A sand bag with a hole in it. Picture it… the sand slowly running out. That’s life. You only have so much.
This was something Dan John used to suggest how to make training in a gym environment more effective and focused.
The same is true for Martial Arts: We’ve all had a class or instructor or session with too much talk; too much warm up; too much whatever. In the end you walk out feeling it was a waste. Too much sand poorly spent. Recently becoming a dad has made me realise I have less sand than before, and more to do. The relevance to this is when I train now I demand it is time well spent - it is so much more precious to me to get time to swing a stick. It should not, however, require a life-form’s arrival to highlight this. We need to be proactive in how we train. So how do we do this?
For students I think this is in the choice that is made before arriving: Am I going to commit my focus to this class? Am I going to ensure I am present? Mentally and physically. I’ve been guilty of the wrong choice. I’ve had techniques get lost because I’m away thinking of... something I can’t even remember... (Andy reckons it was most likely fluffy bunnies and unicorns). Though when we think of our shifting sand slowly running out and then focus, we have sessions that are really rewarding. We leave feeling confident in our skills, or retaining the new technique from the class.
For instructors, knowing what you need to achieve that lesson. What do the students need to cover and how will you deliver it? A policy of the ‘5-steps-from-the-door planning’ or ‘what will I do tonight?’ doesn’t work: I’ve done it and while my students haven’t complained, the lesson certainly smells of it. Apart from the whacked knuckles, scrapes, etc. We need to consider what we are delivering and how; how lessons flow; ensuring students leave animated and enthusiastic; the list goes on.
I would say our sand starts escaping before the lesson. It applies to instructors as to students: We have to be present. Use the sand well or not at all.
This is a good way to think about our training. We can spend oodles of money on seminars, Gucci kit, vast arrays of books and DVDs - all in the pursuit of self-improvement, but if your time training is not focused and used effectively then it’s as useful as a paper groin guard. Sure you might look good doing it, but if that’s all it is, then you can’t expect it to do the job when you need it to.
How are you spending your sand?
Article originally written in Nov 2014 by Carl Rein - a Senior Rapid Arnis Instructor, currently based in Cambridge.