4 Simple Steps to Improve Your Martial Arts Skill

Author: Manny OG

Here’s an uncomfortable truth: the most rewarding experiences in life almost always require some level of skill. Skills take time and effort to master— time we don’t have, and effort we’re reluctant to contribute. “I’ll get around to it someday, when I find the time.” It’s easier to sit in front of the television or surf the web, frankly … so that’s what most of us do, and our desires remain dreams. Truthfully, “finding” time is a myth. No one ever “finds” time for anything, in the sense of miraculously discovering some bank of extra time, like finding a twenty-dollar bill you accidentally left in your coat pocket. If you rely on finding time to do something, it will never be done. If you want to find time, you must make time.
Here’s another uncomfortable truth: many things aren’t fun until you’re good at them. Skill is the result of deliberate, consistent training and practice.

However, every skill has what I call a frustration barrier— a period of time in which you’re horribly unskilled, and you’re painfully aware of that fact. Why start something when you know you’re going to be bad at it? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to master new skills with less angst? To break through the frustration barrier quickly, so you can get to the rewarding part? To spend less time slogging through confusion and doubt, and more time having fun? Is it possible to acquire new skills less painfully, in a way that requires far less time and effort? I speak from experience: yes, it’s possible. Here’s how;

1. Deconstructing a skill into the smallest possible subskills; In martial arts, most of the things we think of as skills are actually bundles of smaller subskills. Once you’ve identified a skill to focus on, the next step is to deconstruct it— to break it down into the smallest possible parts. Deconstructing a skill also makes it easier to avoid feeling overwhelmed. You don’t have to practice all parts of a skill at the same time. Train what appeals to you the most, are you learning martial arts for fun, sport or self-defence? Practice what has to do with the reason you took up martial arts. Deconstructing the skill before you begin also allows you to identify the parts of the skill that aren’t important for beginning practitioners. By eliminating the noncritical subskills or techniques early in the process, you’ll be able to invest more of your time and energy mastering the critical subskills first. Once the skill is deconstructed sufficiently, it’s much easier to identify which subskills appear to be most important. By focusing on the critical subskills first, you’ll make more progress with less effort.


2. Learning enough about each subskill to be able to practice intelligently and self-correct during practice; Pick one, and only one, new skill you wish to acquire. Put all of your spare focus and energy into acquiring that skill, and place other skills on temporary hold. Focusing on one prime skill at a time is absolutely necessary for rapid skill acquisition. You’re not giving up on the other skills permanently, you’re just saving them for later.

3. Removing barriers that get in the way of practice; There are many things that can get in the way of practice, which makes it much more difficult to acquire any skill. These barriers can be anything from;
a. Significant prepractice effort. Such as misplacing your training gear, not acquiring the correct equipment before practicing, or skipping setup requirements.

b. Intermittent resource availability. Such as using borrowed equipment or relying on a resource that has limited operating hours.

c. Environmental distractions. Such as television, noisy household and ringing phones.

d. Emotional blocks. Such as fear, doubt, and embarrassment.


4. Practicing the most important subskills for at least twenty hours. I recommend precommitting to completing at least twenty hours of practice. Once you start, you must keep practicing until you hit the twenty-hour mark. If you get stuck, keep pushing: you can’t stop until you reach your target performance level or invest twenty hours. If you’re not willing to invest at least twenty hours up front, go do something else. Two hours daily for five days a week is not so bad. I train like this every day, religiously, either at home or at the gym.

These steps can be applied not just in your martial arts, but also in your everyday life, your job, your faith and even in your relationships.


“The best thing that can happen to a human being is to find a problem, to fall in love with that problem, and to live trying to solve that problem unless another problem even more lovable appears.” -Karl Popper