What it’s like to own a Martial Arts academy during Covid-19

2020 was set to be one of the biggest years for Australian Combat Sports Academy. I felt like we had finally settled into our bigger facility after moving over a year ago. The gym was flourishing with all classes near capacity. Our inhouse Novice MMA event “Bushido” was gaining momentum and the fight team was coming off its most successful year of ACSA competition history in 2019. We started off 2020 with some impressive wins on Muay Thai shows and had some big fights lined up for the rest of the year. Then COVID-19 happened….

In the beginning when the new of Covid-19 first broke, most people treated it like a joke and didn’t think it would affect us here in Australia. As the situation started to worsen we were forced to close our doors on the 23rd of March.

Dealing with the uncertainty.
The hardest part about owning a small business during COVID-19 was the uncertainty. The uncertainty of not knowing what’s going on and most importantly what to do. It’s something no one has ever faced before and there was no blue-print to navigate through it. When we first closed our doors I thought it would have only lasted for a month. It dragged on for 3 months. The main problem with uncertainty was that we weren’t able to plan for anything. We had no timeline or way out to even plan a strategy to get out of this. One of our basic human needs is certainty in our lives. It is no wonder anxiety levels hit an all-time high for many during these times.

Adapting and evolving.
Just like with any other business we had to adapt and evolve. It meant stepping up to the plate rather than burying your head and waiting for the storm to pass. I know that if we had just closed for the entirety of the pandemic then we wouldn’t be able to reopen when it was all over. We had to counter every change or restriction put in place. Physical classes were not permitted, so we went online. Small group sessions were permitted, so we went outdoors. Upon reopening we had capacity restrictions, so we had to cap classes. The second wave hit and now we’re back online. It hasn’t been easy constantly adapting but it’s something I knew we had to do to keep the members engaged over these difficult times. It takes 28 days to build or break a habit. If people broke the habit of not training for more than 28 days it’s highly likely they wouldn’t return.

The digital revolution.
When we first started the online classes I honestly had no idea how they would go or if people would even want to do them. It’s something I’d never run before and neither had anyone else! It took a few sessions to get a good format in place. The challenges faced with running online sessions were space and equipment limitations of participants, as well as being able to keep them engaged for the entire session.

Not everyone took to the online classes for various reasons but the reality was that there was no other alternative. If you really want to train then you will find a way and not make excuses. The online classes attracted the people I wanted to work with, serious martial artists who didn’t make excuses to skip training. I channelled all my energy into these sessions and received a lot of positive feedback. The best part about the online classes is that members were able to slow down the techniques to a pace where they could perfect and practise them flawlessly. In a  physical class format, sometimes I find that members would rush techniques without performing them correctly in order to get more of a sweat on, or to not a slow partner or class down. The online classes completely eliminated this. When we were permitted to reopen I noticed that the members who had participated in online classes had better technique than before they went into lockdown.

Lockdown 2.0
We were not even 2 weeks into the physical reopening when we were forced to close again because of the second wave. This was one of the biggest kicks in the teeth I’ve ever felt. Just as we thought we were out of the woods we were back to being closed. After all the hard work that went into reopening and the emotional rollercoaster over the past 3 months it was another new low. The second lockdown has definitely been worse than the first one. The novelty of lockdown one had worn off and people were frustrated and angry. People were living in fear and looking for someone to blame. We had tasted “freedom” for less than two weeks and didn’t want to go back into lockdown. It felt like everyone in Melbourne was forced to pay the price for a few who didn’t play by the rules.

This time around it wasn’t just about running online classes. It was about keeping the morale of members up and things positive. It was about creating some certainty in people’s lives in these uncertain times by running the classes every day. It’s giving people some sense of confidence and control back in their lives, to know that they can still log on at 6pm every evening and participate in an activity they enjoy; martial arts.

The positives from already being in lockdown previously are that I already had the systems in place to take the classes online. I already knew how to run the classes and what did and didn’t work. This time around I feel like the classes are even better and students are getting more effective training out of them.

Biggest lessons learnt.
One of the biggest lessons learnt from this pandemic is to never take anything for granted in life. Be grateful and thankful for what you have. It’s easy to take things for granted when life is going well (I certainly did!). Now I realise how lucky I am to be teaching what I am passionate about (martial arts).

I am lucky to be surrounded by good positive people, a loving family and a supportive girlfriend who has helped me get through this period. During tough times it’s VERY important to surround yourself with the right people. The pandemic has brought the best and worst out of humanity. The right people will be positive and uplift you. They will offer support and be there when you need them. Everyone will have an opinion in these times as to what to do and what not to do. You have to be very selective with who or what you choose to listen to and read.

Final note.
The pandemic doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon. Rather than spending the next few months complaining and being negative have a look at what positives have come out of it. For me:

– It has been a journey of self-discovery
– I have discovered what and who is most important to me in my life
– It has brought the ACSA community even closer because we are all going through it together
– It has made me a better coach

It’s important to stay positive in these times. Everyday you can choose to get bombarded with fear mongering being spread on television and social media. Everything you see or read in the media is designed to be anxiety provoking. Rather than falling into the trap of the downward spiral of negative thoughts, start spending time on yourself and the things you like to do. Spend time with the people you love in life and make the most of it.

Local small businesses in Victoria have been hardest hit recently in the second lockdown. Most academy owners do it out of a passion for sharing martial arts. They don’t have the big budgets like big businesses and many won’t survive the second lockdown. Your coaches don’t have the same business they did 6 months ago so make sure you support your academy in these times to keep martial arts alive.

How to get back into Muay Thai training after isolation

It’s been over a month since all Muay Thai and Martial Arts gyms have been closed. You’ve tried to stick to some sort of routine in these crazy times but have struggled. It’s been freezing cold and your diet has gone out the window because of all the extra snacks and Uber eats you have been eating. You are not alone! It looks like the possibility of gyms reopening is very soon and it’s time to get get back into it. The thought of resuming any sort of training regime seems difficult but you need a plan of attack. Here are some sure fire ways to get you back into training and feeling like yourself again.

1. Start slowly
Depending on how active you have been over the isolation period will dictate how you get back into your training. As a rule of thumb you should only make 10% increases when making a return to training after a lay off. It’s important that you also resume slowly! That means easing your way back into things to avoid injury. If you have been consistent with your online classes eg 2-3 times a week then resuming actual physical classes 2-3 times a week at moderate intensity should be fine. If you have been inactive over the entirety of the iso period then start with 1-2 classes per week. Rather than coming back day 1 and smashing out a 10km run followed by 5 x 5 minute rounds on the pads, stick to a technical skills session.

2. Set a goal and make a plan.
Before returning to training set yourself a goal. Make sure your use the SMART principles: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. A good example would be “Resume Muay Thai training my gym reopens and commit to 2 classes twice a week with a long term goal of grading at the first grading”. Once you’ve set a goal then it’s time to start planning. Write down the sessions you want to attend in your diary and tell your coach or someone. Get them to keep you accountable.

3. Change your mindset to focus on the long term.
Muay Thai training is about long term development and long term goals. It’s about refining your skill over the years and constantly readjusting goals. When you return to training this should be your focus, to get better at it over a long term period. Don’t get too excited just because the gym is reopen and jump in all guns blazing. I’ve seen it so many times over the years when people make a return to training and over do it in the first few weeks and injure themselves and have to take time off again. It then becomes a vicious cycle they fall into for years and never progress.

4. Focus on technique and skills.
It’s more than likely social distancing will be around for a while. Don’t dig yourself into a negative mindset and complain about how you just want to hit pads, spar and clinch. A true Martial Artists sees the opportunity in any situation and are resourceful with the resources they have. The best fighters in the world are the ones that can adapt to any situation and this this the mindset you want to have. It will be a good time to focus on technique and skill development and slow it down to a pace where you wouldn’t normally get a opportunity to.

5. Reconnect with people
Chances are no matter where you are in the world you haven’t had an opportunity to connect with people like you normally have. The beauty of Martial Arts is that it is the ultimate platform for bringing people together and connecting human beings through sharing a passion of personal development. When the gym reopens reconnect with old training partners and coaches and reach out to people who need to hear some kind words. Everyone has been through a lot lately and now is the time unite and get through this together.

I’m interested to hear how people are planning to make a return to training?

Email me!

Perfectionism Is The Enemy of Progress: Just Be Better Than Yesterday

You’ve spent long hours in the gym drilling technique, put in those countless rounds of sparring, you’ve done your strength and conditioning routines dutifully. You were as ready as you could be. Or so you thought.

Things didn’t go your way at the tournament or in your bout. Maybe you were overlooked for a belt promotion…again! No matter how hard you try, things never seem to work out perfectly.

Don’t get things twisted. That is the process.

Progress is not achieved by an insistence on perfection. It is the accumulation of incremental improvements building into something larger over time.

Anything worth having takes time. An insistence on perfection at all times will see us get bogged down; trapped in frustration at a future that hasn’t yet arrived.

Avoid this trap of perfectionism. To make continuing progress, simply strive to be a better version of yourself than you were yesterday. Here’s how:

Eat The Elephant One Bite at a Time

There’s a well known quote attributed to Desmond Tutu, “There is only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.”

What he meant by this was that seemingly impossible tasks can be accomplished gradually via the completion of smaller, more manageable tasks.

In terms of your martial arts training, this means that each class completed, open mat attended, and heavy bag pounded, propels you incrementally forward ensuring a better you steps on the mats today than did yesterday.

Sometimes Life Gets in the Way, and That’s OK

There’ll be times when you’ll need to drag yourself by the scruff of the neck to the gym. No questions about it – sometimes self-love needs to be tough love.

Life can be hard. You need to learn to recognise when to be understanding of yourself if you are to continue on the path of progress.

Occasional failures are the lot of being human. You may be suffering from jet lag, financial worries, a family crisis, there are a myriad of things that life can throw at you that may impede your progress, temporarily.

The key word here being temporarily.

Don’t unduly beat yourself up if the harsh winds of fate blow you off course. Just be sure to grab the wheel and get back on track as quickly as possible.

Avoid overindulging in sorrow or wallowing in regret. This is energy-sapping, pointless, and one thing is for sure, more bad days are guaranteed.

Take your blows, pick yourself up off your arse, and get back to work. And, if you find that difficult you need to get in touch with your inner Bad Cop.

Know When To Be Bad Cop

Nobody cares about your health and fitness journey more than you do. You may be lucky enough to have some very supportive cheerleaders in your life, but ultimately you are responsible for you.

Listen, I know your mum or wife thinks you’re great regardless. You could lay in bed to noon eating pizza every day and you’d still be her golden boy.

If she caught you red-handed pilfering the Mona Lisa, she’d probably turn a blind eye. That’s because she’s the eternal Good Cop in the movie of your life.

But, kindness can kill just as surely as you can be murdered by meanness. There’ll be times when you’ll need to take on the role of Bad Copin your own biopic.

Take stock of your mindset daily to ensure that you are making that incremental progress.

Are you meeting your daily goals? Are you achieving your training targets? No matter how modest they may be, they’re important.

If in your daily interrogation of yourself you find the suspect needs to be leaned on, don’t be afraid to call out your inner Bad Cop. As we said earlier, there are times when true self-love love is of the tough variety.

The Bad Cop holds us to account. He is merciless in pursuing the truth, driving the weakness and excuses from our minds and bodies in the process. Ultimately, all this is for the good of our own development.

If you find yourself swimming in a sea of excuses for your failures, pass that truncheon and let your inner Bad Cop bully you back onto the path of righteousness once again.

There’s no doubt that aiming for perfection is a lofty and admirable goal, but it is an unrealistic expectation to have of ourselves in our daily lives. It can be self-defeating. It can make us brittle in the face of the inevitable and temporary defeats that are actually opportunities to build strength in body and mind.

Progress is all about our perspective. You either succeed in your endeavours the first time, or you learn through the process. If you choose the latter you will come back the next day a better you than yesterday and that’s progress.

How The Martial Arts Help You Develop Patience in Life

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Everywhere we look we can see the merits of the immediate proclaimed loudly and proudly. Instant gratification is the name of the game and the game is widespread. 

All this despite the fact that we intuitively know the merits of that which is gained gradually through dint of sustained effort over time. 

The Stanford Marshmallow experiments of the ‘70s have shown us that one of the greatest indicators of success in life is the ability to delay gratification. That is, to display patience.

So, how can we develop patience in life when the game seems rigged entirely to encourage the quick fix? 

The answer can be found in the Martial Arts. Let’s take a look at just some of the ways the Martial Arts can help you develop patience in your life.

Learn The Value of Perseverance

The Martial Arts serve as one of life’s great equalizers. 

The arts don’t care what job you have, who your parents are, or what car you drive. There is one path to success here and one path alone and that is the path of perseverance.

Training in the Martial Arts teaches us that our success or failure is in our own hands. The mats don’t lie and the ring doesn’t care for excuses. If you have done the work, progress will be made, but it won’t be made in a single session. 

Progress will be the accumulation of sustained effort over time.

It’s The Journey Not The Destination

Whether training Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or one of the many other great arts, your first session will be fun. And the more you train, the deeper that enjoyment will become.

Though some of us will decide to test our skills in competition or to strive for that next coloured belt, it is this enjoyment that brings us back to training time and again over the years. 

Medals, trophies, belts, and certificates are not the ultimate destination for the martial artist, they are just part of the scenery along the way. 

Just as in life, we don’t rush towards our ultimate destination, but rather take in our leisurely fill of the scenery along the way.

Develop a Systematic Approach to Problem-Solving

Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” 

The Martial Arts are all about ensuring you have more than just a hammer to approach the problems of life with.

Disciplines like Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teach us that for every attack there is a counter. And for every counter, there is a counter to that counter. 

Practitioners learn that there are multiple pathways to success and that it takes time and patience to determine the best path to ensure the desired outcome. They learn a systematic approach to problem-solving is the most effective and efficient – in the academy and in life beyond the academy.

In our fast-paced world, it is clearer than ever that patience is not only a virtue, but a skill. And like all skills, it can be improved with practice. The Martial Arts offer the perfect environment for us to hone our patience, helping us to develop a valuable skill that will serve us well in all aspects of our lives.

3 Reasons to Get Off the Couch and Train Martial Arts in Winter

Winter is no joke. Long, dark months can really zap the life out of a person. Seasonal Affective Disorder, The Winter Blues, Seasonality – we have a wide vocabulary to describe the mood changes that come over many of us at this time of year.

While some opt for prescribed medication or light therapy, others get up off the couch and go train Martial Arts.

Training in Muay Thai, MMA, BJJ etc in winter offers a wide range of benefits. Let’s take a look at 3 of the most significant of these.

Get Lean

We tend to be less active in winter. We spend more time indoors too. Inside, the couch beckons to us. Netflix too! The fridge is well-stocked and within easy reach. Winter can be a time of indulgence – overindulgence even!

There is a price for that overindulgence though. It’ll be visible in expanding waistlines, among other areas.

Getting off the couch to get your sweat on in an MMA gym or Muay Thai class will keep you lean, or get you lean if you aren’t already.

Few workouts can match the overall body-toning gains Martial Arts training offers.

Improve Cardio

Avoiding winter weight gain isn’t the only boon of training in the Martial Arts. Living a sedentary lifestyle during these months can wreak havoc on the health of the heart and lungs. 

Martial Arts training provides a great way to boost the health of your cardiovascular system. Training in combat sports like Muay Thai or MMA offers an intense workout that will raise cardio fitness quickly and all without the monotony of endless hours on a treadmill or cross trainer.

Not to mention, the Martial Arts are lots of fun. Which brings us to our final reason to get off the couch and train Martial Arts in winter…

Make Friends

We’ve already mentioned the dreaded Winter Blues. And, while there is no doubt that training in the Martial Arts provides a great mood boost, this isn’t the only mental health benefits they provide.

We are social animals by nature. Getting down to the local MMA gym or Muay Thai academy a few times a week can ensure you make time for healthy interactions with others throughout the long winter months.

Feeling that connection to others is crucial to our mental wellbeing. In the Martial Arts, there is a unique camaraderie that often develops among training partners. The strongest bonds of friendship are frequently formed amid the toil and the sweat on the mats and in the ring.

So, the next time you are being lulled into a lazy slumber in front of the box on a cold winter’s evening, do yourself a favour and get to class!

Why You Shouldn’t Skip Martial Arts Training in Winter

It’s easy to make excuses to miss training in winter. You’ve got the weather to blame on top of all the usual alibis of family, work, and social commitments. 

But, just as with the rest of the year, it is important to maintain your focus, to stay disciplined, and to keep training throughout the winter months.

Here are just some of the reasons why you shouldn’t skip your Martial aArts training in winter.

You’ll Lose Momentum

There is a strange dynamic that seems to run through life at times – a bad habit is easy to pick up, while a good habit only comes with difficulty.

Training in the Martial Arts is one of the most physically, emotionally, and even (dare I say it!) spiritually rewarding activities a human being can engage in. 

It is all these things. However, one thing it is not is easy.

If you are already training in the Martial Arts consistently, then you will already have built up some momentum. 

Protect that momentum. Don’t lose it by skipping class in winter. It is much too valuable for that.

You’ll Fall Behind

Training in the martial arts is about consistency. It’s about the incremental accumulation of skills through the repeated practice of those skills. 

Skipping class in the winter won’t only prevent you from improving upon your current skill level, it will see your current skills deteriorate too. 

Meanwhile, your diligent training partners who train consistently over the winter will continue to make progress. While you lounge on the couch at home, your classmates will be sharpening their skills in your absence. 

Miss your winter training and you will have a gym full of smiling killers awaiting your return come spring!

A lot of fun for them. For you? Erm…not so much!

You’ll Lose Self-Respect

One of the greatest gifts training in the Martial Arts gives us is our self-respect.

As we train, both our bodies and our minds grow stronger. Our self image improves as a result. As we learn to persevere, we discover the potential for growth we possess and our self-esteem grows as a result. The Martial Arts fuel our self-respect.

However, along wIth this wonderful gift comes the responsibility to pay tribute to the arts in return. We must show respect to our training by persisting in it in spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

Ultimately, to neglect our training is to neglect ourselves. 

Winter Is For Training, Not Hibernating!

As hairy as you may or may not be, if you are reading this you are not a bear. Winter is for training, not hibernating. 

If you have ever given in to the urge to skip class, you’ll already know: it’s often a skipped class is regretted, but it’s seldom that a class attended is regretted.

This winter, as the cooler weather draws in and the warm siren call of the couch and TV beckon, grab your gym bag and get to class. You won’t regret it!

3 Reasons Training in the Martial Arts Gets Better After 30

It’s an inevitable slow decline as we age. Right?

Not necessarily so. Too often we think of training in Martial Arts like Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as exclusively a young man or woman’s game.

And while youth offers some undoubted advantages to practitioners of combat sports, with age comes some distinct advantages too.

Here are just a few reasons why training in the Martial Arts actually gets better after 30.

Maintain a Strong Mind in a Strong Body

Younger athletes often focus on the competitive aspect of the Martial Arts. They measure their progress solely on how they stack up against others.

As you move into your thirties and beyond, the realisation dawns that your biggest opponent you can face is actually yourself. You begin to gauge your progress by measuring your performance today to your performance last week, or last month, or last year.

This is the maturing of the Martial Artist. Not only does training build physical strength, flexibility, and endurance, but it strengthens our mental faculties too.

Training Martial Arts in our middle and senior years helps us build a stronger mind and body that will see us well placed to resist the worst of the ravages of aging.

Widen Your Social Circle

In our teens and twenties our lives are often a whirlwind of socialising. The same can’t always be said of our thirties and onwards.

Family commitments, work obligations, the hustle and bustle of daily life can mean it is difficult to find the time to nurture existing friendships, nevermind create new ones.

Training in a Martial Art offers wonderful opportunities to widen your social circle as you mature in years. The intensity of training often sees firm friendships forged must faster than in the normal world outside the gym too.

Friendships formed on the mats or in the ring are just about as real as they get and can last a lifetime.

Lead By Example

As kids we may have defined ourselves by playing guitar in a band, or coming first in the 100m. Later, perhaps, what defined us was our role as a parent, or our position at work. The primary roles we play change as we move through life.

As we move into middle and old age, the important position of role-model emerges. Younger people in our circle watch and emulate us. Training in the Martial Arts after 30 serves as a great example to younger athletes.

Getting on the mat or in the ring with the youngsters serves to remind them that the distractions of life, the litany of excuses for not training that are available, simply don’t wash.

To younger family members, your training throws down the gauntlet of self-responsibility and serves as an inspiration that could well set them on a path of self-improvement.

These are just a few of the reasons why training in the Martial Arts gets better as we get older. It’s worth mentioning that the Martial Arts are designed to empower a weaker person to defend themselves against a stronger person by the application of superior technique.

What greater expression of this can there be than a wily old dog going toe-to-toe with the young pups?

5 quick ways to stay motivated to train Martial Arts over the Christmas period

xmas
Christmas is upon us and as the festivities and free flowing drinks start to ramp up and our training usually begins takes a back seat. Gyms start to get quieter as peoples social calendars begin to fill up with work Christmas events, family parties, and end of year drinks. Here are some sure fire ways to keep you motivated over the December period.

1. Make a promise to yourself and tell someone to hold you accountable. Remain consistent over the break and make a promise to yourself you will attend 2 classes of either Muay Thai or Kickboxing a week. Consistency is the key to success in anything in life. Taking 1 month off training is a terrible mistake and leads to a long hard road back in January 2018. It’s taken you a year to get where you are now, so don’t let it all go to waste. Did you know that de conditioning starts happening a week after no training!
How to action: Message your coach or training partner now and tell him you will commit to the 2 sessions per a week over the December period. Be specific! Eg I will commit to Monday 7:15pm Beginner Muay Thai and Thursday 7pm Muay Thai all throughout December.

2. Get a head start on your 2018 goals. Set your 2018 training goals early and get a head start. Who says you have to wait for January 1st to start? If you start now you will be 3 weeks ahead of schedule. Accountability is an important factor when it comes to setting goals. There is no point setting them if no one is keeping you accountable. Sometimes keeping yourself accountable just isn’t enough. Tell your coach your goals or post them on a public forum!
How to action: Set 2 short term goals. One to be achieved before December 31st 2017 and one to be achieved by January 31st 2018. When you have goals you have direction. Make sure your goals are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time bound. Eg: I want to train 3 hours a week every week until December 31st & I want to drop 1.5kgs by the end of January 31st 2018.

3. Change your mindset. So many people see training or attending classes as a chore or something they “have” to do. How about changing the way you think through positive self talk, reinforcement and changing the way we think about training. “I WANT to go to training because it will leave me feel more energised” or “I WANT to go to training because this is my time to do something I enjoy”. Next time you catch yourself saying “I can’t be bothered going training tonight but I know I have to” replace it straight away.
How to action: Like with everything, this will take practise. Everytime you catch yourself pre framing training in a negative mindset use your positive self talk to pre frame it in a positive light. This type of positive reinforcement will make guaranteed changes to the way you think and approach training.

4. Muay Thai / Kickboxing / Boxing are one of the highest calorie burners. This fact alone should be enough to get you into the gym! Did you know that a kickboxing session will burn twice the amount of calories compared to a light paced jog. So would you rather spend 1 hour doing a boring slow paced jog or 1 hour training in a fast pace, high intensity Kickboxing session?
How to action: We are all so busy this time of year so why not maximise your work out time by engaging in activities that will get the best results. If you know you have a Christmas party on a certain date, schedule in a Kickboxing class the day before. 

5. Reflect and look back at why you started. This time of year is a great time to look back at where and why you started training Martial Arts. Why is this important? Because it give you an opportunity to look at how far you have come and if you achieved the goals you set out to achieve from day 1. We get so caught up in our busy lives that we forgot to sit down and reflect on out journey and our achievements.
How to action: Set aside 10 minutes at the end of the day to sit down and think about why you started training Martial Arts. Take a journey back to your first session. Fast forward to where you are now and look how far you have come. Don’t compare yourself to other people because we are running our own race.

How to overcome that Winter rut

mr-freeze-gotham-fox-wb.jpgIt’s been freezing cold all day and you just got home from work. All you can think about is what you are going to have for dinner and how good its going to be to lie down in your cozy bed. Oh wait… you still have to go training. The inner dialogue begins “I’ll just train tomorrow instead….it’s too cold to leave the house tonight…they won’t even notice I’m not there” and you gradually talk yourself into not going. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there before. Why is it that people struggle to stay motivated to train in winter? Don’t stress because you are not alone. Here are some ways to help you get over that winter training rut.

Set some short term and long term goals
One of the first things your should do is set some short term and long term goals. I talk about this a lot in my posts mainly because I think it’s very important when it comes to Martial Arts training. You should always set goals from the beginning both long term and short term. They need to be S.M.A.R.T; specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Set yourself some short term goals over the winter to keep on track with your training. They can be things like “I will commit to training 2 days a week over winter” or even something that will span out over the winter period like “I will start boxing over the winter and commit to training 1 boxing class per week”. Here is my challenge to you: at the end of this article set yourself the following: a 2 week goal, a 1 month goal, and a goal to be achieved before the end of winter.

Start Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
If you’ve only ever trained Muay Thai then how about trying a completely different Martial Art. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? The plus side is that you get to train in a very warm looking uniform and it’s something completely different. Things will definitely feel uncomfortable from the start because like picking up any new skill it will take time and dedication. You will feel like a complete beginner again but that’s the beauty behind Martial Arts, it’s about constant learning and personal growth. Sometimes training a completely different Martial Arts breaks up the monotony of your current training regime and can be just the thing your soul needs to reignite your passion for Martial Arts.

Treat yourself
Treat yourself if you’ve achieved a goal. I’m not saying going on a binge drinking bender and a bucket of KFC. I’m talking something more along the lines of doing something for yourself like buying that new pair of shoes you’ve been eying off. In this day and age we are so quick to buy presents and gifts for other people but rarely treat ourselves. You are the most important person in your life so why not spoil yourself every now and then. Buy yourself those new pair of gloves because you committed to training 3 times a week over the winter period.

Make some friends at your Muay Thai gym
You will meet a lot of like minded people when you train Muay Thai. When you train regularly you will end up spending a lot of time with them and get along with some really well. Next time you come into the gym start chatting to people and make some new friends. The good thing about this is that you start forming bonds and keeping each other accountable. Set some days with your training buddy where you both show up together. That way you both train together and develop together. Most importantly you will get that reminder from them “are you coming training tonight?” and also “I didn’t see you at training tonight? Where were you?” Sometimes it’s small things like these messages that will keep you consistent and on track.

Tap into technology
In this day and age there are so many apps and gadgets on the market that are geared towards fitness and Martial Arts. Heart rate monitors, FitBits, Apple Watches and even Hykso boxing punch sensors just to name a few. All these devices are a great way to monitor your progress and it’s the small achievements that will keep you motivated. I bought myself a polar heart rate monitor a year ago and use it to monitor my calorie expenditure during work outs. I have a daily calorie expenditure target I need to meet and can track it very accurately using the heart rate monitor.

Overhaul your diet
We all know that we tend to over indulge over the winter period. The problem with this is that combined with a sedentary lifestyle and very little activity we end up piling on the weight. Rather than waiting for summer to do something, why not overhaul your “diet” in winter. I don’t like the word “diet” because diets are unsustainable. I prefer using the word “lifestyle change” because it’s something you want to be able to maintain for ever. Things like cutting out sugary soft drinks entirely or only having a alcoholic drink once a week are a great way to start.

The good thing with the Australian winter is that it only lasts for 3 months. If you train hard and consistently over the Winter then you will reap the rewards over the Spring and Summer. So many people leave it too late to “get fit” for summer because by the time summer comes around it’s already too late. There is that old saying that summer bodies are built in winter. At the end of the day the weather shouldn’t affect your training habits. Hopefully some of these tips will help you overcome the temptations of staying at home in front of the heater and keep working towards achieving those goals.

A beginners guide to surviving your first month of Muay Thai training

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You just joined a Martial Arts gym and they offer a Muay Thai program. You’ve done a few sessions and feel like you’re getting the hang of things. You’re finally learning the basics but getting a bit overwhelmed with all the combinations, techniques and what to use when. Don’t stress because you are not alone! You have embarked on a lifelong journey and aren’t expected to know everything straight away. As ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu best put it “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. Here are a few tips to help you survive your first few months of training.

1. Make a two day a week commitment for training
“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment.”
– Tony Robbins

This is a commitment to yourself and your gym that you will commit to a minimum of 2 days a week of training. This is a great way to start building a habit of training consistently. A lot of people make the mistake of training too hard too often when they first join up and end up burning out 2 months in and end up quitting. You are still new to it so take it slow and enjoy the journey. Make these 2 days your #1 priority and stick to it. Now, even when your friends ask you out for dinner or when you are dead tired from work then you will stick to your training if you have made it your #1 priority. It will be tough to stick to at the start but things will get easier, because people will understand that it’s your time. The problem with having no set days is that you always put training off to the next day. Then comes along Friday and you put it off to next week. Next thing you know it’s been 2 weeks and you are struggling to find the motivation to get back into it. If you had built the habit from the beginning you wouldn’t have this problem. The 2 day commitment builds consistency, and it is this consistency that will be the key to success in your Martial Arts training. Be consistent and you will reap a lifetime of rewards.

2. Set short term and long term goals
“What keeps me going is goals.”
– Muhammad Ali

What are your Martial Arts goals in the next month? What are your Martial Arts goals for the next year? Haven’t thought about it? Then it’s something you definitely need to think about. If you don’t set these goals then you could be setting yourself up for failure. I go on about goal setting because I think it’s one of the most important tools to success to anything in life. Goal setting needs to be specific, realistic and measurable. A bad example of poor goal setting would be “get good at Muay Thai”, “lose weight” or “I want to fight more”. It doesn’t set a time line and isn’t measurable. A better example would be “I want to train a minimum of 3 days a week in 2016”, “I want to drop 5kgs by August 2016” or “I want to have a Muay Thai fight by the end of 2016”. All these examples are realistic, achievable and set a deadline. Try to be realistic with your goals. Don’t write something like ‘I want to have my first pro Muay Thai fight’ when you know you don’t have the commitment to train hard enough for it. Set achievable goals and ask yourself are you really willing to pay the price for it, before you commit to it otherwise you are just setting yourself up for failure. Next time when setting a goal think SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

3. You are running your own race
“Comparison is the death of joy.” 
– Mark Twain

Everyone of us is different and we all learn at different paces. We have different strengths and weaknesses. Don’t get frustrated when you can’t perform a particular technique and everyone else around you can. It will take time and commitment. Avoid comparing yourself to those around you because they may have been doing it longer than you. It’s good to have role models to look up to but unhealthy to obsessively compare yourself to others. Focus on the achievements you have made no matter how big or small. Think about when you first started and how you struggled to even get your leg past waist height for a round kick. Now you are kicking rib height with good power too. Think about how you struggled to do 5 push ups at the start and now you are completing 10 push ups between every pad round. Be patient with how far you have come and your progress.

4. Make some new friends
When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.
– Howard Schultz

When you come to the gym you are surrounded by a group of like minded people. You all embarked on this journey because you have similar goals and aspirations. You were all attracted to Muay Thai because you had common interests. Even though you are new and the idea of chatting to a complete stranger in the gym might sound daunting you’ll discover that you have a lot in common when you do start chatting to people. The other side to making friends at the gym is that you will keep each other accountable for training. When you make friends at the gym you start to set up regular nights to train together. You both grow together and help each other along the way.

Over the years through running Team Nemesis I have witnessed many lifelong friendships being formed and even couples that have married through meeting at the gym. Start a conversion with someone today and you will never know where it will take you.

5. Listen to your coaches.
“A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.”
– Tom Landry

If you jump online these days and type “Muay Thai” in google you are bombarded with pages upon pages of how to guides, technique videos, highlight reels, blogs, and much more. Gone are the days where a students only source of information was the coach, because now the internet has become another huge source of information, some of it good and a lot of it bad. One day I was running classes and noticed one of the beginners working some sort of strange variation of a long guard which seemed completely impractical. I asked him what he was doing and he responded with “I saw Mr X use it on a technique video he posted up online”. The problem with things like this is that ANYONE can claim to be a Muay Thai master and post up videos online.  Even if they have legitimate credentials certain things just won’t work for everyone because of factors like experience, flexibility, body type and skill level. A good coach knows exactly what you are like and your limitations. They are a wealth of knowledge and experienced in the art of Muay Thai. They have traveled the path you are on now and made mistakes that they don’t want you to make. Everything they teach you is tried and tested so listen to the advice they give you and things they teach you. Forget about the spinning flying elbow technique tutorial you watched online and start listening more.

These are just some tips to follow when starting out in Muay Thai. It will be an exciting adventure and a life changing experience if you stick at it. It’s not something you just try out for a month or two, it’s a lifestyle change and the beginning to a better you. Enjoy the journey you are on, you will meet some great people and the after effects of your consistent training will flow into every aspect of your life.