5 Tips to Make the Most of Private Lessons


Any martial artist who regularly takes private lessons will tell you the immense benefits of doing so. Personally I think of regular private coaching is like professional development for your skills–––opportunities to hone your strengths and work on your weaknesses so that you can grow as a martial artist. Tailored exclusively to you and your goals, privates are an essential part of helping you improve, hone your movement, and reach your full potential.

Private coaching though, only works when you take it seriously, which means doing more than just showing up to each lesson. Here are a few tips that will help you get the most out of your private lessons.

1) Practice on your own

This one may seem obvious, but it’s usually the most neglected. It doesn’t matter if you practice in a dojo space, or in front of your bathroom mirror, you just have to practice.

Even if you meet with your coach every week or every few days, if you don’t take the time to practice on your own you won’t master the material and progress, which means you’ll end up repeating lessons. That’s not only a waste of your time and money, it’s also frustrating for you and for your coach.

2) Take notes

Yes martial arts is about movement, and movement isn’t something that you can write down per say, but you can write out a lot of the more technical principles behind the movements, as well as the energy of your uke, and any notes your instructor gives you.

Take notes during or right after your lesson so you can reference them later. If you don’t, you’re bound to forget a lot of the material by the time you find time to practice a few days later. It’s also helpful to go back to these notes weeks and months and even years from now when you want to brush up on a particular topic.

3) Film yourself, not your lessons

Taking a quick video of your instructor at the end of your lesson seems like a good idea, but it can actually end up making you a lazier—instead of relying on your brain to store the information you’ve just used your phone to capture everything. As you’re filming, you tell yourself that you’re going to use the video to practice, when in reality it’s usually months before you review that video. The whole thing gives you the illusion that you’re learning the material, when you aren’t. Instead of filming, take ownership to remember the material and rely on your notes (which are less of a crutch than a video) when you need to double check something.

Filming yourself practicing, however, is a great use of your smartphone. Make it a habit to take a video of yourself shadow boxing every couple of weeks. In a few months, you’ll be able to see (literally!) the progress you’ve made, which helps to motivate you in times when you’re frustrated with your progress.

4) Be patient with yourself

As you advance as a martial artist, the material you learn in your privates will often be more technical and subtle (read harder and more abstract). It’s going to take more time to fully absorb how to apply these elements to your training, and you might not see the results of a lesson as quickly as you once did.

Progress takes time, so remember to be patient with yourself and take time to acknowledge your accomplishment when you do finally nail something you’ve been working on.

5)  Listen to your teacher

This is another one that seems obvious, but is very often forgotten about.

As adults, we make decisions all day long. We’re used to choosing what we want, and what’s more, we think that at this point in our lives we’ve come to know ourselves better than anyone else. It can be hard to let go of these elements of control when you walk into the dojo for a lesson.

Be intentional about listening to your instructor during your lesson and trust that there’s a reason why they are asking you to move slower, or practice a specific drill several times. Don’t try to dictate your lessons. Don’t tell your instructor what you do and do not need to work on––that’s their job! Instead, focus on what you came their to do, train! Put all of your energy into executing the movements themselves, and let your instructor do the rest!

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