Martial Arts for Beginners - Tips from the Top 3 Day Series / Day 2

Martial Arts for Beginners - Tips from the Top 3 Day Series / Day 2

Martial Arts for Beginners - Tips from the Top 3 Day Series / Day 2

No matter which Martial Art or Combat Sport you want to start training in, Martial Arts for beginners is daunting. Especially for an adult beginner. The very nature of these disciplines is physical and from the outside they can often appear intimidating. It is very common to feel clumsy, inadequate or even downright stupid when first starting out. However, the old cliche is true, every black belt was once a white belt.

A photo of two white belts training from the blog post on tips from the top

As hard as it might be, you have to go through a period of being terrible at it before you can ever be great at it. This obviously can feel more difficult in Martial Arts as the resistance based training (such as sparring, grappling or wrestling) can often see you pitted against those with more experience in a one Vs one context, where you can often feel poor in comparison.

I have been to countless gyms in lots of different countries through my work on the Warrior Collective. I am also in touch with a lot more because of the digital age we now live in. I can tell you that most of the problems faced by beginners are exactly the same everywhere.

This common issue however has enabled coaches from every discipline to gain a huge amount of experience in seeing what works best for new starters and what doesn't. Couple this with the fact that each of these individuals has also been in the position of being a beginner and you have the perfect combination of factors that allow a real understanding to be developed in this arena.

This short 5 day series is about speaking to a large number of the world's best coaches, fighters and athletes across a wide range of different martial arts/combat sports disciplines in order to pick their brains and see just what advice they would offer in the context of Martial Arts for beginners..

James Doolan - BJJ black belt and Head Coach of Higher Level Martial Arts (DNFT)

You might be fortunate enough to live nearby to a great school/gym but I’d still advise looking around at other gyms. Try a few until you find one that suits your needs, and more importantly feels right. Our gym has guys from all over Scotland attending. The internet means there’s less phoneys around now that can be successful over the long term. Pre internet there was no way of checking guys credentials, you just had to take their word from it. A quick google search means bogus black belts and other con men can get found out and exposed.

When you do turn up, ask questions, belt lineage, background, history of club etc. Don’t just ask the coaches either, students there will give you a good idea of what’s going on. Make sure you're getting what’s advertised. If you're going to a one hour Muay Thai class then it should be one hour of Muay Thai, same with BJJ or karate or any art, not 30 minutes of circuit training or stretching.

If you want general fitness go to circuit or conditioning session, if you want martial arts get proper coaching in martial arts, technique, concepts principles strategies. Sitting in and watching a class is something I always recommend. Watch the instructor/coaches, watch the interaction between students, check the atmosphere in the gym. Watch out for excessive contact, bullying, how much attention the instructor is paying, simply look out for anything that rings alarm bells.

If you're going to a beginners programme ask what’s the difference between a beginners programme and normal classes. Good gyms and coaches select techniques, pace sessions, and structure sessions in a different way for a group of beginners compared to an open class format. Be careful of salesmen at the gym trying to push contracts and such on you, money orientated gyms generally don’t have student progression at the heart of their interests.

Ilias Bulaid - Enfusion World Champion and renowned Kickboxing Talent

My normal advice to those just starting out;
1) Make sure you get enough sleep.
2) Make sure your nutrition is on point.
3) Don't be scared to be thrown for the wolves. Training with much better guys take you to a better level.
4) Training and fighting in the ring aren't the same thing. The more fights, the more rhythm, the better you will be!
What I wanted to know when I first started that I know now;
1) Fighting isn't only going forward and try to hurt your opponent. The game is much bigger than that. It's about being smarter and being patient during the fight.
2) Nutrition and sleep are essential for your results on training.

Mick Crossland - World Champion Kickboxer and Head coach of the Combat Academy

1.Cycle your training. You cannot and should not try to maintain peak condition at all times. Juggle your training around your goals & your life. Focus & push when circumstances permit and pull back the volume and/or intensity when circumstances require.

2. Consistency trumps intensity. No matter what is going on in your life always train. Regular consistent training at a moderate/comfortable volume & intensity over a long period will win out over short term high volume, high intensity training in terms of skills development. That being said, the best training programs incorporate both approaches over time in order to yield maximum results. Refer to the first point to understand how you can utilise both approaches to maximise your development.

3. When learning a Martial Art remember that it is a physical skill. Physical skills are basically programmed movement patterns. Dont get caught up in the programming part - ie the conscious awareness of what you are trying to produce or achieve. Movement patterns are created when the repetition of a desired movement leads to an automated response/action. Many get crippled by contemplation when they spend too much time & energy trying to understand a skill and not enough time trusting the process of repetition.

Just repeat the movements prescribed over and over again and watch the details fall into place. Overthinking a thing will not bring it into existence. Consistent physical action will.

Lanchana Green - TUF incumbent and Head coach of the Lab

Might be cliche but 'ask questions' is my advice. The more you can understand why you are doing something, the more you will progress and find your own way of utilising it.

Nick Osipczak - UFC Vet and Owner/Founder of Raised Spirit

My questions to them would simply be;
- Why are you practising martial arts (ask yourself this again every few years!)
- What does the end game look like (what are the long term goals)
- What are you willing to sacrifice to achieve these goals?

Alex Enlund - Cage Warriors World Champion and Head coach of SBG South Shields

Just have fun, don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

Leigh Remedios - Pro MMA Fighter, BJJ brown belt and Head coach of VT Jiu Jitsu

The focus of your training should be on improving. When rolling, don't just try to win all the time, try to learn. Does that new sweep work?
What adjustments need to be made to make it work? Put yourself in bad positions to find the holes in your game so you can address them. It doesn't matter if you get tapped; it's not you versus your partner, it's you against you.

Reece McAllister - Muay Thai World Champion, Pro Boxer and coach at Phoenix Thai Boxing

" A champion is defined not by their wins but by how they can recover when they fall"
The only bad training session is the one you don't have!

Danny Carr - GB Judo International Athlete and Head coach of Backup Judo Club

We all like to train with our friends, our regular training partners, we like to randori (spar) with the more experienced players, but you should be able to take something from each practice, weather you are training with a world champion or a ten year old white belt, you are never too good to train with anyone and no one is too good to train with you.

If you are stronger than your partner, fight without strength, using speed instead, if you are faster, go at your partners pace working on timing, if you are better than your partner, fight them using only new techniques or left handed for example, there is no benefit in smashing your partner over and over with the same technique, the idea of training is to improve, you can only do this by trying new things and the best people to practice your new ideas on, are those who are not quite as good as you.

Help your partners; tell them why you keep catching them or why they can’t catch you, the more they improve, the higher quality you get to train with.

If your partner is making mistakes in training, tell them, if their technique doesn’t feel right or their timing is out, let them know, also tell them when it is right, when it feels strong and encourage them to do the same, your partner is the only one who can feel how strong your technique is.

You are the role models for the younger players and through you they and their parents can see a pathway of development, you are who these players aspire to be, you are their hero’s, so give them a little of your time and experience, practice with them willingly, help them but also get something from it yourself, work on movement and timing. From a club perspective, allow your different age groups to interact, make time for your top seniors to fight the youngsters, at Bacup Judo Club this is achieved by having a 20 minuet cross over between junior and senior classes, for the youngsters this is the highlight of their lesson, for the seniors it’s part of their warn up and for some the first steps to becoming coaches, from the club perspective it builds a team spirit and a club unity throughout all the ages.

We may compete in an individual sport, but you can’t train alone, a club that trains together, fights together, and the team will achieve more than a group of individuals.

I hope you have enjoyed Day 2 of this mini series on Martial Arts for Beginners! If you have not read it yet, see Day 1 here!! Make sure you check back for Day 3 tomorrow!! Let me know what you think in the comments below!!

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