Each movement of your body is a small part of a circle. Your hands connect to your arms that connect to your shoulders, your back, your hips and each fibre of your body and together they create a force. Whether you are blocking an attack or throwing a punch, it requires a great amount of focus to be able to coordinate each movement of every bone and muscle within you to perform with the optimal strength and stamina.
It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, being able to focus is a benefit in almost every aspect of life. The meditation training in kung fu and other martial arts helps students to learn how to channel their thoughts and direct them to the task at hand.
I can sometimes perform really well, and other days, not so well. On those bad days, I find that the cause is because my mind is elsewhere. I’m not focused and I’m lost in the movement my body is making, as if it’s behaving on its own. Being able to control my thoughts during kung fu practice helps me perform better. I am able to move more fluidly and accurately. Manoeuvring my body becomes natural when I empty my mind and focus on how I want my body to move.
1. Eliminate distractions
If you have to go to a room or a place where there will be little distractions, then do so. But before you go into the room to start training, make sure to leave your phone behind. Everyone has a life and a schedule, but there should be some time during the day where you leave it behind and just focus on time for yourself. If that means turning your phone off and placing it as far from you as possible, then it’s important that you stick to that. Don’t let anything get in the way of your train of thought and your focus. Any ping from social media notifications or a ring from an oncoming call should be ignored for the duration of your training. Don’t let work or friends interfere with your training time or your personal time.
I can easily get lost in the movements of my body, where the coordination of muscles and bones suddenly ceases and my movement becomes jerky and lost in random motion. Many martial arts will teach breathing techniques right at the start of training. It helps students to pace themselves and to know when to inhale and exhale. When I lose focus and my mind is no longer settled, I can always tell because I will unconsciously hold my breath. I have found that I can easily find my way back through concentrating on my breathing and retrieving my centre of focus.
It’s very easy to let your mind wander while you are stretching. But it is important that you keep on track with the task of stretching. Focus your energy on your body and the movements your body makes. The contact your body has with the ground, the pull of the muscles and how every movement is connected with the next.
4. Take things slowly
It might be hard to do, I know it is for me, to go through the movements of a form slowly. I tend to do things quickly, I talk fast, I move fast, and patience isn’t a virtue that I am well acquainted with. However, one of the things I’ve been trying to work on is moving slowly and concentrating on making each movement precise and accurate. Every time I speed up, Sifu Dan is quick to point out that I need to slow down.
5. Turn it into a ritual
The more you do something, the more it becomes habit. Things become automatic. How you begin your training is very important. Do a series of stretches at the beginning of your workout and do your workouts consistently. It is easier to lose focus when you train sporadically. Training hard for one week and lightly the next does not develop a good focused habit.
6. Keep a training journal
The concept of a training journal came to me recently when a friend suggested I write down the exercises I do in a day and keeping track of how much I train from week-to-week. I didn’t know at first why I was not achieving my goal of obtaining more strength in my arms, but when I started keeping track of the kinds of workouts I was doing, it became clear that my regime was unbalanced and random. Documenting your training can be a great way to help you stay focused on what you want to work on. It can help give you a clear picture of your training program and your goals.
7. Have Fun
I have the belief that in whatever you are doing, you should find an element of fun in it, otherwise what’s the purpose of doing it if you don’t like it. I honestly think that the number one reason why you should train or do anything is because it gives you happiness and enjoyment. If you aren’t having fun doing your workout, it might not be because working out is wrong for you, it could mean that maybe the workout plan you have isn’t right for you and perhaps something in the workout needs to be changed or adjusted. You need to not only have a strong reason to meet your goals, you need to have fun doing so. You won’t achieve much if you aren’t enjoying what you are doing.
Hope you have fun on your next kung fu workout!