If I were to count the number of times this has been said to me, it would take an embarrassingly long amount of time. I am an extremely competitive person and perpetual perfectionist, which can often spell emotional disaster when combined with martial arts. As anyone who trains knows, the path is never a linear line pointing straight up – it’s a roller coaster of hills and dips and sometimes unexpected twists.
We often get caught up in the destination – next belt, pro fighter, winning record – and rightly so. Goals are important and keep us moving forward and motivated to keep coming to class. What we forget is to balance our goals with the enjoyment of training. So many of us started because we thought training looked…wait for it…fun. Sure, there are those who walked into their first fight gym with lofty goals, but also because the path to those goals looked like a hell of a good time.
No one will deny that training can suck. No matter what your goals are in martial arts, like any other goal, achieving them will require that you show up when you’re tired, sore, or just not in the mood. Most of us don’t love donning our gis in 90 degree heat and getting close and sweaty with another person. It’s not always good time to put on your gloves and shin pads after an exhausting, pressure-filled day at the office. Embrace the suck of those days. Show up, get through it, and go home and take a nice hot shower.
Then don’t let those days linger. In certain situations – fight camp, tournament prep – the hard days are going to last long and be frequent, but you should expect that. If you’re not, however, training for a fight or a competition, roll hard, spar well, but keep the fun in it. Drill with teammates and laugh your way through that technique that you are seriously not getting. Get in some light sparring with a partner you trust and make it fun. Roll with your eyes closed. Grab the pads and try some new kicks.
Training is hard. Work hard, embrace the suck, but don’t forget why you started in the first place. It’s a lot easier to get through the hard moments when you make sure you frequently have the good ones. So take responsibility to lighten up every now and then, and have some good times on the mats. After all, this is supposed to be fun!