Your style might not allow it until you reach a certain rank.
Whatever the case, as soon as you are able, teach other people. Volunteer for that white belt intro class, volunteer to help out a kid's class, or help that lower rank person with something you know (like a form or a set of techniques) in class whenever you can help your teacher out with this.
I can tell you for a fact my personal growth as a martial artist accelerated when I started teaching in my teacher's school and in our own rec center program.
4) KEEP THE STUDENT MINDSET
Whenever possible, seek out people who are better than you are and train with them.
What "better" means can vary. It may mean higher ranked persons. It may be someone with a great fight record. It may be experts in a specific thing (like a weapon). Heck, it may just mean being open to the idea that someone way better than you are are might have an insight into what you do that you haven't considered before.
The very best martial arts experts I've ever had the opportunity to know and train with have this student mindset. They're constantly learning and growing and reconsidering what they already know. They may strap on a white belt and train in a different style or attend seminars as students.
You'll never know it all and you'll never be perfect. In my case, I'm triple lucky because there's no shortage of people better than I am at, well, everything.
5) CROSS TRAIN
This is related to keeping an open mind and keeping the student mindset.
When and if your style/organization/association allows it, cross train in other styles.
One caveat: I suggest, if you are new to your style, you don't cross train until you have a good handle on what you're trying to master in your current style (you can get confused easily). But after that point, do cross train, even if it's just attending a seminar once in a while outside of your organization.
You can try things that are similar to what you do such as different lineages of your style, or like I have where I am learning different weapons. Or a style of karate if you do tae kwon do, or Judo if you already play BJJ.
Or, you can try things that are WAY outside of your style's point of view. Ground guys should try striking or weapons arts. Weapons folks should grapple or empty hand striking and kicking. Kickers and strikers should try grappling and weapons.
The point is not necessarily to adopt what you're cross training in to your own practice. It's to understand different points of view so that you can improve your own strategy. We all have blind spots and assumptions we make when we train. Cross training in something wildly different can help expose those blind spots and assumptions. You can't address what you don't know is there.
I promise you, empty hand and grappling friends, if you train with us in the Filipino Martial Arts you will quickly come to see the gaps in your game when facing a knife.
There you go, five ways that I've learned over the years to suck less at the martial arts. Did I miss any important points? How do you suck less than you used to? Let me know if the comments!
(1) Of course Batman wins. He's Batman.
(2) Picard. Fight me.