Take a moment. Stop and think.

Take a moment. Stop and think.

Take a moment. Stop and think.

If you’re entrenched in your martial arts journey, try this: remind yourself what you did during your third class a yellow belt and how you felt after that class. Having some difficulty? Here’s a prediction: you probably learned a particular skill, pushed yourself through a tough workout, and left feeling high on life. Then again, maybe you were fraught by difficulties in other areas of your life that day and couldn't really concentrate that class. Having some difficulty remembering specifics?

If you’re just embarking on your martial arts journey, try this: the day you earn your black belt and look back at your journey, what story do you want your actions to tell? What did you learn about yourself? How did you grow? What decisions did you make in moments of hardship that led you to the moment you became a black belt. Having a hard time?

In martial arts, journaling is how we create our legacy. By documenting our actions, goals, lessons learned, emotions, and experiences, we create the autobiographies of how we began martial arts, became martial artists, and believed in the capabilities we spend years to achieve.

At Team Karate Centers, we often talk about the two qualities that make a great martial artist: Character and Competency. Your character is “who you are,” whereas your competency is “what you can do.” To be a great martial artist, you need both. Most people excel in one, but are deficient in the other. This creates a lopsided result wherein physical talent disguises an untrustworthy persona, or where kindness and generosity attempt to make up for lack of skill. Striking balance between the two is a difficult feat, a work continually in progress. After all, we can always find ways to improve upon ourselves.

Journaling addresses both of these qualities. Specifically, there are two types of journaling: Technical and Experiential. Ideally, they can be unified into single entries, but for most purposes, it’s easiest to practice each separately.

Technical journaling is about skill, practice, and physical training. After each class, write down the skills you learned or reviewed, including sequential flows, variations of techniques, tips and traps, feedback, and key points. This gives you a tangible record of skills you’ve learned and a guide to review when you naturally start to forget. Likewise, it lets you track your progress. Consider for instance on Monday you learn a particular trapping set. Then, the following Monday you review that set and work on three variations. If you record the details from both classes, you have a record to look back at when it comes time to review these lessons.

Hapkido Blend is versatile and fluid by nature, meaning you are continually introduced to new concepts and techniques. Because our curriculum covers all fighting ranges and the relationships between them, organizing your journal let’s you structure the lessons as to maximize your own learning potential.

Over time, you begin to recognize that isolated techniques integrate with each other quite well. For instance, even if you rarely practice stand-up, takedowns, and ground work all in different classes you begin to see how certain body positions allow you to transition from one to the other. On other occasions, a single kick you learned as a white belt and practiced routinely over and over will make sense once you apply it to a sparring situation six months later.

The second type of journaling, experiential, is more creative. Arguable, it is also more important than technical journaling. When writing about your experiences as a way to track personal growth, ask yourself these questions: How did I feel? What did I learn? What struggles did you encounter? What problems did you solve? Why was it easy for me? Why was it hard for me? What emotions overcame me? What stood in my way? Which heroes helped me? Who am I becoming?

Hopefully, these answers will always change. Unlike technical journaling, where a sidekick is always a sidekick whether you learn it today or ten years from now, experiences are one of a kind. They change daily since the person you are today is not the same person you were one year ago or the person you will be a year from now.

For example, writing helps clarify your thoughts. By putting pen to paper, you force yourself to find words for all the feelings spread throughout your heart and your mind with the intention of discovering a new side of yourself or developing one that is already there. When you look back on a particular day, you develop your thoughts by slowly reviewing the events that mattered most and materializing them.

Second, journaling is the best way to set and track goals. At Team Karate Centers, we like to say that unwritten goals are simply wishes. Physically writing down your goals makes you accountable to them. As you work towards these goals, journaling records your progress. Use milestones to write about your victories. Likewise, use your journals to problem solve when you hit road bumps.

Additionally, through journaling you relive the moment. Have you ever looked back at an old photo and felt like you were there? Instantly, all the sights and sounds of that moment flood into memory as clear as the second the photo was taken and it’s like you’ve been transported back in time.

In our system specifically, we learn to break outside the norms and to reconsider once held viewpoints. That notion could not be truer when it comes to journaling. For the most part, journaling used to mean putting pen to paper. Then it became the Student Section to journal online. Now, journaling can employ a plethora of media, each one designed to maximize creativity and usefulness among the user. What I mean is, film a video of your training or about your training and post it online. Start a website and begin chronicling each day. Create a virtual timeline and add to it after each class.

I would argue that human beings are creatures of creation. A common theme throughout our history on this planet is creation: of ideas, of art and architecture, or song and dance, of society and civilization, of science and discovery, or individual power and progress. As a result, the history of the world, of martial arts, and of you, exists because people realized that what happens in each moment magnifies throughout the course of time.

Whether you are a veteran martial artist or today is your first class, begin writing. Begin to tell your story. Do it for yourself. If you feel comfortable, share your journals with the people around you. Share with them your resolve and strength, the unforgiving obstacles you had to overcome, the mental courage it took to get this far.

The most rewarding aspect of martial arts, much like the pursuit of life itself, is that there is no end to the set of possibilities that are out there. We live in a limitless world, and thus our capacity to grow in every direction only increases with time. Learning is endless, and it is up to you to use your voice to make a lasting impact…to create your legacy. 

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