Subscribe to Black Belt at Home Blog!
Be the first to know about new blog articles. You won't be roundhouse kicked in the head with spam and pointless promotional emails. Thanks for being a reader!
I have now been working with distance training students for seven years. Throughout this time, I have made comparisons between my home study students and my physical-dojo students. They are much more similar than you might think.
I have also contrasted home study students. These are purely my observations, and are not judgmental/highly views as to strike down on poorly-performing students. I am not naming any names, these are general notes I want to share with you, as one of your grading instructors. My goal with this article is to help everyone on their own respective path to self-improvement. If you are considering joining one of our home study courses, let this article be a briefing of sorts, so that you can start out with proper expectations and an eye for these qualities within yourself.
These qualities are not in any particle order or ranking, I just like numbered lists for some reason. The best home study students tend to keep their instructor in the loop. I am not talking about constant emails, late night phone calls, or creepy postcards; but an email/message here and there. It is very helpful to let your instructor know about your previous martial arts background (if applicable), any current health issues/goals, your line of work (specifically if you are in law enforcement/military/martial arts instruction), and why you are training. This allows us to keep some general notes about you, be mindful of your circumstances, and get to know you better as a human being of course! Our best home study students let us know when they are preparing to test, about any injuries, and just how the course has impacted their lives.
Great home study students (or HSS for short…alright I won’t actually use that acronym, that’s pretty facetious isn’t it) tend to be resourceful. They don’t make excuses. They don’t say: where can I practice, I don’t have room to do my katas? Where can I practice my bo, I live in an apartment? How can I get actual Krav practice in, I don’t have a partner? Being a home study student means thinking outside of the box sometimes. Instead of attending a furnished training facility, you sort of have to craft your own. This could mean outfitting an extra bedroom into a mini practice room, or making a full-blown garage dojo. It could mean practicing your bo forms with a broom stick or kali stick when you are indoors to get your pattern down, without breaking the lamp. It could mean getting a hanging bag or B.O.B for some Krav work whenever you have no partner. It could mean asking a friend or family member to train with you (even if you think they will say no – sometimes people surprise you). This all leads to the student taking their training and goals seriously, which leads to faster progress.
The best home study students actually practice. Yes, practice. They don’t just pop in the DVD, learn the techniques just enough to take the rank exam, lie in their training journal just to take the exam, and then send in their video. What is the point? Why would you do all of this just to get a piece of paper or a belt? A rank/belt/certificate only holds equal significance to the amount of effort, sacrifice, and hard work put in to achieve it. Without proper practice, training time spent, mistakes corrected, hours of focus, sweat, blood, and tears – your martial arts journey will be a listless and empty endeavor for an un-worthy accolade.
Great home study students have a training schedule. For example: 3, 45 minute classes a week. They plan a warm up, they focus on a curriculum section in each class, they mix in new drills they think of (or find in books, DVDs, youtube), & they do conditioning. Proper practice and consistency leads to great preparation for rank exams.
Great home study students tend to look pretty trim. I don’t mean they are all underwear models or the epitome of physique-perfection or some non-sense. But, great home study students take care of themselves. They eat clean. They exercise regularly (on top of martial arts training). This speaks volumes in their rank exams and communications. By eating clean, you have a higher level of clarity. You are better able to take corrective criticism and feedback without getting insulted. You have the ability to rise above animalistic impulses which can sometimes hinder your greater well-being, in your day to day diet and activities. By making your karate, krav, tai chi, etc. training a component of an overall healthy life – you will be a better home study student, naturally. Don’t have the time to be healthy? Cut out 30 minutes of TV watching each day for food preparation. That’s it, see what happens. I now spend more time on my nutrition, yes, this is true. I make a juice each morning (getting out fruits and veggies, cutting them, juicing, drinking, and washing the juicer later that day) does take about 20 minutes. I also eat more often, and prepare snacks for the day now. I find that if it is available to me, I will make the smart choice. So, you can usually find the time by removing a negative aspect of your day.
The best home study students are not training purely for the certificate on their wall. They feel that doing the katas or escaping the rear naked choke with force or harnessing the staff with grace or surging qi throughout their body – has a greater meaning. They see martial arts as more than physical exercise, a way to achieve a rank, or even something purely of interest. The best students tend to tie their martial arts training into their overall voyage of self-mastery. They may be training so that they can teach others. So that they can spread the positive values, create a safer community, and pass along the wisdom of a fit body and mind.
I was very tempted to leave this out. I can’t classify it as an internal quality, but rather as a life circumstance or happenstance. I tend to find that home study martial artists who have previous martial arts training of some sort do have an advantage. This does not mean that you will be behind, slow at progressing, or lack hope if you are starting out as a white belt – don’t worry about that! But, I have observed that going through some program previously tends to teach some of the overarching concepts that sometimes cross through different styles. Whether it was 6 months ago, or 6 years ago; some type of previous experience will help you to acclimate to our training program. Especially whenever a student comes to us who left a school, or did not get to finish to black belt – they seem to have an extra fire in them to keep going, and pick up where they left off. We have a handful of students who are already black belts in a different style. They of course progress at a much more rapid pace, but are the best students – only if they look at the new art they are learning as if they were a white belt.
I ask that you walk up to a mirror (literally or metaphorically) and examine yourself. If you think you are lacking in some of these qualities – don’t lash out, don’t deny it, or fight it. Embrace it. If you fight denial and hatred – only more of the same can come out. When you look for your weak spots, and are consciously in charge of your own training journey – that is when the real magic can happen. I wish the best to all of you on your training journeys to black belt, and much beyond!
In the comments section, please list any qualities that you think I have missed, and explain why. Thanks!