Thoughts on Attitude: the biggest secret of success

What’s the biggest single factor when it comes to becoming a great athlete – or martial artist, for that matter? Is there a secret ingredient in the mix of all the that factors that contribute to your success that is really making the difference? What aspect of training has the biggest influence on your results or the lack of such?

  • Is it the size of your gym/dojo?
  • Top-notch equipment?
  • The Spa area?
  • Your training outfit?
  • Secret training methods from the former sovjet union?
  • The number of heavy bags?

All those things contribute to your success in one way or the other, but truth be told, there’s one single most important key factor that outweighs all of the above by far. Yes, there is a secret that can make the difference between victory and defeat. It’s astonishingly simple, yet most people fail to implement that very concept:

Always show up, always give your best

It’s as simple as that, really. All that great equipment in your gym won’t take you nowhere if you don’t show up and train. All your instructors knowledge and experience is utterly and completely worthless if you don’t give your best and focus on taking things to a new level of perfection every time you step on the mat. This is the one thing you can totally control. You probably don’t have a great influence on the number of heavy bags at your dojo. On the other hand, it’s your decision wheter you show up and work those bags or rather stay at home and have some pizza.

Now if you’re working out at a facility that offers 50 classes a week, chances are you can’t attend every single one of them. You don’t have to, anyways. Create your own personal training schedule and stick to it. This can be as little as hitting the gym once per week, on a friday evening, for a heavy lifting session. Once you decided on your schedule, however, don’t stray off course. Don’t skip a training. Show up and give your best. That’s all that matters.

Now obviously, while training once per week is ok, if done consistently, training twice will obviously take you there so much faster – wherever „there“ is, in your case. I don’t think that two sessions per week will actually lead to twice the results. Rather, I think that the benefits will be tripled or even more. Of course, this presumes the coach knows his trade and understands how to structure not only a single session but a macroclycle as well. Physiologically, one session is probably too little to have any real impact on the body anyways. Disregarding HIT training – which only works out for chemically supported steroid freaks – every form of training (strength & conditioning, speed work, endurance training, …) can be done twice per week without any risk of overtraining. Furthermore, to be effective, training should revolve around the concept of supercompensation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercompensation). Hence, one session per week will most likely not greatly enhance your bodily consititution. Still, regularly working out once per week will do a lot more for you in the long run than doing nothing.

Now you might say: „But Lukas, what of injuries? I can’t work out when I’m injured, now can I? That argument refutes your theory, right?“ Um, no. The rule still applies. You see, I have a promising student at my dojo who’s currently suffering from knee-pain. He’s currently undegoing physical therapy, so doing powerful kicks is just not an option at the moment. Usually, a lot of time is spent on kicking practice during a typical Shinergy class. Still, rather than stay at home and work for his knee issues to simply disappear (no, won’t happen), that boy just attends training as usual. He just spends his time on different things than the rest of the class. When everyone is practicing kicks, he’s honing his boxing skills. Sometimes this meant spending the whole session on further improving the jab. This certainly isn’t exciting, spectacular or sexy, but it definately is going to pay off in the long run. In addition to the boxing drills, I’m taking the boy through a lot of knee stability exercise to speed up his recuperation.

So what’s the take-home lesson to be learnt here? Instead of using injury as an excuse not to hit the gym, see it as an opportunity to improve on other areas you would normally not spend just as much time on as you probably should. Put in easier (= less confusing) words: if you’re injured, do something else, but still show up and do it as good as you can.

Considering the second part of the rules, which is to always give your best, you might argue: „But what about days when I’m tired and lack motivation? When my day’s condition is sub-optimal, I can’t perform at my best, so I should skip training then, right? No, wrong. Just because you can’t perform at your objective all-time best on a given day doesn’t mean you can’t still perform at your subjective best for that day. Of course, there’s various forms of training that shouldn’t be done fatigued – speed work, for example, can be counter-productive if performed in an exhausted state. It’s the trainer’s job to find a suitable substitution for that session. However, it is your job to show up and give your best in whatver your trainer has you do instead of the original session. Basically it’s really the same as with injuries.

Most training sessions don’t require you to be in your best for and shape anyways. It’s enough to do all you can do at that given day. For the martial artist this often simply means paying full attention to what you’re doing. Don’t allow any distractions to keep you from improving your technique and you should be fine.

I don’t know if the above makes sense for you, but it certainly does for me.
If you see things differently or would like to add something, please share your thoughts in the comments section. I’m looking forward to reading your comments.

So long,

take care

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