Training Tips When Getting Started

It is easy to page through a martial arts magazine, and read all of the techniques on self-defense. It is even easier to click through the numerous self-defense videos online, and see an array of moves, drills and concepts. However, just looking at moves and viewing techniques doesn’t build skill. Getting a partner, or at least finding a heavy bag, where you can physically practice your moves is key… and it is the hardest part. Here are a couple of quick tips to get you started after you’ve found information you want to truly make into a skill.

Finding a training partner might be the best move you can first make, after you’ve found instruction you want to get good at. My next piece of advice is to then find another or even a group of three to four people who are dedicated and committed to training a set number of times per week. They could be friends of yours, family members, or even co-workers. Who they are isn’t important, as what they’re committed to. If you don’t have a couple people you can train with, put up a half page flyer at the local gyms asking if anyone is interested in being a training partner in a self-defense system. Tell them it is free. You’ll get calls. In today’s age of social media, reaching out with local posts, asking the same will also get you some new connections which can turn out to be your partners. If you can get yourself, and two to three others, that is a good goal. Why? At least one will drop out, and you don’t want that to end your training, or even disrupt it. Find two or three other people who are interested, set specific weekly training times, and outline some safety rules.

Next, you need to gear up for the training. I suggest that every partner will need a pair of 8-16 oz. boxing gloves, shin guards, eye protection, training stick, training knife and training gun, in order to truly hit all of the main areas of defense. The only other main gear you should have as a practitioner is a pair or two of handheld pads for numerous striking drills. Heavy bags and mats would be second on the list to accommodate some of the other drills and ranges. It ideally comes down to your budget and specific information you’ll be practicing.

As a special training tip, it is important to train progressively. I can’t explain how important this tip is. On second thought, do not take it as a tip, but use it as a rule, even a commandment. If you skip ahead of any curriculum, drill or set of moves, and do not allow yourself a natural learning curve, any program will not help you. For example, if you see a series of self-defense moves you want to practice, train each, until you have them down separately, before putting them into a combination. Or, if you are learning how to ground fight or box, move slowly, integrating one move, getting good at it, then moving onto another. I see too many practitioners try to bite off way too much, get overwhelmed, and give up (or even injured).

If you train too fast, resulting in sloppy and unsuccessful skill, you will lose faith in yourself and in the techniques, without giving them a solid try. Please do the due diligence which is needed. Will some people move faster, yes. Will some topics be learned quicker than others, of course. However, if you speed up things faster than what the curriculum states, you’ll be sure to lay the ground work for future failure. Remember, it is your job as a practitioner to learn this information properly. Stay disciplined to the curriculum, and adjust the speed where it needs to slow down. As they say, crawl before you walk, and walk before you run.

What goes hand in hand with the previous point, is to take your training slowly. I probably say “SLOW down” to my students… group, private, or organizations several times each day. As a Navy SEAL told me once, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast”. To one day be “fast” you must first be “slow”. Slow down in your technique, slow down your drills, slow down your sparring. Focus more on your body mechanics, footwork and awareness (which includes timing and distancing), and less on speed.

Find new and different training partners is the last piece of advice I’ll leave for you. If you train with multiple people, in a perfect training session partners will match up equally and everyone will get along perfectly. In the real world, even with a great curriculum, mismatches between partners happen often, however, mismatches are where you learn the most I think. Therefore, push yourself to find partners outside of your comfort zone. Some may be bigger, others may be faster, some better and still others younger. The goal is to train with a wide variety of partners to really find your own limits.

Sifu Matt Numrich

Sifu Matt Numrich is a martial artist and self-defense expert, renowned for his training in Krav Maga, Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Martial Arts.