This is something that I often have to explain to students. People often think that they need to jump into their training at full force and keep it there indefinitely. “I just want to train hard!” is the phrase that rings in my ears so often. I say to these people, “It’s not always about training hard, it’s about training consistently.” I find that beginner students often have trouble understanding what I am trying to get across, but often many senior students don’t grasp it either.
Consistency in training is what builds a base. It the foundation upon which your martial art is built. Without the base your house will fall down. Often a student’s house will crash down, and they will rebuild again without learning from the mistake they made the first time. These are often the people who “train hard”. The first thing that people need to realize is that we cannot train at 100% all of the time. If a person puts in all of their effort all of the time, they will suffer from “burn out”, just like the struck match, especially if they are doing so without a base.
A student needs to realize that preparing his body for martial arts is not an overnight endeavor. It can take years to prepare the body to perform certain tasks. This is done by being consistent. A person that is there every class over a 4 month period may argue that they have been consistent, but in martial arts consistency is not measured in months, it is measured by the accumulated training of many, many years. Consistent training is body changing – in a lot of ways it morphs the body into what you have been telling it to become over an extended period of time. Consistency ingrains the movements into you. They become a part of you and your structure. This cannot be done over only a few weeks, or months of training.
Training consistently is like putting away a percentage of your salary in a savings account every month. Each time you receive a raise, you are still putting away the same percentage. Even though the percentage stays the same, the amount of money being put away goes up due to the raise. If we compare it to training, we can liken the raise to fitness.
Two young men decide to take up martial arts. Their new instructor speaks to them about consistency and effort levels in order to build a strong foundation.
The first young man takes his instructor’s advice and trains at about 75% of his capacity. At this 75% he attends every class and his fitness gradually builds. His body is given the chance to recover and to adjust to the strains it will be put under. His bone density increases, his tendons, ligaments and muscles strengthen and his heart rate slows. He starts out barely able to complete 10 pushups, but a year later he is managing 90 pushups, still at 75% of his maximum output. It has been a gradual process barely noticeable over the given length of time.
The other young man thinks this building up “story” is nonsense. He jumps into training at 100%. In the first couple of months his strength seems to have improved dramatically. When starting out he managed to force out 20 pushups. Two months down he was hitting on 60. All of a sudden his body became drained, his muscles began to give in and he pulled a hamstring, His immune system had been depleted and he became ill. His training was over for a few months. Upon his return he jumped back in at full tilt. He managed his 20 pushups and a couple of months later he was hitting 60 once more. Once again became injured and ill.
When the first year was up the first young man was reaching 90 pushups at 75% of his output due to his gradual build up and consistency. The second young man was returning for the third time and was once again managing 20 pushups at 100%.
So how can we recognise a “hard trainer”? The “hard trainer” is always going beyond the measure. He puts in so much effort because he has a goal and wants to reach it as soon as possible. I think in today’s fast paced world this has become a culture. They are of the opinion that if you throw in all of their effort at the beginning then they will get faster results. This is, in fact, untrue. I have seen it time and again – so much energy is put in at the beginning that there is nothing left to finish with. In an effort to be the best in as short a period as possible, the opposite is achieved. Because the “hard trainer’s” body has not been prepared sufficiently it eventually gives in. The “hard trainer” can be recognized easily – he is always sporting some kind of an injury or illness and is often not at class due to this.
The “consistent trainer” can also be recognized easily. He is the guy that is always there. He is part of the establishment. He is hardly ever injured or sick, and if he is, it doesn’t last long. He realizes his goals because he knows nothing comes overnight. He has that little bit extra inside him to give when it is required. The “consistent trainer” is durable and develops a certain prowess, as though his body has been built for what he performs.
There is a special type “consistent trainer” who knows when he can train hard (Eagle). His body has been prepared and adjusted to meet the rigors of his training and automatically knows its limits. His training can be upped at intervals in preparation for certain events, i.e. Tournaments, grading, etc. He recognizes that he cannot train hard all the time, and realizes that without maintaining his base he cannot perform at all. He knows how far and how long he can push for without suffering from burn out. He has learned this through consistency in his training and will always remain consistent.
It is possible for a consistent trainer to train hard, it is not possible for a hard trainer to train consistently.
Martial artists need to realize that it’s not always about getting somewhere faster. In many cases speed causes quality to suffer. Be consistent, build the base and your house will stand forever.