Training: optimizing the available time

How long does it take to achieve excellence in martial arts?

Let’s start with a fact: the ancient Shaolin monks spent a large part of their days practicing Kung Fu (read Ancient Shaolin monks vs modern ones).

Note – This article has been asked by one of our Core Course practitioners on Patreon (see how to attend our home study classes here Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course).

The motivation is not only the spiritual choice of life but also the fact that to achieve certain types of excellence (in any field), it is necessary a big amount of time, a time marked by:

  1. Daily practice (discipline)
  2. Constant focus (concentration)
  3. Deep study (preparation)

What is excellence?

Excellence in driving a car, painting or swimming is not achieved with talent (this is the excuse of those who are mentally weak, read Natural talent and martial arts) but with firm dedication.

Time, in itself, is not enough to achieve excellence (read Why martial arts do not work: 5 reasons) but it is a fundamental container in which to insert the 3 keys we have listed.

How can we expand the time at our disposal?

Based on this reflection, 6 Dragons Kung Fu’s method has been designed to optimize every single minute we can devote to our martial evolution: let’s see how.

Is there a way to obtain more from the time we have to train?

Yes, if we want to optimize a limited time, these are the basic concepts to focus on:

  • Always aim at the maximum quality – We have to ensure, in all the circumstances, the highest effectiveness / quality of the practice; for example, it is better to execute the Poles Training (read Basic tools: the pole) for 5 minutes to the best of our abilities (speed, etc.) instead of 15 minutes listlessly, thinking about something else or stopping continuously; everything else comes by itself
  • Be multitasking – We have to develop the necessary coordination to perform more (compatible) activities simultaneously; if on the one hand, it is true that some practices must necessarily be performed alone (with maximum concentration), on the other, it is equally true that the simpler exercises can often be performed simultaneously (or in a more functional way); in spite of what others can sustain, in combat, multitasking is the skill that distinguishes the expert from the amateur; if for example, we are running, why our arms / hands should remain inactive?
  • Force the (rational) use of all our physical resources – Each time it is possible / reasonable, we have to try to involve our entire body in what we are doing, in a coordinated and harmonious effort; naturally, the perspective must be addressed toward durability and consistency of practice, it is not intelligent to destroy ourselves without taking any rest (worst, this would mean to stop our evolution) but if, for example, we have to lift a weight, why do not involve our entire muscle chain (read Use the body power: the muscle chain)?
  • Force the (rational) use of all our mental resources – We have to train as much as possible body and mind at the same time (depending on the situation, in an active or even just passive way); the point is that if we can think to anything else during an exercise (read for example Basic tools: the Hanging Speedball), we are wasting precious time; if we can distract, we probably have to increment the difficulty of what we are doing
  • Eliminate unnecessary time loss – Last but not least, the apparently more trivial of the tips, do not waste time; we have to learn to be precise with the execution times, to eliminate all the recurring distractions, unintentional pauses, to solve the most illogical logistics problems (eg. the guan, the training area, in Kung Fu is not necessarily in a specific place, it is everywhere we can, let’s choose it wisely)
  • Avoid performing the wrong exercises – All the exercises are good and have a specific meaning but only a few are truly indispensable and / or able to replace the others; the point is to understand what our goals are (combat, wellness, weight loss, etc.) and focus our sessions on those practices that are more suitable to grow effectively; for example, if we want to participate to a combat tournament, it is not a good idea to pass all our time practicing forms (read Are Karate’s Kata, Kung Fu’s form (etc.) useless?), as it is completely fool to do sparring every day if we are preparing for a forms competition
  • Calibrate the exercise that gives us energies with those who we are not good at – To perform only the exercises we are good at is very stupid, at least as limiting our workout to what we have difficulties at; both exercises are important, the firsts to build our motivation, the second to truly improve (let’s opt for 50% and 50%)
  • Intelligently divide the duration of each exercise in order to grow and maintain our skills – Again, in relation to our goals, we have to decide on what skills we want to concentrate on, then we have to check periodically them (eg. speed, stamina, power, etc.) and see if they are stable, losing something or growing (is what we see in the direction of what we are aiming at? Too high? Too low? Let’s choose exercises and their relative duration in relation to our progresses)

A note by Master Kongling – One of the reasons why so many practitioners choose the Core Course, is that all these reasonings are not easy at the beginning and that, inside each lesson, they have been already made: they are the result of years and years of experimentation and our instructors are there to make them perfectly customized for each student.

How to obtain the best from a “short” time?

We must simply be rational and organized:

  • Balancing the alternation of the limbs under stress and the intensity of the exercises (in order, for example, to replace breaks with less-stressing practices)
  • Moving the effort level just beyond our limit (read Intensity of training: depends on what?) but never as to make it impossible for us to train the following day (as we have already said “we always have to preserve energy for one last fight”)
  • Variating the exercises with the idea of trying to never leave (uselessly) inactive our body and our mind; adding things like secondary tasks, obstacles, etc. (read also Same exercises, different execution)
  • Aiming at each step, punch, kick, etc. to perform better than the last time
  • Curing our nutrition (read Qi and proper nutrition)
  • Giving value to silence (read A meditation mini-guide: how to start)
  • Exploiting emotions instead of being their victims (read How to use emotions in workout and combat)

A few practical examples of simultaneous exercises

To enhance the understanding of this method let’s see now some examples of (individual) simultaneous exercises that are not going to interfere (too much) with each other:

  • Theoretical passive study of on-screen videos (read 6 Dragons Kung Fu: all video courses), jumps with a weighted vest (read The weighted vest) and fortification of finger’s grip (read How to train your fingers: 4 exercises)
  • Theoretical passive study on-screen videos, balance on one leg and punches’ sequences
  • Abs on the ground and trapping drills with the arms
  • Partial meditation and weightlifting (in a completely safe environment)
  • Running (escaping from a partner) and free punches sequences with weights (no contact)
  • Execution of drills with (non-intrusive) obstacles to periodically avoid

Final notes

  • The idea is that there is always a primary goal but no limb (including the mind) should remain at rest
  • Being able to perform more exercises simultaneously must not however always force us to execute them only in this way; every practice, to be performed in the best way, needs moments of complete dedication (from a punch to a simple jump, to a lever, a projection, etc.)
  • A good compromise is to alternate (rotate) exercises combined with the individual ones calibrating the workload based on the total intensity we want to achieve
  • This article is primarily for intermediate level practitioners; a beginner needs in most cases to be 100% focused on learning the correct way to act

In the next article of this series, we will see how to calibrate the total effort of each training session to do not lose any opportunity to grow rapidly.

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Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • How many time do you have to train in a week?

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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