I was torn about posting this blog. What can I add to the hundreds of posts about training in COVID times? Whilst hopes for this year are improving, it won’t happen overnight. Therefore, we continue where we left 2020, solo training and social distancing.
I purposefully take 2 weeks off training at Christmas; nay a punch or kick thrown. It’s as much a mental as physical break. After all, you don’t intend to go on holiday from the office (remember them?) and then spend it working. It gives me time to relax and reflect. And plan.
Across all the various approaches to training which everyone had to employ last year, one thing stood out for me – I trained a lot more than normal. By that I mean, that I was more physically active whilst teaching than usual. Being on the end of a camera means you have to demonstrate more. You don’t have to walk around a dojo checking people. And more importantly, people attending the sessions respond better to following your movements. You can’t teach a Zoom class, standing with your hands on your hips, playing with your belt.
As we moved into Tier 3, group exercise was no longer permitted, individual training continued. However, that was not much different to when I was hosting Zoom sessions. I chose the theme or topic, adjusted to the audience and I did it. So, I spent 2020 with more focus on my training, which has been great. (I’ve also got back on my bike, which has been equally enjoyable. It’s also a new source of injuries, as there’s no one to hit me at karate. Luckily enough, the ground stands in quite well). One of my karate seniors always asks me how my own training has been going – the answer of late has been “pretty good!”
Location, location and another location.
Sensei Hazard has said on many occasions that your dojo is where you are, and your Gi is what you are wearing. This has never been more true than this year.
With our normal venues closed, we moved several times. I’m eternally grateful to our friends at Elite Martial Arts for helping us out and giving us a home. Bob, Big Geoff, Little Geoff and the Twins became our training partners. In case you’re wondering, these are the names given to the freestanding and hanging bags in the Dojang. After all, you still have to be respectful to your partner 😀.
Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face, according to Mike Tyson. Or, if you have a more historical leaning, no plan survives first contact with the enemy. Planning for this year can feel a little hopeless, based on the sharp rise in Covid cases and anticipated continuation of restrictions. But then, none of that is new and we’ve been through this already.
As luck would have it, I was reading this article today. The concept of resetting productivity without ignoring how you think and feel about the current situation strongly resonates with me. I’m continuing to work and train in the situation. The sword is getting tempered – made stronger under pressure.
When I think of those people who have inspired me over the years, most of their training is done alone. Most of my training is done alone, too. If you want a great example of solo training, read ‘Five Years, One Kata’ by Bill Burgar. And watch this interview of Bill, carried out by Ger O’Dea, a good friend of Highland Karate.
So this is all lovely, but what’s the point, Kevin?
Now as my karate holiday comes to an end, I am going to return with a new, old goal – to keep training. Like most clubs across the UK and beyond, I’ll be hosting Zoom classes and maybe some outdoor sessions. At some point, we’ll be back indoors and at some point later, we’ll be punching and kicking each other, laughing as we do. Until then, I’m preparing to be as ready for that time as I can.
Perhaps, what 2020 might have shown everyone, is what is important in your training. It’s the how you approach it and the fact that you do it. Where you do it, what you wear and even when – isn’t important. I have a friend who is training mainly on the beach, near where he lives, often in the dark, after work. Apart from a different surface, he really enjoys the environment; fresh air, sea breeze – and the occasional curious dog approaching. Key thing – he’s training. And training for himself.
The pandemic has brought a whole new raft of pressures – working remotely, home schooling, illness and to far too many, loss and suffering. Within the small microcosm of karate, that pressure comes through loud and clear. However, one advantage of training, is that we should be used to working under physical and mental pressure. Let’s use this advantage.
You can’t temper a sword when the steel is cold; it needs heat and pressure. That’s what we all have to bring. We are used to training for gradings, competitions etc. Use this solo time to work on the marginal gains – making small improvements. Or even just working on one thing.
You choose – it’s for you, after all.