Practice can be frustrating for beginners especially when it comes to fine details in internal martial arts. Even long time practitioners can become prone to becoming unmotivated or feel stagnated by practicing the same things over and over. Here are a few ideas that may help both beginners and experienced martial artists alike when it comes to practicing. These tips not only apply to martial arts but I’ve found they can apply to any skill.
The most important tip I can give when it comes to practicing martial arts is to just do it. Just practice as often and consistently as possible. This is the simplest advice but it tends to be the most difficult for people. Consistency is the most important aspect of this. Developing a habit of practice is crucial to making regular progress. Long gaps will stall your progression and eventually discourage you. Finding time tends to be the biggest obstacle, but I think even short practice sessions done everyday for as little as 15 minutes can be more effective than a 2 hours once a week. If you’re on a tight schedule simply set a timer and practice until it goes off. In this way you can concentrate on what you’re doing and not be concerned with the time. Practicing everyday helps to reinforce the physical patterns by making them a regular part of your daily life. You constantly “remind” your body how to move until it becomes automatic. So practice and practice often!
The next tip essentially is an aid for achieving the first one. Conditions do not need to be perfect to practice. You don’t need a large space. You don’t need lots of time. You don’t need equipment. You don’t need special clothes. You don’t need to feel 100%. There’s almost no requirements for being able to practice. All you need is yourself and the will to do it. Many exercises and drills can be done in place requiring only an arm’s length or a single step around. This would be things like standing practice, five elements, push hands, etc. You can still practice stepping and footwork in a small space just take one step forward then one step back. Bagua circle walking is excellent for small spaces. In addition, limited space is even better to practice in as you probably won’t have much room in self defense situations. Practicing martial arts doesn’t require any equipment. Though heavy bags, pads and other tools are very useful you don’t need them all of the time there’s still plenty you can work without them. I’ve done light sparring many times without any equipment. Use it as an opportunity to work technique instead of going hard. You don’t always have to be 100%. If you’re a little sore practice anyway go a bit lighter or simply just warm up more. If you’re tired just start practicing and see how it goes. Many times once you get going you’ll feel fine. It’ll help you sleep afterwards, anyway. As you see there is very little reason to not get that practice in.
This last tip is mostly for beginners although experienced practitioners may find this helpful as well. Remember that skill is built over time and you can’t get everything perfect right away. This is especially true for internal martial arts. There are a lot of fine details to work and at the beginning it’s too much to try and get everything. Being a martial artist involves being a constant work in progress. Making progress is about getting it right once out of a hundred and eventually improving that to two, three, and so on until it’s right almost every time. Keep in mind that perfection is an ideal to be worked toward but cannot be truly achieved. Also remember that progress can be non-linear, it doesn’t always follow a straight line. Sometimes you have a breakthrough and make a lot of progress other times you’ll stagnate this is normal. The key is to always try and improve on something. If you feel like you’re stagnating with one aspect shift your focus to another and then come back to what you felt you stalled on before. If your push hands feels stalled work on footwork for a while and come back to it. You may make progress simply by revisiting it fresh again.
I think these are some important tips that both beginners and experience martial artists tend to run into. Doing martial arts like all other skills just requires the will to put in the work and little else. Most problems practitioners encounter can be solved with simple solutions. I hope that this can help people in their practice whatever the style or even in developing non-martial arts skills.