Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Solo Karate Training

A few weeks before Christmas, I saw an old friend. We we both in line waiting to fill our gas tanks. The line was long because the grocery store was running a promotion and it was the last day to redeem gas points. I earned $.80 off per gallon! He was parked a few pumps away so I did not recognize him at first.

There were several people in front of me. I parked my car and walked over to talk to my friend. It was a Saturday night and I had just dropped my daughter off at the school dance. My friend lives a few towns away so I was surprised to see him. He told me he was headed to the dojo to workout. I asked if he was going to workout by himself. His response...

"It is one of the best ways to workout"

I have been thinking about our brief conversation and my own practice. As a kyu rank student, I learned in a group setting. The classes were large and the students were of all belt ranks. When I was training for shodan, there were four of us working together. My one friend and I would work bunkai in the living room. We would move furniture to clear out an open space. Once I began teaching, class time was for the students. I would go to seminars and Honbu workouts to focus on my material. In our dojo, a group of black belts meet each week to work on material (contact drills, two-person forms, weapons, kata...etc.)

But how often do I walk through the dojo door and train alone...

Truth...not often.

My goal for the month of February is to spend more time in the dojo practicing karate alone.

What is your experience? Do you train alone, with a group or a combination of the two?


Felicia said...

Hi, Michele. I began training alone - a lot - after testing for shodan. Like you, I learned in a group setting with a variety of other ranks, but the year before shodan, there were three of us that trained together. Shifting work schedules caused me to train alone more often than not since and I must say I really, really enjoy the solitude, especially when working on forms and kihon. Have fun flying solo :-)

Nathan said...

Long time no talk! Nice post, as usual.

Now that I am not actively teaching groups, most of my training is solo, or with my son, and there is much to be said for it.

As I've long shared with my students, much of your early learning will come in class settings, but almost ALL of your progress will come during solo practice.

Sam said...

I am kyu grade in taekwondo and have been solo training on the roof of my apartment building since Augustish. I wish I had thought of it before.

Solo training has been very important for me. Besides going through all my forms which helps learn new ones faster and keep old ones fresher, I am able to take the time to focus on what I need to focus on most plus what I like to do most! It started with a place to practice nunchaku and sometimes after a particularly easy class I will go up to the roof to just 'chuck. On the weekends, I can take the time and go through forms slowly, focusing on proper body alignment. Then I can go through them a little faster at a normal speed. Additionally, I go the length of the roof doing one type of technique, like we would in the dojang. Before leaving, I try to push myself to do some of the exercises I hate because those are the ones I need!

The most important thing for me to practice by myself is solitude. The second is the desire to enjoy my practice as much as I can. There are many things for which a partner or teacher are helpful, but there is only one person who I have to prove anything to. Only by being alone can I judge myself on my own terms.

Loren Christiansen's SOLO TRAINING is a helpful book for a variety of techniques and training ideas for working alone, however I think anyone who has learned a form can start there and work through their instructor's typical curriculum.

Of course solo training is not a substitute for going to class, but I think it makes sure that you get the most out of class when you are there. Too many students forget their forms or have to re-learn what they were already instructed which wastes their time. Solo training makes sure I'm not wasting any of mine.

Narda said...

I have always trained alone. One class a week with my teacher, and all else by myself. After six years, we had another small group train with us during that one class for a year. Then, they drifted away, and it was back to one class with teacher, and the rest of the time...alone.

It is hard.

Rick Matz said...

Given that most of the time you're not going to be under the supervision of your teacher, or be in the vicinity of training partners, most of one's training opportunities is going to be solo training.

Look how most martial arts are constructed. They're meant for someone who is mostly going to train on their own and with partners less often.

When I used to train in aikido, which arguably requires not only a partner, but also special equipment (mats), I trained on my own every day in between classes:

100 back breakfalls,
500 sword cuts
basic movements
- walk through all the techniques I was responsible for for my test test.
- walk through one previous set of test techniques (cycle through them all)

On the other hand, there was a golden period when I was young when I was marginally employed, had no responsibilities and plenty of time on my hands. I attended over 12 classes a week and did NOTHING in between.

Now I'm older and greyer, I work solo on my taijiquan form and occasionally drop in to push hands with a group. My study in more in line with a budo form such as iaido.

Sue C said...

Training solo is really enjoyable. It's a chance to work on the things you want to work on and at your own pace. Karate lends itself so well to solo training. I practice kata and kihon regularly. I also shadow spar to practice sparring combinations and build up stamina. I also practice various supplementary exercises and drills to improve leg/arm strength and kicking/punching techniques. I work on balance, speed, reaction times. I also work through ippon techniques with an imaginary partner just to help me remember them between training sessions. There is no end to what you can effectively do solo....give it a try!

Sue C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kicksboxes Rick said...

Great post! (Nathan from TDA Training turned me on to your site.)

Solo training makes a lot of sense and if you haven't done much of it before then you're probably in for a big treat. YOU get to decide what to work on and what needs to be improved... YOU get to judge what's working and what's not. And since you'll probably have to defend yourself alone if your ever attacked, it kinda makes sense to do some training alone as well.

Best wishes.

Michele said...

Thank you for your comments!

Felicia: Thanks! I think I am going to enjoy solo karate training.

Nathan: Always nice to hear from you!

Samuel: Thanks for visiting my blog! Training on the roof...sounds great. :) Thanks for the book recommendation.

Narda: There are definitely two sides...always training with people vs. always training alone. I can only imagine how hard it must be at times. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

Michele said...

Rick: I think I need to find a good balance between individual and group practice. I was a 2nd kyu when my husband opened up the dojo. Since 1995, the dojo is open 3-4 nights a week. It made it easy for me to train with a group. Perhaps it is a new phase in my training or it could be because I am getting older and greyer too. :)

Sue C: Thanks for the suggestions Sue!

Rick Freyer: Welcome! I am glad you liked the post. Thanks for adding to the discussion. You make a great point about the probability of being alone when attacked. Thanks again.

Rick Matz said...

A couple last points:

It's a crutch to always have to depend on a teacher to be there.

In Chinese martial arts anyway, a traditional way of teaching would be for the teacher to show the student some technique or part of a form, then send him off to practice it by himself until he could come back with something to show for his effort.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michelle,

I think the benefits of solo training are often overlooked. Granted, I don't work solo near enough. At most, I work on ukemi with resistance bands as part of my normal workout and of course practice break falls and the like just to warm up.

Another commenter mentioned Loren Christiansen's Solo Training. I whole heartedly recommend this book. While the majority of it is a little hard to apply to my chosen art, it does offer some fantastic "generic" training ideas.

skl said...

Interesting topic, I have trained alone twice a week for about 10 years and believe it is maditory. Classes are good but they often tend to cover a wide range of subject matter due to time limits etc. I agree with Nathan, your real progress comes during solo training. This is because you have time to analyse movements and train at your own speed. I had at the time reached a 1st Dan level, however I saw a huge improvement in all my techniques once I started training solo and I believe it has given me a far better understanding of the technical aspects of all the techniques.

Sam said...

All the commenters have added interesting thoughts. I wanted to add that my instructor allowed me to interview him for the LA Martial Arts Examiner.com blog and I re-read it the other day and found the following a great addition to the topic:

"There is nothing like getting up in early in the morning when the city is still asleep. That alone time to train, meditate, and give thanks helps us shine and clear our minds and spirits of excess baggage. Though we train in group classes, one must still find time to train alone. It is almost impossible to love and get to know that one which we never spend alone time with."


Michele said...

Stephan: Thanks for visiting! I am going to have to order a copy of Loren Christiansen's book.

SKL: Thank you for commenting! I am enjoying the solo karate training and plan to continue. :)

Samuel: Thank you for sharing the link to your article. Great quote.

Blended Family Dad said...

As a school owner & senior instructor, sometimes I have no choice but to train alone; and it's equally important for me to keep my skill level up to par. I relish those moments of alone time in my dojang (dojo) to work on different aspects of my training.

I often tell my students to get into the habit of making time to train alone; because one day they may be in the same situation. You have to know that you can also train yourself. I only get to see my instructor 2 - 3 times per year; so the responsibility is largely on my shoulders to stay sharp between visits.

SenseiMattKlein said...

People in the fitness industry say "get a partner, it will motivate you". I say, rubbish. If you cannot motivate yourself to work out or train in martial arts without a partner, especially if your career depends on it, you will have an uphill battle. We cannot always depend on partners, but we can depend on ourselves. Been going it solo for over 30 years.

Michele said...

BFD and SenseiKlein: Thanks for visiting and commenting!

I think it is important for students to know/see their instructor training and constantly working on their own material. We let the students know when class instructors go to seminars or train at the Honbu. We also encourage students to practice outside of class. In the beginner classes, I mention drills/stance work that can easily be done at home on their own.

Thanks again,

Anna said...

Solo training makes a lot of sense and if you haven't done much of it before then you're probably in for a big treat. YOU get to decide what to work on and what needs to be improved... YOU get to judge what's working and what's not. And since you'll probably have to defend yourself alone if your ever attacked, it kinda makes sense to do some training alone as well.

Collin said...

Great and informative post about karate. Thanks for sharing and keep posting.

TOWA said...

Karate is for self improvement,
It is about exploring your goals,
Initially it is necessary to train under a proficient Instructor.
This way you can build a strong foundation for yourself as a Karate Ka. Eventually you will be able to indulge in personal or with just one other Practitioner.

TOWA said...

People vary in that some fare well in Group sessions, while others may find this intimidating causing excess tension in techniques but you really need real life teaching from an external source under guidance from an experienced Technical Instructor.
Eventually some Karate Students will practice better by themselves. Karate-do is after all a personal journey.

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