I have been training in the same gym for the past three years, so I am used to certain training “environment”. My gym is very technique focused. We spar progressively, meaning we learn a technique or series of techniques and then learn how to spar those techniques in a progressive manner. This, I have learned, gives us, the students, the best chance of learning to use the actual techniques in sparring, in competition, or in the streets (if the situation ever arises). You will never walk into our gym and find a free-for-all sparring session. There is no incredible hulk, win at all costs mentality. We learn that there is no win or lose in training. Training is the time when you go for something, or try to incorporate a technique at the risk of not “getting it” and ending up in a bad position. Training is the time to experiment, and try new things because you can’t lose, you can only learn. I like to think of our gym as a lab in which we work cooperatively to help every student get better. We will spar and then have a conversation about what worked and what didn’t work and why. There are no secret moves, or withholding of information. I think that all of this cooperative, progressive training has spoiled me to a point. I actually feel bad for those who spend hours upon hours training and spend countless amounts of money only to learn how to hit or kick hard and get a good cardio workout. If a good workout is what I wanted, I could join the local fitness club and take some aerobics classes or run on a treadmill. I could even get some cardio kickboxing while I’m at it. I know people who train at other gyms and often lament how hard they go on pads and how exhausted they are from this intense training. I think sometimes they confuse hard training with good training. I am not saying that you shouldn’t walk out of the gym feeling like you got a good workout. I love exercise endorphins as much as the next gal but does feeling like I’m going to puke at the end of a training session mean that I am learning and progressing?
That leads me to my next question. How do I know if I’m learning and progressing? Is it my instructor’s job to let me know that I’m doing a good job by rewarding me with belts and rank? Do I know that I’m progressing by not getting tapped during sparring? Or is it when I can finally tap someone else out that I know that I’m learning. Maybe its when I win a competition. Everyone has a different measure of success. Some people need belts and certificates and trophies to know that they are good at their art. Some people are just satisfied to show up and train everyday and enjoy the environment and camaraderie that comes along with training. Some people need to feel like a tough guy. You know the ones I’m talking about. They need to go hard all the time, including in sparring. Personally, I don’t care for belts or accolades too much. I am actually quite uncomfortable with any sort of praise or attention, but I get super excited when I have been drilling something and it becomes so second nature that I pull it off in sparring without even thinking about it. That’s how I know that I’m improving. Some days I leave training feeling like I got the best workout ever. Some days I barely break a sweat but my brain got a workout from so much technique. But everyday I know that I am learning something and getting better at one thing. I might not be the toughest girl in the world and I might not punch or kick the hardest, but I know that everyday I have improved in some way.