Martial arts training is a journey from the moment you sign up to the moment you receive your black belt. While each journey is unique, there are some common characteristics and challenges at each stage:

1.    Walking Through the Door.

You’ve thought about visiting the gym. Maybe you did some research. Thought of it again, but just didn’t quite get there. All that extra time allows more and more doubts to creep in. Maybe you won’t like it, maybe you won’t be able to do it. Will you make a fool of yourself? Are they just a bunch of meatheads or karate kids wannabes?

The answer to all is Maybe. But you won’t know until you walk through the door. Take the first step. Set an appointment to give yourself that last little push. It’s the only way to actually begin your journey.

“The most difficult part of [training] is not learning the first kick or punch. It is not struggling to remember the [combinations or routines]. Rather, it is taking the first step across the threshold of the [gym]. This is where roads diverge, where choices are made that will resonate throughout a lifetime.”
― Doug Cook

2.    First Few Classes

You made it through the door. You feel nervous/excited to go, then, you actually walk into the first class. It would be great to make a seamless start to training but in reality the first couple of weeks have a bit of awkwardness and a few muscle aches. The good news is that you’ll also see a lot of improvement during this time. Muscle memory will begin to build, you’ll begin to know the names of techniques, and your body will begin to adjust to new movements.

Many new students also worry about dragging down the workouts for partners, especially partners with higher belt ranks. But consider that:

  • Everyone was new at some point and was helped by other students. Sometime in the future it will be your turn to support a new student.
  • The match up helps both, since teaching someone and focusing on technique will help the advanced partner in their own journey.

Struggling to get technique right is part of learning. Wildly flailing about because you’re trying to prove your strength, skill, or fortitude will slow your learning and is a waste of your energy. Remember this is about progression. Stay open to the process and know that the pieces will eventually start fitting together.

“Wearing a black belt does not make you a super hero, and wearing a white belt does not mean you have little to offer as a person. It is what we do in the belts we wear, and not the belts themselves that matter.”
― Chris Matakas, My Mastery: Learning to Live through Jiu Jitsu


3.    Settling into Routine

Muscle memory is building, there is a much smaller gap between what your brain wants and your body does. You know core skills for Thai Kickboxing and Krav Maga, or you can survive a roll in (BJJ) Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and have earned your first few belts.

Pieces are coming together but don’t forget to keep focusing on the basics with every move. Listen for tips that coaches repeat over and over. “Pivot, keep your fighting stance, hands back to your face, don’t give them your back, get a base.” You’re starting to build habits now, make them good ones and it will make it easier to progress through more advanced work. Rush through training and you’ll be fighting bad habits throughout your journey.

Your speed and power are probably picking up and beating on the pads or an intensive roll can be fun but keep a balance. At any belt level, high intensity with low skill gets little done.

“Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter! Try again. Fail again. Fail better! Understand? Good. Play.”
― Masaaki Hatsumi


4.    Advanced Belts

This is a part of the journey where people tend to fall off. There are longer periods of time between belts and the learned skills are more abstract. Individual techniques are always important, but now the focus is on understanding application and personalizing your approach. This relies not only on technique but also experience.

Furthering your training is not just about following what coaches lay out but assessing how you would use it and what situation it would apply to. It’s also about understanding what your weaknesses or strengths may be in the approach. Your thought process becomes an important part of your progress.

Working with students with white belt or other early ranks is helpful for those with advanced belts. If a fellow student asks “why” we do a certain technique or do I a certain way, you need to be able to answer with more than “because coach told us to”. Breaking down techniques and explaining why we do what we do can help jumpstart your thought process.

“Never forget that, at the most, the teacher can give you fifteen percent of the art. The rest you have to get for yourself through practise and hard work. I can show you the path but I can not walk it for you.”
― Master Tan Soh Tin


5.    Black Belt

When you reach your black belt, you finally understand that the black belt is just the beginning. The years leading up weren’t just about learning techniques but understanding how to grow as a martial artist. Even if you keep training for years to come, there will always be more to learn.

Jiu Jitsu gives me an ideal to strive toward. Technical mastery lies on an infinite continuum and completion of this skill is impossible. Every time I train I have something that I can improve upon, and this will hold true for each and every training session that lies between me and my grave.”
― Chris Matakas


Dragon Within Mixed Martial Arts offers the most  functional and realistic self-defense and fitness programs in the North Shore area.

We offer Thai Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu(BJJ), Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Krav Maga and Children’s programs.

Visit Our Website! www.DWMMA.com

Don’t Wait!  Call TODAY to sign up for your FREE PRIVATE LESSON 978-745-8511 Dragon Within Mixed Martial Arts, Salem MA, provides the most realistic and practical self-defense programs for Massachusetts and North Shore Area including: Peabody MA, Salem MA, Beverly MA, Lynn MA, Marblehead MA, Danvers MA

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