Solutions to 6 Common Martial Arts Training Hurdles

There lots of people who really want to take up a martial art, but think they can’t for whatever reasons. In many cases, these reasons hold people back from ever making an attempt or they start their training and then feel they have to give it up because of them. I can’t possibly know everyone’s particular situation, but I can say that there are a few common themes that can certainly be addressed.

1. Too Old. In many cases, people think you have to start a martial art when you’re a child or teenager to be able get something out of it. This is far from the truth. Most difficulties adults face in their training can be overcome, some of which I’ll be addressing in the rest of this post. That’s not to say that everyone is necessarily a good fit for the martial arts. I can say, however, that we had a man in his mid-60s who was overweight and out of shape start training with us over a year and a half ago and he’s now in great shape and is able to do all the same things other people at his belt level do.

2. Not Fit Enough. Sure, it helps to start out a martial art when you’re already fit, but that need not hold you back from embarking on your training. Depending on the dojo you’re training at, you can usually work on your fitness as you train in class, working at a level you can handle gradually building your strength, raising your cardio, and losing excess weight (if necessary). Depending on your case, you may want to add other health practices and fitness activities to help advance the process. A good start is to talk to your family doctor to work out the best fitness program for you.

3. Not Big or Strong Enough. Traditionally, martial arts has always been about learning to apply technique so you need not be big or strong in order to be good at them. This can depend on the school you choose and the style of instruction offered, but for the most part, there are ways to compensate for lack of size or strength when it comes to the martial arts. In many ways, it is a benefit because you are more likely to have to rely on good technique to get things to work whereby bigger and stronger students can get by “cheating” using their size and muscle. While it may be frustrating at times, learn to see your disadvantages as advantages. Work closely with your Sensei to make sure you’re leaning the proper mechanics of the technique. If you stay at it, you could very well eventually find yourself applying techniques at a much higher skill level than average in the long run.

4. Not Flexible Enough. Not all martial arts require a great deal of flexibility to do techniques, but it certainly helps to be more limber in general. Flexibility can be improved over time if you’re committed to it. Try giving yourself a stretching schedule that you stick to. It can be easy to fit it in while you watch your favourite TV shows. Or if you prefer to have a class to keep you at it, try signing up for yoga at a local school or community center. You’d be surprised how quickly you can improve flexibility if you commit to working on it regularly.

5. Not Enough Time. This one is probably one of the hardest hurdles to face, especially in today’s modern world. People often work long hours at their jobs, have families they want to spend time with, and also want time to relax too. It may be that you have to reduce the amount of time you spend at the dojo in order to keep it up. You may have to limit yourself to one class per week, even if you would like to fit in 2-3. The trick is to be realistic about what you can accomplish then structure your schedule to make it happen. It also helps if you get the support from your family by explaining that having this time to work on yourself will make you a better husband/wife, mother/father. But for some it isn’t a matter of balancing work and family commitments, rather it is simply planning their available time better. If this is the case, start by giving yourself a goal, say going in to train at 2 classes per week, then keep yourself accountable to that goal. Tell a friend or family member your goal and celebrate with that person when you stick to it, say after maintaining your goal for one month. When you commit to a goal, it’s easier to “find” the time you need to stick to it. Ultimately though, if you always find other things that are more important or more interesting to do than your training, perhaps it’s not the right activity or school for you, or it simply isn’t a big enough priority for you.

6. Not Enough Money. This certainly can be a stumbling block for some, but not one that’s insurmountable. There are lots of great instructors out there who teach out of community centres, universities, church basements, etc as a hobby outside of their full time jobs. These options can be significantly cheaper if you don’t mind a less flexible schedule. Alternatively, if you train at a full-time professional martial arts school, and you’re facing some temporary financial difficulties for whatever reason, consider asking your instructor if there is some way you can help out in exchange for a temporary reduction in fees. Many instructors would be more than willing to help in some way if you can bring yourself to ask for it.

What are your biggest training hurdles? How have you learned to deal with them? Please feel free to share in the comments. πŸ™‚
Comments (11)

11 thoughts on “Solutions to 6 Common Martial Arts Training Hurdles

  1. Thanks Lisa! I just think it's important to really pay attention when people take the time to write a well thought comment. You saw my response to your comment that you left on the Warrior post, right? Hope you can make it out to Vancouver some time! πŸ™‚

  2. The three biggest training hurdles for me are: 1) Finding a consistent, professional teacher in a small town,
    2) My health, which is very up and down right now and
    3)My own personal motivational struggles which are hugely exacerbated by the first two.
    I have tried two different Kung Fu classes, Tai Chi, BJJ and Aikido. My favorites are Kung Fu and grappling. It has been hard to find a class where I am welcome as an older woman who is not buff. I am relatively strong, a good learner and dedicated student but that has not been enough to overcome unprofessional instructors, semi retired instructors or classes of young men who are trying to break away from 'Mom' and fit in with the guys. Add that to my health issues and I find it very hard to stay motivated or consistent in my training. I find I have to start over again and again. Right now I have a buddy in an Aikido class and I can honestly say that if it weren't for him I would quit completely. I am not sure why I am even doing this anymore except that I absolutely love the art. Yes, I know there are tons of DVDs out there, and zillions of stuff on U-tube. I'm sure if the second two problems were not a factor I would not even be writing. Anyway, in the end it will be up to me whether or not I overcome all this or just stick with yoga.

  3. Hi Lori,

    In our dojo we actually did a market research study of this and it's important to point out that the reasons for not starting tend to be drastically different than the reason for starting and then quitting.

    When students start and then quit there are two main reasons (all of yours fall under them):
    1. They don't see personal progression. This is the top reason people quit. They feel that they aren't catching on "fast enough" and feel embarrassed.
    2. They're not having fun. A result of number 1 plus experiencing pain in class.

    As for not starting, the biggest reason is the pre-conceived idea that the majority of the population has that martial arts is violent. People are scared of the idea of martial arts (then think they're too old to not get hurt, not in good shape to not get hurt, etc.)

    Rarely is the *real* reason time or money — however this tends to be the most commonly heard *stated reason.*

  4. Thanks for sharing the results of your study it's nice to know that the same difficulties exist pretty much across the board. As for the reasons for not starting, I was more addressing the people who are already interested in taking up a martial art, but talk themselves out of it due to negative perceptions of what they're capable of. I'm sure you're right that average person doesn't even consider taking up a martial art for the reasons you stated.

    Thanks for your insightful comments! πŸ™‚

  5. Managing pain/injury from training is another "hurdle" worthy of mention. As I get older (now in my mid 40's) what I used to be able to shake off in a day or two takes a week or more. I am also less tolerant to working through pain. Where did the resiliency go??!!

  6. Very true, Scotty. That is part of the reason why we developed the Self-Defense Fitness classes, to give injured students a class that is a bit easier on the body as they recover.

  7. I started traing Jui Jitsu when I started at university, my main issue – confidence.

    It was ok at the start, I refused a lot of the time when asked to demonstrate rolls in a group at the front (in hindsight, this was very rude I know, but my sensei understood and was ‘ok’ about it), but the committee members who’d been doing it a lot longer were really encouraging and I realised if I was first up I didn’t sit there dreading having to have a go/standoff with my sensei. And then we got onto circles and that, to me, was my idea off hell, everyone watching me, everyone judging me, waiting for me to screw up. My first belt grading… hated it, but realised that I’d stuck with it for all the right reasons.

    I’m so glad my sensei pushed me into getting into the cirles, doing my rolls, even grading because now I’m first in there everytime and I’m improving so much more now I’m making the most out of every session.

  8. Well, in martial arts, one is never too old or too weak to participate in the training process. A person just has to have e serious dedication, courage and passion to learn and become skilled at the combat practice. It’s going to take weeks or months of training and practice for all these hurdles to disappear.

    Saundra Tosh

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