I remember hearing an old parable about Martial Arts when I was a kid:
A fighter approaches his coach while he is watering his plants. The student says in a frustrated and dejected way:
“Coach! I am feeling horrible about my training. My technique feels weak and sloppy no matter how hard I try. I’m always getting hurt and sick. Nothing seems to be coming together for me. I feel like a terrible Martial Artist.”
Without looking up from his gardening the instructor calmly says:
“It will pass. So keep training.” And he simply waves his student away.
Several months pass and the same student returns to his teacher.
“Coach! I am feeling delighted about my training. My kicks are strong. My technique is exceptional. My body is healthy. Everything is coming together. I feel like an amazing Martial Artist!”
Again, without looking up the instructor says:
“It will pass. So keep training.”
I cannot count how many times a student has come to me with concerns about “bad days.” They may feel inadequate, frustrated, injured, burned out. The list goes on of course but my answer is typically the same: “It will pass. So keep training.”
Of course, there will be times you should not get on the mat. If you are sick you should not get on the mat and pass it around to your team for instance. But in most cases, you can maintain a healthy level of training by simply understanding that your state of mind will ALWAYS be in a state of fluctuation. And for that matter your body is not the same every day. But what should be a constant is your presence on the mat. It’s that long-term consistency that determines whether you will meet and exceed your goals.
Early on I approached my coach Jongsanan with these exact same concerns about my training and progress. His response to me was pretty simple:
“You relax. Sometimes you good. Sometimes you suck. Same same.”
To me it helps to look at it like the weather. If you only go to the gym or to work when it is sunny you will find that over time you will have wasted about half of your opportunities to do what you need to do. If you expect to feel fantastic improvements and high energy attitude every time you put the gloves on you will run into inevitable disappointment. As with any relationship your success in training is not dependent on whether you are always content. It is dependent on how committed you are to continuing the relationship. And ask anybody that has been married over 10 years. A healthy relationship does not mean you are always happy.
So try to understand: some days you feel on top of the world. Other times you feel that the whole world is on your shoulders…and it sucks. But IT WILL PASS!
So just keep training.
Ben Brown is the founder and Head Coach at PHAS3 Martial Arts, a Muay Thai focused martial arts school in Santa Rosa, California. PHAS3 offers a family atmosphere that welcomes students of all skill levels from beginners to the most competitive fighters. PHAS3 is a Woodenman Certified Muay Thai training school.