The Number One Secret To Martial Arts Training

by Sensei Glen Gardiner

When most people find out I spent over twenty seven years training martial arts and have achieved instructor qualifications in six martial arts systems, trained in over seventeen different martial art styles, competed in the combative sport arena and was a military unarmed combat instructor for the Australian Army for many years, one of the common responses from them is: “Oh I could never do that”. I ask them why? Their responses are generally the same: “I can’t run, I am not fit, I can’t handle the training”. The phrase “I can’t” is used repeatedly.

I usually smile and try to change the subject before the dreaded Hollywood questions come based on people’s perceptions of what a martial artist is. This is usually regarding how many fights I have been involved in and how many people get beaten up using a spoon or some other innocuous implement while I am levitating six feet above the ground or doing something else that is similarly Hollywood depicted. But every time I nod my head to someone telling me their reasons for not training, I feel like I’m cheating them if I don’t share what I call the Number One Secret of Martial Arts Training.

Martial arts training isn’t for everyone, but the truth be told anyone can make it through training — but the fact is, very few do. This assumes, of course you’re a healthy person with no medical condition or disability which will make it more difficult but not insurmountable. Age or genders are not restrictions only considerations of how to conduct training. Strip away unfortunate training and related injuries, and you’re left with one reason and one reason alone for those who achieve their aim versus those who do not: DESIRE.

Those who make it through training and stay with it want it a helluva lot more than those that don’t – period, end of story. At the end of the day, martial arts training is not about how many pull-ups or push-ups you can do, or how fast or hard you can kick and punch or how good your technique is. These things are elements of the overall package. It’s about the fire that burns in your gut. Martial arts’ training is designed to test your resolve and instill within you the desire to always continue to improve. It doesn’t matter if you’re fit and have physical capability – A good instructor will be expert at finding and challenging you to refine and improve every deficiency in your character and your ability. A good instructor is like an expert sword smith forging and hammering raw steel in a furnace, tempering the blade making it hard and durable, honing a fine edge and ensuring that the blade is balanced and polished.

I don’t know a single martial artist that prefers strenuous training for long periods that is physically and mentally challenging to a comfortable existence. There is no point leaving the Dojo in the same condition that you entered, what have you achieved? Making you uncomfortable is just another tool used to improve you.

It sounds simple, and it’s something you’ve heard many an athlete or entrepreneur preach, but your desire to succeed is the number one secret to martial arts training, and it’s the first attribute put to the test. Day in and day out as you continue to improve, refine, rebuild and polish your ability and character you are reminded that you are there voluntarily. You can walk out the door at any time. It’s up to you to build that internal inferno to conquer any obstacle thrown in your path. The pain of failure MUST be greater than the pain of succeeding otherwise you’re destined to be defeated by your goal. Martial arts training fueled the fire in my gut to such a fevered pitch that I found myself saying I’d rather die than quit. Everyone has their own demons to deal with during training; mine are fitness, injury, fear of failure, and letting down those that have faith in me.

I suffered through countless sessions and will continue to suffer through countless more, but in my mind, that pain pales in comparison to quitting. This burning desire wasn’t built in a day, but rather stoked through a series of seemingly insignificant decisions, such as leaving a warm bed to come to a Dojo and work and sweat and be miserable with fatigue.

Every action you make is the result of a decision you’ve chosen. The intensity of your desire is directly proportional to the number of decisions you make towards attaining your goal; you’re either committed or you’re not. There is no middle ground. You either go for it with all your heart and soul or don’t bother trying. The decision is yours. So, before you take one step toward your next goal ask yourself: How badly do I want it, and what am I willing to sacrifice to get it? Once you’ve established these ground rules you’re already halfway to success. And while you’re on your journey, remember nothing is ever accomplished by those who say I can’t.

Please take the time to consider what I have mentioned, and remember that the number one secret to martial arts training also applies to our life and how we live it; desire, drive, commitment, discipline, integrity etcetera, etcetera.

I hope that this secret is of benefit to you and you take advantage of it.

Glen Gardiner-Sensei