Marks has an excellent post up on training solo.
Then there are the second type who train hard in class but do not feel good afterwards because they cant seem to perform the certain techniques during class time which they have been working on alone. Because of this they go away and until the next class perform many hours of solo training.
As a slight digression I would propose a third type: The lazy type who should add supplemental training but does not! I would also point out that finding a willing training partner outside of class can be harder than it looks. If you can, do. If you can’t you’ll have to make due with all the rest!
Here are Mark’s benefits of solo training:
- Working on a weakness or problem spot
- Just getting better at a technique through repetition
- Developing unique training methods that are specific to you
- Marks calls it the development of a “fighting spirit”, I just call it perseverance. I think we can both agree it’s probably the same thing!
I am a heavy solo trainer. More on that in a second. In the meantime, here are my additions to the list:
- Moving meditation (usually kata or forms)
- As a substitute for a missed class
- Working ahead then having your instructor refine your technique, form, etc. in class
- Working on strength, stamina, or flexibility — all things that can help in class
I’m sure a missed a few! I always try to do something martial arts related during my weekly workouts. This can be:
- Bag work
- A certain form or series of forms
- Line drills (i.e. a series of footowork, punching, kicking, or other drills done in class)
- A specific technique (e.g. maybe nothing but stance practice or trapping techniques)
- Self-defense steps or qinna (both can be treated as mini katas and trained alone)
- Stretching (can’t do enough of this!)
- Cardio weight training or kettlebells for cardio, stamina, and strength
Two things I recommend for solo training are 1) A cheap portable Wal-Mart DVD player that plugs into an outlet and 2) A freestanding bag. Don’t have a garage or basement? You can do a lot of this in a yard or park. Also, much solo training can be done in a tiny apartment. Forms may be hard but shorter self-defense or one-step sparring might work as mini-katas. If your art is fortunate enough to benefit from DVDs that’s where the player comes in. Taekwondo has some excellent videos on forms. Often I would work ahead to the next form at home. Then bring it to class and get refined. This would help me learn faster and at the higher levels just keep up!
I got into solo training primarily as a way to keep up. Prior to my serious run in taekwondo and those martial arts beyond, I always compared myself to a hammer: Crude and sometimes effective. I certainly did not take the martial arts seriously when I was at an age to take advantage of what my body could do then. I’ve been playing catch-up to a mostly losing battle ever since.
I had made it half way to black belt in TKD before quitting. 10+ years I returned to that which I swore I’d never return to. My hack training in TKD, boxing, and PPCT were enough to give me an edge over students half my age–especially at tournaments. However, at about 4th gup I started to slip. This was the point where my toolkit of hack skills were outdone by younger, stronger, and faster students with better stamina. Once these 20-year-olds figured out how to actually use the techniques my 40-year-old body had a hell of a time containing them. Experience will take you far but there is also a cutoff point!
Finally, solo training might be the only substitute you have for an extended hiatus from the martial arts. For example, I’m retired from taekwondo but still train solo. My skills are not anywhere near tournament ready and certainly have dropped from my 1st dan test. Still, I’ve held the slippage to a point that’s still respectable.
Solo training is my brain. More on why if certain things come to pass. In the meantime I highly recommend trying it!