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Maintaining a Healthy Practice
Many of us practice martial arts not only to learn to defend ourselves, but also as a way of cultivating a healthy life. What that means for each of us is different since our journeys are unique, but we may seek to improve physical health by increasing strength, fitness, or balance, or improve mental health by developing concentration, discipline, and confidence. Whatever our individual goals, one collective goal we aspire toward is maintaining a practice that keeps us healthy so we can continue our training as a life-long endeavor.
Here are a few considerations for sustaining a long-term practice:
Have patience with yourself and remember why and how you started. What were your goals, and what progress have you made toward them? How might your goals change as you practice? Each person in the dojo began their journey at a different place in life, so don’t compare your journey or your progress with others. Your path is unique, and your progress is measured only in the steps you’ve taken along that path.
Respect your body, particularly through pain or injury. Modifying our practice is one of the most fundamental things we can do to keep ourselves healthy and continuously engaged in our training, but it can also be very challenging mentally. We tell ourselves, “Why bother going at all if I can’t go all out?” Or we go to class intending to modify, but we let our ego take control and injure ourselves more. Talk to your senseis when your body is telling you to modify. They’ll help you physically by recommending modifications and mentally by encouraging you to listen to what your body is telling you.
Maintaining a disciplined practice doesn’t mean it always has to be the same. Variation can help both your physical and mental wellness, and it can help you see your practice in new and exciting ways. Practice your forms at different speeds, write out your techniques on paper, read a book about kung fu - the options are endless! Consistency of practice is key, and there are numerous ways to define “practice.”
Finally, let yourself experience the full joy of your practice. After all, you’re training in kung fu. How cool is that?