Sunday, September 21, 2014

Enjoy your plateau

  1. 1.
    an area of relatively level high ground.
  2. 2.
    a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress.

  1. 1.
    reach a state of little or no change after a time of activity or progress.

  Any time anyone is learning a new skill, whether its martial arts or learning to play guitar, or anything else that you can get immediate feedback on, there is always an initial burst of improvement.  They can very quickly tell that they are getting better.  They can can see, hear, feel the improvement.  That has to do with the fact that they had so little skill that ANY improvement is a big improvement.  In the dojo, this is what happens to newbies the first couple months.  They enjoy martial arts so much in that time.  Eventually they stop feeling like you are improving.  The new martial artist will practice and practice, and their skill doesn't seem to be getting any better.  They've reached their plateau.  This is usually when they leave because they feel something is wrong.  Either with them, or the instructor, or ... whatever.
The learning curve?
  This doesn't just happen with new martial artists.  It can happen with anyone.  Personally I hit a plateau after I'd been studying for about 10 years.  Sure I'd had little plateaus before, but with focus and extra practice, I got through them.  But this one was different.  It was more resistant, and it lasted for about a year.  I did what I normally did, and practiced harder, longer.  But I never say any improvements in my techniques.  And I was thinking about testing for my next belt, which made this extra worse than normal.
  I didn't know it at the time, but these plateaus are a natural part of the learning process.This is where the real detailed learning actually happens.  My body, without me knowing, was concentrating on learning the details, and building a sensation database.  The best part is it is usually followed by a huge leap in abilities.  And I actually experienced this.  One day, I was just moving better.  My timing was better, and my intuition for attacks were better.

  There are a some things you can do while plateauing.  

1. Stick with it.  

  There are going to be plateaus in any learning pattern.  How you deal with them is also part of the learning curve.  You will get through it, and you will be better for it.  Your skills are improving, but not necessarily as quickly as they were before..

2. Specify your practice

  Pick one thing you want to improve on, and no "martial arts" is not an answer.  The more specific the better.  Work on one particular technique. Or your footwork on one particular set of movements.  Or your hand position while punching.  Something like that.

3. Change your focus

  If you are having trouble with the physical aspect of martial arts at that moment, pick another aspect.  This may be a good time to learn more of the history or philosophy of your art.  I've yet to find a martial art that doesn't have a dozen or so books on it.  And libraries are great resources.  I check out the books from the library, read them, and then decide if they're worthy of being in my collection.

  So if you experience a plateau, be grateful for it.  Don't try to force your way through it.  Even though it is frustrating, it's part of the learning process.  The most important thing to remember is to not get frustrated and think that something is wrong.  Enjoy it.  

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