Saturday, June 25, 2016

Five Tips to Maximize Private Training

Have you considered learning martial arts through private training?

Prior to this week, my experience was limited to traditional group settings. Once or twice I can recall being the only student in a given group session, so I did benefit from one-on-one instruction. This week, however, I decided to I wanted to try private classes.

Twenty years ago I stopped learning a Chinese Kung Fu style when the Air Force sent me to intelligence training in San Angelo, Texas. I stayed in touch with my teacher, Sifu Michael Macaris (pictured above), but I didn't practice what I had learned during my two year assignment near his school. I switched to Tae Kwon Do and Modern Arnis, then later Ed Parker-style American Kenpo Karate. I wish I had kept practicing my Kung Fu forms, even though I enjoyed learning new styles.

Earlier this year I decided to get in touch with Sifu Macaris to see if he might be interested in offering private classes. My goal was to begin gradually re-learning the Chinese forms I had practice in the mid-1990's. Although I very much enjoy practicing Krav Maga, I felt that its self defense-orientation would be balanced by learning some self expression-oriented Chinese forms.

Sifu Macaris was happy to help and he asked one of his senior instructors, Sifu Steve Mulloy, to teach me.

Richard and Sifu Steve
I had a great experience training with Sifu Steve, and Sifu Macaris taught me as well. Based on these sessions I offer these five tips to maximize private training.

1. Choose instructors wisely. If you're going to take private classes, you must be comfortable with the instructor. In a group setting, the instructor or instructors divide their attention across multiple students. You might get 5-10% of their undivided attention, depending on class size. In a private session, there is nowhere to hide! If you don't sync with your instructor, it will be an unproductive session for both of you.

2. Be realistic about training times. I was not prepared to study for many hours per day, multiple days in a row. My work schedule wouldn't allow it, but more importantly my brain and body wouldn't allow it.  We decided to train for 90 minutes in the morning five days in a row. I added two 60 minute evening group classes, and two 15 minute solo pre-sessions, for a total of 10 hours of in-studio training over five days. When I had time during the day, following the studio workouts, I practiced on my own. This solo time was crucial for integrating what Sifu Steve was teaching me.

3. Record what you can. Sifu Steve allowed me to use my iPhone to record the exercises and forms he taught me. These recordings were incredibly helpful when I practiced on my own. I plan to continue using them as references going forward.

4. Activate other learning modes. Beyond physically performing the forms I was learning, and reviewing the recordings, I added other learning modes to my study. I captured the key points of the exercises in a notebook, and I tried some sitting visualization. I found that I really need to work on visualization, because if I can't visualize the exercises I will likely have trouble performing the forms physically.

5. Listen to your body. When planning the training, I had originally intended to attend two adult fitness classes (think cardio-kickboxing) in addition to the private sessions and two adult Kung Fu classes. When the time came for the first cardio class, I felt the impact of doing so many deep horse stances and other moves not found in Krav Maga. I ended up skipping the two cardio classes. I was worried that I would aggravate soreness in my back and hamstrings, making it difficult or impossible to perform the private sessions. The individual classes were the focus of my training, so I did not want to jeopardize those opportunities! Therefore, especially if you are an older practitioner like me, stay focused on your goals and listen to your body.

I thoroughly enjoyed my private training sessions and I intend to keep practicing what I learned!

Have you tried private sessions? What was your experience? Respond here or via my twitter.com/rejoiningthetao account.

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