I have had many students ask me to comment on getting the most benefit out of their training time invested. Whether you are in a class at your dojo or training on your own with a few friends in a small group, there are a few things to consistently keep an eye on. You may be aware that you seem to be using too much raw strength to achieve results, or you may simply be failing to make a technique work. In either case there are several things for you to focus on a bit more closely as you look for answers. You could call this your troubleshooting list.
Without any exaggeration, I almost never have a teaching experience in which I don’t suggest to at least one student (frequently several) to bend their knees a bit more. More often than not it becomes instantly clear to them that things are significantly changed as soon as they do. Many times this is the only answer they need. So, this may be the first thing for you to check.
Next I ask them to show me how they are applying the principle of balance breaking. This again frequently provides the answer, and sometimes the major breakthrough, that they are looking for. If you feel that balance breaking warrants deeper study, and I hope that you do, you will find many options on NinjaSelfDefense.com.
You may also explore and experiment with your tai sabaki, body positioning. Are you in a safe space? Are you protected or vulnerable? Are you aware of, and well positioned, relative to your attacker’s center line? Is your balance line protected?
Further, study your bone alignment. When you bend your knees is your body weight being channeled in the direction you want it to go? When you bend your knees and twist your spine does this add power to your strikes? Is your spine straight (not necessarily vertical)? Do you have unwanted anterior pelvic tilt – this results in your butt sticking out – what I routinely refer to as “saving your butt?”
Struggling with technique and using too much strength are indicators that you would do well to review this list. There are certainly other things to consider. This is the quick answer to the question of maximizing your training experience. Every one of these components can be improved regardless of your current level of skill. In fact, functional skill improvement can only be achieved through refinement of these components. Consider as well that it often helps to get an outside perspective. Make it a part of your training to ask your teachers and training partners to help you keep an eye on these essential components.