How to Deal with a Training Plateau

Whether you are a beginner or an advanced martial artist, it is inevitable that you will hit a training plateau sometime in the future.  A training plateau is when you feel like you are not learning or progressing anymore despite still putting many hours on the mat or in the ring.  You feel terrible about your game and it feels like you're going nowhere.  The good news is that you are not alone.  It happens to all martial artists.  You can ask any World Champion at Evolve MMA (BJJ, Muay Thai, Boxing, and No Gi Grappling) and you will get the same answer.  They've all gone through many training plateaus to get to where they are today.  Training plateaus happen to everyone.  The bad news is that it takes hard work and a new mindset to overcome training plateaus.  However, the best news is that YOU WILL experience a breakthrough in your game IF you persevere with a smart game plan.

Here are 7 tips to helping you to breakthrough a training plateau:

a) Break your cycle.  There is a saying that goes something like this, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time."  If you hit a training plateau, it is time for you to break all your habits and start fresh.  For example, if you are a BJJ fighter and the closed guard is your favorite position that you always use, CHANGE your game.  Force yourself to play the top position.  Force yourself to stop reverting to your closed guard.  If you are a Muay Thai fighter and you constantly get beaten during sparring, break your habit.  Instead of using your favorite roundhouse low kick, force yourself to use only push kicks.  Force yourself to use new combinations (instead of relying on your favorite ones).  Training plateaus often happen because you get into a rut and do the same thing over and over.  You will experience a breakthrough if you throw your ego away and focus on a new and fresh part of the game.  It is not about winning or losing every sparring match.  It is about your PERSONAL progress towards unleashing your potential.   Whatever you do, shake it up and do NEW things.  You will be amazed at how a breakthrough is just around the corner if you keep a fresh approach to your game. 

b) Get feedback.  If you are a Blue Belt, talk to a Purple Belt on what he/she sees is wrong with your game.  Ask for 100% honest feedback.  If you are an Intermediate Muay Thai warrior, speak to an Advanced student and get feedback.  You are often blind to your own mistakes.  Sometimes it takes an independent 3rd party to wake you up.  Don't take the negative feedback personally.  Progress can be frustrating at times.  However, hard work always pays off.  

c) Emulate.  Pick someone in your class who is a lot better than you.  Study his/her favorite moves and pick a few to emulate.  Sometimes it takes someone else's moves to break you out of your rut.  Drill those moves and try to make them your own.  Apply them in real sparring situations against opponents that are less skilled than you are.  Practice until you can nail down the moves.  You will be surprised how good it feels when you are able to apply a brand new move that you've never done before; and it will inspire you to keep copycatting.  In martial arts, luckily there is no such thing as plagiarism - you can copy anyone's moves!  So look around your class and find a new move.  The key is to find new things to help you break out of your rut.  It will help you mentally to score some wins.

d) Drill and drill.  Find a partner who will do drills with you.  Even if you feel down and do not feel like drilling, it is important to do so.  Drills help your muscle memory; in other words, it will help you become more adept at a move.  Even if you don't notice it initially, you will start to execute moves more quickly and more fluidly if you do drills.  Speed is essential in martial arts.  For example, it shortens the amount of time that your opponent has to react and defend to your attack.  On defense, it can help you react faster than your opponent can apply a move or combination on you. 

e) Start a training journal.  After each class, go home and write down what you learned.  Write down also what you did right and what you did wrong in class.  Write down your feelings and thoughts.  Over a month, you will start to see patterns emerge - good ones and bad ones.  Also, you'll know when you are out of your rut when you have a string of happy days again in your journal.  Sometimes it takes just one simple "ah-ha" moment to achieve a breakthrough from your training plateau.  

f) Take private lessons.  If you can afford it, there is nothing in the world like one-on-one learning.  If you can have a BJJ Black Belt World Champion critique your game or show you how to apply a new move, it can really get you out of the training plateau very quickly.  Equally important, your teacher will have personally been through many training plateaus.  So he/she will be able to give you great guidance on your specific problem.  If you can, take private lessons on a regular basis to keep your game sharp and to make sure you are on the right track.  Your game will progress a lot more rapidly. 

g) Have fun.  As obvious as this sounds, it is the very reason why you are doing martial arts to begin with.  A training plateau is often marked by frustration, doubt, anger, sadness, and negativity.  It will literally take the fun out of your favorite martial art.  So how do you make things fun again?  Before going to class, watch fight videos to get your adrenaline pumping.  Daydream about a new move or combination that you will execute later in class.  Hang out with your martial arts friends after class and talk about martial arts.  Go watch a live event to inspire you.    Try to remember the early days of martial arts when you first began training.  Buy some instructional DVDs and watch them for new moves.

The bottom line is that training plateaus are a natural part of the learning process in martial arts.  Everyone goes through it.  Do your best not to feel too frustrated.  Focus on a game plan to help you breakthrough your training plateau.  Above all, keep training!!!

Evolve Mixed Martial Arts®.  Achieve Greatness Within™.