Train to improve not to impress

Train to improve not to impress

Robert Redenbach

Most martial artists on the planet have a fixation on who is better. Who can kick higher? Who is better at sparring? Who is the best grappler? Who is the strongest? These comparisons often take precedence over genuine “self” improvement. Everybody’s reason for training in the martial arts is different. Some train for self defence, some train because they love the challenge, some for fitness and some of us train simply because it makes us feel good. For the most part the reason is irrelevant, as long as the goal or intention is to use the martial arts as a platform for development of the self rather than a vehicle for comparison, then you will always win. When you play the comparison game you always lose. There is always someone better, fitter, stronger, younger, more experienced and more talented who would give you a run for your money if it came to the crunch. If you don’t play that game and simply focus on your development, your talents, your skills, your improvement and your goals you will win every day that you step onto the mat – because every time you train you get one step closer to the place you want to end up.

Transcending your own ego is one of the hardest life lessons to master. To be honest, I am a long way off mastering mine but I am a lot better than I used to be. Fighting full contact and losing significant matches, getting taped out by people with many years less grappling experience, meeting and training with some of the best martial artists in the world and feeling my own martial arts inadequacies, training my guts out for little improvement, have all helped in diminishing the stranglehold of the ego. And to be honest, this is the long way around the block. You can decide right now not to let your ego play such a significant role in how you feel about your training and your skill level. 

All it is - is a choice, a choice to look internally rather than externally. So next time you hit the mat and get beaten, feel stupid, get taped out, feel uncomfortable, look silly and feel out of your depth, just ask yourself one question. How can I do better next time? And simply follow that advice. If you don’t know the answer, ask one of your peers or ask the instructor and follow their advice. Either way you will serve your self much better this way rather than walking away feeling shit about how you’re not as good as this or that person. Feeling shit about your performance without taking any steps to learn from the exercise will disempower you. Pulling apart your experience and deciding what you can do next time will empower you.

My experience has been that the more you train and the better you get the more humble you become. There are many talented martial artists on this planet that we can draw inspiration from and many people who can help us realise our potential. The trick is to manage ourselves internally so that we always feel good about where we are at. If you feel good about your training you will want more. And if you want more you will always get better. And remember the quote; “Train to improve, not to impress”.