Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Managing A Break In Your Martial Arts Training

As an instructor, I have been notified by email, phone, voice mail and face-to-face when a student is taking a break in training. There have been instances when a student just stops coming to class. I will only find out later, when I run into them in the grocery store or at the mall, they are taking a break. The conversation sounds something like this....

Student: I need to take a break for a few months due, baseball, swimming, vacation, school work, job changes, scheduling conflicts etc.

Me: I am sorry to hear that you are taking a break but I understand. You will be missed in the dojo. If you have a free night, please feel free to come to class if you get a chance.

Student: I will definitely be back in a few months.

I smile and wish them the best.

From my experience, after the "take a break" conversation, I know there is about a 50% chance the student will return. The time set aside for karate training quickly gets absorbed into other activities or projects. One black belt who took a longer break than he expected was surprised how difficult it was to get back into training. He was concerned about forgetting material and feeling out of shape.

Last night, I had the same conversation from a different perspective. I called my tai chi instructor and told him I needed to take a break until December. I put my gym membership on hold due to work responsibilities. The conversation was the same except I was the student. It was a new perspective. As an instructor, it is never an easy conversation to hear. As a student, it was a tough phone call to make.

I do not want to be part of the 50% who does not return to training. I am planning ahead and making a list of ways to manage break in my tai chi training.

1. Keep in contact with your instructor and the other students.
2. Stop by for a class...even if it is once a month.
3. Practice on your own so you don't forget the material.
4. Keep reading and studying.
5. Set a date for your return. Don't leave it open ended.
6. Invite your training partners for an informal workout.
7. I invited my tai chi instructor to teach a guest session at our dojo.

Have you ever taken a break in training? How did you stay involved/interested? Did you return? Any ideas to add to the list?


Scott Zrubek said...

The only times I've taken a break from training have been injury related. During those times of rehab, I went to the dojo for every class. I watched from the edge of the mat, but I was there. I did not want to get out of the habit.

Charles Indelicato said...

I am presently on just such a break.

My oldest son and I have studied taekwondo. He, now 14, had taken a breaks for up to 6 mths at a time but always returned, whereas I continued straight on with training. Four months after earning my black belt I took a break because of a combination of work and personal issues (and a younger son).

I like your list; I still go to the dojang and watch my son train, I speak with and have e-mail correspondence with my instructor. It's been a year, and while I practice my poomse and some drills weekly on my own, I know I am not getting the full benefit.

I haven't left my return date open-ended but I have moved it twice already.

I desperately want to return, but have too many reasons keeping me from that goal. I don't doubt my return will be hard, but I actually look forward to the challenge.

Here's hoping my new return-date of February 2011 doesn't get moved to the right anymore. And here's hoping your return is on schedule!

Michele said...

Scott: Thanks for visiting! I took a break from Okinawa Kenpo when I had ACL surgery. During my recovery, I spent time in the dojo, started a martial arts blog and helped the students. Even though I was not on the felt like I never left. I like your idea about watching class during an injury.

Charles: Thank you for commenting and sharing your experiences. It sounds like you are on track for your return in February. Great job on the individual practice. I am going to try to practice the portions of the Yang long form I remember. :)

Best of luck!

Journeyman said...

I like your method of encouragement and support when having the 'conversation'

We're a quick fix, immediate gratifaction society right now. I suspect that the study of martial arts sometimes gets put off to the side for this reason. True study is a lifelong pursuit, while hockey season has a start and end to it. It's always easy to say you'll return to martial arts in 3 months when hockey or school is over. Saying is easier than doing, however.

One strategy I support is calling the wayward student a month or two after they stop training just to reiterate that they are welcome back at any time. No pressure to return, just an open invitation. Sometimes it's tough to walk back into a dojo after a time.

Michele, don't beat yourself up for taking a break. It doesn't sound like you can completely stop anyway. Back off for a bit and refresh mind and body.

The last thing you want to do is start to dislike your training. I once took a break when my two hour classes that used to fly by started to drag. I no longer looked forward to going.

A wise man I know once said that the two things that are hardest on a car are 1. Driving too much. 2. Not driving at all.

Again, it's about balance. Good luck.

Michele said...

Journeyman: Good ideas! We offer an open invitation to train also. Sometimes the student will pop in when they have a free night.

Thanks for commenting!

Meg said...

I'm currently on a break of my own, but it was precisely because I was having some fairly major mental issues and problems with my forms. I'm a stubborn so-and-so who hates to make mistakes, so I thought some time of would be good for me.

I do keep in touch with one of the instructor up at the dojang and do keep her apprised as to what my plans/problems are. I told her I'd had some pretty serious issues and that I was doing some reading (The Tao of Pooh, for one, Funakoshi, etc), plus, with the Tai Chi classes I'm presently taking, I'm feeling better and feel more positive about thins. I will be going to class on Tuesday since we have a parents' meeting about the school and I think it's in my best interests to go.

I love the list...I've been trying to keep up and to at least let *someone* know what I'm doing.

Anonymous said...

I think that's some of the best advice out there from Journeyman. Guys just need to feel like the door is always open.
Internet/blogs like this one are also great ways to stay connected with guys that are on some sort of sabbatical. Helps to keep them in the loop.

Ronald said...

I am into martial arts before when I was young but I stopped for so long because of work and everything. Now my kids are into it and have been training for years now and they are the one refreshing me of some of the basic in martial arts. It is always nice to go back and learn again.

Anonymous said...

For me, it was polite way of leaving the dojo, where I no longer felt mentally safe due to the treatment I have recieved for over a year. Instead of leaving with a scandal, I chose this way to end an abusive relationship with a school which mistreated me on so many levels.
7 years past, I still deal with aftermath of that. I have started in a new school recently from white belt up as my Nidan level was not transfearable.
Officially, I have terminated my relationship with a dojo only about a month ago by letting my former classmate know exact reason for my leave.
This is another perspective, although it doesn't apply in each and every case. Fortunately, usually, it's not the case at all.