Keeping Motivated Through Attitude

Being Idle (not Billy Idol)

Inevitably, some time in your training you will feel a lack of motivation. This usually happens at certain points in your journey where things change greatly. For instance, in our Tang Soo Do classes, we find that 6th Gup Green belt, 1st Gup Red belt, and 1st Dan Black belt have high drop-out rates. This isn't something unique to our school - this is world-wide. In fact, this lack of motivation is so common, that it made the fourteen attitude requirements to master tang soo do list!

13. When you begin to feel idle, try to overcome this.

The Ball is Rolling - FAST!

When you first begin a martial art, things are coming at you quickly! Everything you do has a reason to be done and a (mostly) right way to do it - EVERYTHING! You come in presumably knowing nothing, you are at Level 0.

As you continue to show up to classes and become better at the things that were thrown at you on your first day, you start to feel accomplishment. This helps to motivate you - knowing you can learn something and do it well! Each week you learn new things and find that you can make those things "correct" as well. This generally continues through the first few ranks, but not all students learn the same.

Rolling the Ball Over a Bump

As you build your basics, you will begin to use the techniques you learned in new ways. You'll start using them in combinations - sometimes quite complex; you will learn longer forms with different patterns. Sometimes these new things are frustrating because you already know how to do the components, but have difficulty putting them together. This bump is expected, and most students have enough momentum from those first few ranks to just roll over with a little difficulty. Once this bump in your path has been overcome, momentum - and therefore motivation - picks up again.

Hitting a Wall

There have been times in my training where I have hit a wall. Something that completely stopped my momentum; destroyed my motivation to train. It may happen to you as well, but know that many others have had a similar experience. Sometimes it can be something new, interesting and fun outside of class that steals your interest. Other times it may be school or job related things that prevent you from making it to class to be around others that help motivate. (Training on your own 100% of the time doesn't work for everyone! It didn't for me.) It may even be a physical or mental state that prevents you from training. These walls are hard to overcome, and often may need a little help from a friend or instructor to spark motivation once again.

Pulling Your Own Weight

What can be done by a student to help maintain the motivation necessary to overcome being idle? There is no right or wrong answer, but I can give you some ideas that have helped me. These are things that I have done in the past, and many I still do today

Importance of Practice

Attitude requirement number four is very important!

4. Maintain regular and constant practice.

If you don't practice outside of class, you may not progress as quickly as you would like to. When you aren't progressing at a rate that you feel you should, then you begin to feel idle, losing some of your motivation to train. If left unchecked, it can cause serious problems later.

Attitude numbers five, six, ten, eleven have very similar messages, reinforcing how important practice is:

5. Practice basic techniques all the time.

6. Regularly spaced practice sessions.

10. Always follow a routine training schedule.

11. Repeatedly practice all techniques already learned.

As you can see, nearly half the list of things you need to master tang soo do is about practicing. Don't be discouraged if you train a different art (Haidong Gumdo perhaps?) as these attitudes can directly translate to other arts as well!

Keeping Track of Things

It's easy for someone to say, "I don't have enough time to practice everything!" or, "I get bored doing the same thing over and over." As an instructor, I hear it all the time from gup students. If you are able to motivate yourself and practice enough to get your black belt in tang soo do, guess what happens - you are taught one weapon form and one open-hand form and given a minimum of two years before your next test. To those of you that are color belts: how do you expect to make it beyond chodan if you get bored with gup material over a three month period? The answer to that question is never clear, and can be intimidating at times. That is one reason we lose students at the 1st dan level.

Shorter Sessions with Focus

When you learn a new form, it is easy to go over that again and again and forget about attitude #11. This happens a lot during the journey through color belt ranks. How do we know? We see it when we ask a red belt to perform a green belt form (for example) and they struggle! They forget parts or something doesn't feel quite right to them. This is why it is important to practice everything. How can we accomplish this?

To stay motivated, schedule yourself  specific time to practice. Maybe it's every Wednesday evening from 5:00 until 5:15 or maybe it's 5:00 until 7:00 - it is up to you how much time you have. However, be aware that if you are doing 15 minute sessions that you will likely want to do more than one a day! Something like this is hard to remember at first, so grab your smart phone or Gmail calendar app and put your sessions in there with reminders! For instance, you may do something like this:

Day Time Focus
All 7:00 - 7:05 am Stretching
Mon noon - 12:30 Forms
Wed noon - 12:30 one-steps
Fri 6:00 - 6:30pm basic hand/kick techniques
Sun 11:00 - 11:30 hand/kick combinations

When your notification goes off, drop whatever you are doing (if safe to do so!) and do your short session. By keeping sessions short, you don't give yourself enough time to get bored doing it. By keeping a schedule, you are sure to get in practice that is needed to overcome idle patches or difficult times.

Logging (No, not like a Lumberjack)

Keep track of what you practice in your sessions. You want to be able to get through all of your material so you don't forget things, right? If you are practicing forms once a week, how do you remember which ones you did 3 weeks ago? You keep track on paper! I've passed out logging sheets in both Tang Soo Do and Haidong Gumdo classes before specifically for this purpose. How many of you have used them? Keeping track this way allows you to look back quickly during a session so you can see that (for example) you haven't practiced Bong Hyung Il Bu in about a month - time to do that one today!

Review, Review, Review

Before every practice session or class period, take just a few moments (maybe while stretching) to review your accomplishments. How does that Yup Cha Ki feel now that you are pointing your heel at the target? How much lower are your stances in Ssangsu Gumbub Ee Bon? Remember attitude requirement number nine:

9. Frequently inspect your own achievements.

This helps you stay motivated by realizing the work you have done so far is paying off! After all, why would you do something over and over for months on end if you never see a change for the better?

Still More to Think About!

There are a few other attitude requirements that haven't been mentioned in this post yet. Time to bring those ones out too since they are just as important as the ones I talked about already.

1. Purpose of training should be enhancement of mental and physical betterment.

2. Serious approach.

3. All out effort.

7. Always listen and follow the direction of instructor or seniors.

12. When you learn new techniques, learn thoroughly the theory and philosophy as well.

14. Cleanliness is required after training. Keep yourself and your surroundings clean.

These are all pretty clear why they may be important for your health, your safety, your training environment, and to have effective techniques. There is one other requirement that I really want to stress to students because I have a hard time with it:

8. Do not be overly ambitious.

It is quite easy to get involved in too many things at once. It's even easier to desire to move on and learn more techniques, more forms, etc. Take your time. Learn the things you have been taught well. Instructors will present you with your next material when they feel you are ready for it. That doesn't mean you should never see it or read about it! Don't try to teach yourself too much, let your instructors help guide you to where they feel you are ready to be.