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Are You Training or Practicing

All too often, I listen to martial art students of various ranks passionately explaining “training” in their chosen style.  Our conversation eventually ends with how many days or hours a week they are “practicing.”  All martial art students must understand that there is an important difference between the two. A careful and complete understanding of the difference can enhance the quality of your love for the arts while also providing a mindset that will make your learning and skills stronger.

Practicing is defined as “actively following a specific way of life.” Our instructors are tasked with great responsibility to ensure their students are correctly taught the techniques, both mentally and physically.  And the students are expected to absorb this information in a slow and careful manner.  Once the student demonstrates an acceptable understanding of the technique, they are now ready to advance to the level of “training.”

Training is defined as “to make prepared for a test or skill.” Simply stated, training involves the process of preparing to maximize your understanding and skill ability of your chosen topic.  Martial art masters from the early years devoted an enormous amount of time investing and training students before they could achieve a rank.  A careful analysis of their reasoning probably revolved around the fact that time with commitment and focus will produce great results. 

As a life-long martial art student that has encompassed most of my life, I have experienced the practicing (learning) and training (development) in both the “old” and “new” school theory.  The “old” school environment provided me with a tough love from the instructor (and students) where I learned and developed all techniques carefully and methodically.  It was not “correct” until the instructor expressed his approval for me after many hours of my error free demonstration of my knowledge, skills, and commitment.

Unfortunately, I have also witnessed the “new” concept of martial arts training.  I have sat on many testing boards as a guest and witnessed various types of performance.  Sadly, I have seen several testing candidates “dancing” through the movements with a false sense of security and expectation.  A student must except the responsibility of their mastery, but the instructor must also be held accountable for the instruction of all material to the students.  Also, I have been impressed by the actions of students who have sensibly learned (practiced) and developed (trained) their techniques to an impressive level of performance.

Regardless of your rank, style, and skill, we all share a great love for the martial arts and our fellow martial artists.  We must scrutinize all our techniques by carefully asking ourselves if we are practicing and learning and then training and developing.  Learning is a life-long process for those who make the commitment.  A true martial artist is humble while on a quest to ensure their techniques are correct and executed with flawless confidence and skill.  It is never too late to accept change and to be honest with yourself.  Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate and known as the founder of modern Karate, made a profound and humbling statement to his senior student.  Months before his passing, he said “I now understand the low block.”   

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