Ten easy ways to incorporate your martial arts practice into your everyday life
It’s easy to leave your martial arts practice in the studio/gym/dojang but with these easy tips, you can take your practice home with you for a more holistic training approach. Rather than starting out by trying to do all of these at once pick one to focus on for a week. Once you’ve started to consistently practice that, add in another one from the list. It takes about 21 days to build a habit so give yourself some time!
1. Practice your stances when you’re brushing your teeth: Make sure you’ve aligned your stance perfectly (remember, perfect practice makes perfect) and hold while you brush your teeth. This is a good way to build muscle memory while you’re doing something pretty mindless.
2. Practice standing on one foot when you do tasks around the house: While you’re waiting for something to cook in the microwave or talking on the phone, standing on one foot will help you with your balance. If you want to add an extra challenge, try doing this with your eyes closed (just not while you’re cooking).
3. Run through your forms in your head bed before going to sleep: This is especially great for people who have a hard time sleeping. Start with your most basic form and work your way up through the more advanced forms. Try to sync your breathing with each movement in your forms for an added meditative element. This is a great exercise not only for forms, but your mental strength and discipline. It’s also a healthier option than staring at your phone or the TV screen.
4. Stretch while you’re watching TV: You don’t have to go all Claude Von Damme every time you sit down to watch Game of Thrones, but try sitting in butterfly stretch, or your straddle stretch. Another option here is to foam roll or use a lacrosse ball to massage muscles that are tight from work or training. This is a good way to give your muscles some love while your mind is otherwise occupied.
5. Pick a tenet or principle to keep in mind for a week: Focus on a principle of your art and look for ways to practice it in your daily life. For instance, one of the Tae Kwon Do tenets is self-control. To practice, you could focus on controlling your emotions and reactions. Are you reacting without thinking a lot? Try taking a moment to control yourself and your responses. This is another great way to practice mental discipline.
6. Do some reading: Check out a book about your martial art. Perhaps you can learn more about a significant figure in your arts’ history or how your art has changed throughout the years. There are a lot of books about martial arts training, diet, and history. Find something that interests you round out your knowledge of the art.
7. Condition for something you need to improve in your practice: Maybe your flexibility could use some work or you lack power in your movements (you can ask your instructor for help with this too). Figure out what you need to work on and find a way to work on it at home. There are a lot of YouTube videos and online resources for improving specific skills. If your flexibility is lacking, try incorporating a ten or fifteen-minute yoga sequence into your daily routine. Yoga by Candace has some great ones!
8. Try teaching a basic skill or form to someone you know: One of the best ways to find out if you really know something is to try teaching it. Pick a friend or family member who you feel comfortable with and try teaching them a basic form. The process of teaching is a great way to reinforce your own understanding of a skill while exposing yourself to questions and challenges you might not have considered. Oftentimes, the process of teaching will bring up questions you may or may not know the answers to. This is also a way to practice outside a familiar setting which will challenge your reliance on visual and spatial clues which we often rely on to help us remember things like which direction to rotate or which foot you lead with.
9. Take ten minutes when you get home from class: Use this time to either practice what you learned, or jot down some notes. By taking a couple of minutes after you leave the studio to run through what you learned either physically or mentally, you’ll be reinforcing those skills. This means you’re less likely to forget what you learned and have to re-learn it next class!
10. Write down a few goals: Write down goals you have for your martial arts practice and keep them somewhere visible. This can be your everyday reminder of what it is you’re working toward and how you’re going to get there. Having them somewhere you’ll see them often and be reminded of them is a good way to make sure you’re on track. Try setting them as your desktop screensaver at work!