A student recently asked me about “hardcore” classes. I have various thoughts on this but the one at the forefront concerns perception. A person’s perceptions are truth to them, so one mans “hardcore” may be very different to another’s.

hardcore-neckWhen talking training, hardcore can be defined as, “unswervingly committed, uncompromising and dedicated”. Most, though, think of it as extreme, pushing to the limits type training. This, again, comes down to personal perception. Hardcore to an overweight couch potato might be a walk around the block, to another it might be a thousand knuckle pushups in broken glass. For the purpose of this article “hardcore” will refer to what people perceive as extreme training.

Personally, I don’t think that regular classes should be hardcore. Many also refer to classes as lessons, and they should be just that. Your regularly attended martial arts class should be there for you to learn something. Its purpose should not be to completely break you down physically and mentally. This is not to say that it should not be challenging, but any student of a reasonable fitness level should be able to, literally, take part in the class. A physically and mentally drained student is too concerned with not passing out than on concentrating on the finer points of a lesson. If a student is too broken to function or to absorb what the Instructor is saying because he is too drained, then the lesson is a failure – the student will leave having attended a class, but learnt nothing.

Bag kickA regular class, of course, will require a student to meet certain fitness and conditioning standards in order to perform the lesson, but the Instructor must remember that the main aim of a regular class is to teach and for the student to learn.

The focus of a particular lesson may be fitness, flexibility, technique practice or a myriad of other subjects. The student must remember, though, that class time is not fitness training, flexibility training or practice time. All of those aspects should be carried out outside of regular class time. A student must take what they have learned in a lesson and apply it in their out of class training. A degree of fitness, flexibility and practice may be done in a class but this is not enough for any martial artist worth his salt. A fly in the wind, recreational “martial artist” may rely on his one or two classes per week as his sole form of physical activity, but anyone with more interest realizes that this is nowhere near sufficient. Fitness, flexibility and practicing should also be done out of regular class time. Whether at home or in separate sessions dedicated to these aspects is up to the individual. These extra, dedicated sessions are where physical improvement is made through more intense and specific training. For many it is made easy. Martial arts clubs often offer additional classes that a student may attend, designed specifically to address these extra training needs. There are classes designed specifically for martial arts fitness, flexibility, etc. These extra classes are a good place to start for the student who wants gains in different areas of his training.

I’m sure at one stage or another both Instructors and students have heard, “that was an easy class this evening” with a saddened tone in the voice from somebody leaving the class. It should be remembered that the purpose is not necessarily to make a class difficult. The purpose is to get a point across, and some points are physically easier to get across than others. Some classes may be “harder” than others depending on what the focus of the lesson is.

Jumping push upAs time goes by, students who are diligent with their attendance of lessons and practice sufficiently out of class better prepare and condition their bodies for intense physical training. Senior students will often have separate classes from juniors. These classes will often be a lot more physically demanding, but because of the buildup of physical and mental conditioning over time it just seems normal to them. To the outsider and junior perspective this may seem to be “hardcore”, but to the senior student it is probably just another day at the office. Again, it’s about perspective. The senior student has gained enough experience to know the importance of additional training to his class regime, and therefore more challenging regular classes can be carried out while still keeping the “lesson” intact.

Beginners and junior students with low fitness levels are easily scared off by a class that leaves them unable to walk for a month. The point is to gain students and build them to the point and level you expect from them, not to prove what a tough trainer you are and destroy them completely on their first day out.

Fitness and flexibility training, as well as technique practice cannot be ignored. An instructor must set a clear guideline of what is expected of the student and the student must set these as part of his goals. The Instructor must regularly test the student to make sure that the student is carrying out what he is supposed to. If the student is unable to keep up, then most likely he is not doing what he is meant to in order to progress.

hardcore-neck-liftWhen looking for long term, healthy gains don’t think that you can take the short road there. As has been said, “Hardcore” is in the eye of the beholder. It is possible for every person to reach that level. Once that level is reached, you won’t even realize that you have reached it. In martial arts it’s not always about training hard, it’s about training consistently. With consistent training the body is built up and conditioned over time. As the body is conditioned it is able to deal with more and so, naturally, the intensity of training can be lifted. What many perceive as “hardcore” training doesn’t seem so tough to those who have taken the slightly longer road. It is part of a natural progression over time. For a stable, consistent student “hardcore training” is just “training”. From the outside and for a beginner attempting it, it may seem brutal, but really it is not. A fat slob can’t decide to run a marathon on his first day off the couch.

Going to brutal fitness and full-blown fighting sessions is going to get a student nowhere. The only things this can cause are burnout and injuries, especially for students unaccustomed or unconditioned to this type of training. Often, “hardcore” can be translated as “stupid”.

sticks and stones“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.” This is what is told to children all the time and yet, for many, words seem to hurt far more than physical attack.

As martial artists we tend to focus a lot on preparing ourselves against physical attack and, often, not as much against verbal abuse – whether to our faces or behind our backs. Not directly, anyway. Training in martial arts should, however, over time, instill in you a confidence and air allowing criticism and insults which are thrown your way to run like water off a ducks back.

Being involved in martial arts can sometimes put you in the direct line of various criticisms and insults. As martial artists we will be insulted by martial artists of other styles, people within our own style, fellow students and even members of the public who have their own, often uneducated, opinions in this realm.

criticisingAs in life, you can’t allow insults to hurt you. As a Martial Artist, your martial art will form a large part of your life and in many ways shape who you are, so an insult concerning your martial art, and you specifically within your art, can be easily viewed as a personal attack. However, this is par for the course. If you had to take personally and respond every time somebody criticized or threw an insult your way there would be little time for anything else, I’d imagine.

Martial artists often need to develop a thick skin – like we condition our bodies, so too should we condition our minds against this type of attack. How many of us would still be around if we gave up at the first insult, or the millionth for that matter. The majority who made the insults, though, are long gone – not even a distant memory.

Step upMartial arts teach confidence and how to stand up for yourself, so why fall down at a mere insult? What kind of strength is that? Sometimes the best defence is to carry on with what you are doing. Criticism and insults can only effect you if allow them to. People can be negative and if you dwell on their negativity it can stop you from achieving your goals. These people’s thoughts and feelings are exactly that… theirs. Stay true to your mission no matter what the naysayers have to say. For every one detractor you will find ten supporters. Give the supporters the attention they deserve, not the detractors. You need to realize that you will never be able to please everybody. People who hold a grudge against you and like to make commentary are allowed to do just that. That is their problem, and they need to deal with and come to terms with it on their own. As the saying goes, “What others have to say about you is none of your business.” So don’t add more to your plate by making their thoughts your focus.

Insults and criticism are negative feelings voiced. People tend to be brought down easily by negativity, especially if it is flung in your direction. Negativity attracts more negativity, so it is very important that you don’t allow other’s to affect you in this way. The best way to deal with negativity is to distance yourself from it – cut it out – this includes negative, criticizing, insulting people. Everybody would love for everyone to agree with and support them, but this is not the case. You need to accept it, own it and move on. Such is life. So many people can be supportive and yet we can give that one negative person enough power to bring the whole house down. This mindset needs to change.Fort 1 The martial arts mindset must not allow this. Dealing with adversity should be what you look forward to. A stone being thrown at a fort cannot bring it down, so why let it bring you down? Keep things in perspective. This will draw you to greatness

People will insult you and talk behind your back for various reasons. The most prevalent, though, is jealousy. Many don’t like to see others moving ahead, holding the cards or living the dream they have created for themselves. Negative talk about others forms part of the victim mentality and is the lowest form of conversation. Talking about others can often point out a person’s own insecurities. Often they want what you have or want to be able to do what you can, but can’t either due to their own laziness or incompetence. It’s far easier to talk rubbish and bring others down than step up to the plate themselves.

Personally, I think that if people want to talk behind your back and make insults towards you it is an achievement. If you can effect a person’s thinking so much that they have to talk about and think about you, essentially they have given you a degree of power over them. While you are constantly entering their thoughts, they don’t even enter yours. While you are getting on with business, they are busy dwelling on and thinking about you, and by default not getting done what they should to move ahead. These self-pitying fools give so much attention and concern to your perceived flaws and misgivings that they literally hold themselves back. This eventually causes them even more frustration and negative thought and soon suck themselves into oblivion.

Walking awayLet insult throwers wallow in their own misery. Soon everyone gets bored of their conversation anyway, and they find themselves all alone. You keep walking forward doing what you do, leaving the garbage in your wake. Even those close to you may be insulting, negative and unsupportive. Their opinions should not be given any more worth than a known enemy. If you have a goal and a true belief in what you want to accomplish, maybe they also need to be cut loose. Often, people don’t want to see others succeed – even people close to them.
You know in your heart what is best for you, nobody else. Be true to yourself and stick it out through the storm. You will come out the other side tougher and better. And at the same time you will have gotten rid of the scraps along the way. In the end, you have to face yourself and be content with your own actions and achievements. When all is said and done, what others think is inconsequential. Always remember your mission and never compromise on it.

Criticising2Remember, the true greats didn’t give up at the first sign of opposition. They stuck it out regardless and proved the naysayers wrong. They learned to take the bad with the good, and that the bad can only take effect if it is allowed to. Sometimes you need to roll with the punches and weather the storm before you deliver the knockout blow.

In martial arts, or otherwise, two-faced back-talkers never make legendary status.

mission and visionI believe this applies not only to our lives in the martial arts, but in everything we do.

As we prepare for a new year many will reflect on the past. Much of the focus is on the negative – what we didn’t accomplish, what we had higher hopes of achieving and whatever else we perceive to be “wrong” with us. This is okay to a point, but dwelling is unhealthy and can create a sense of failure and morbidity. All of the negatives should be turned into positives and we should create and revive our enthusiasm to achieve our goals and create and build our reality. I always find it more motivating to look into the future than into the past. There is nothing we can do about the past, but everything we can do about the future.

Make this a year of doing. Turn yourself into that person you envision.

beltsHere are some basics that I believe may help:

• Count your blessings and be appreciative of how rich you already are.
• Value yourself.
• Make your happiness a priority.
• Have Goals, not dreams
• Stop wishing and start working
• Stop hoping to get lucky and start creating and taking advantage of opportunities.
• Stop waiting for the perfect time. There is no better time than now.

set goalsIn many people’s minds the New Year brings with it a clean slate where anything is possible, but as I tell my students often, change doesn’t come with a date. A new day on the calendar isn’t going to make anything easier to accomplish. It takes just as much grit and hard work no matter when you start. But the point is to start. The sooner you start the sooner you will reach your intended destination.

Set your goals, create a plan, commit to and enforce your plan, persevere. I wish you all the best with your goals and lives. Go out and prosper.

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