Always in our martial arts training, we strive to be our very best.  We want to improve our technique.  We want to discover better fighting strategies.  We want make sure that, by the end of the day, we are better than when we started.  How does one achieve this, however?  How do we measure our success?  Are there more or less efficient ways of improving ourselves?  These are some of the questions that I would like to answer today.

martial arts training


Since a young age, most of use are conditioned to strive to win.  We want to get high grades in school and we want to win our sports games.  We want to be the best and beat our competition.  However, is this really the best mindset to have in our martial arts training?

The concept of winning is a simple one:  to achieve the highest result among a specific group of people within certain parameters.  Let me explain with a martial arts example.  Let’s say that you attend a local tournament.  In your forms, you must have the highest score out of all the competitors, chosen by the judges.  In your sparring, you must beat all of your opponents.  Each of these scenarios requires you to compare yourself against other individuals.

Ultimately, winning is a result.  It is a result of the outcome in a competition between people.  Saying that “you won” does not necessarily mean that you did well or that you improved, as it is based not entirely on you.  You have to consider the other competitors as well as the judges involved.

At the same time, winning is not absolute, as it is a matter of perspective.  This is especially obvious when winning is determined by judges.  Human perspective is unique to every individual, and a competitor that “won” in one judges eyes may not have in another.


Learning is the process of acquiring knowledge, and acquiring or modifying skills.

Unlike winning, other people have very little bearing on your own learning.  We all learn at our own pace and by a variety of different styles.  In our own martial arts training, we learn a variety of skills.  These skills are internalized and will continue to benefit us throughout our lives.

Learning is a process, not a result, and this is the biggest difference between learning and winning.  In order to maximize our learning efficiency, however, we must be aware of the learning process.  We can teach ourselves to be a better students in our martial arts training, by having the right mindset.

Learning Vs Winning

When we focus on just winning, we are focusing on a result.  This result may or may not be a representation of our true skill.  For example, I may enter myself in lower level junior competition and win every time.  This does not mean that I am skilled, it just means that I performed at a better level in the judges eyes.  This resulting “win” may not give me the satisfaction of improving, and my skill certainly didn’t increase.

If I enter a competition where the skill level of my opponents is higher than my own, there is a good chance that I am going to lose.  If my focus is just on winning, this will result in a harsh blow to my confidence.  It may even be that I did the best that I had ever done, but my focus on winning will blind me of that fact.

By focusing on winning, we focus on a result that may or may not be a true reflection of your talent.  We also miss a great opportunity to highlight our mistakes and determine what we need to improve on.  This is very prominent when we win as opposed to lose. A lot of the time, when we lose we want to do better next time.  However, when we win, we can fall into the trap of thinking that we are good enough.  This will stunt our progress, as we no longer seek to improve.

Focusing our martial arts training on learning will open the doors to great self improvement.  By ignoring the concept of winning, we can hone in on finding our flaws and work toward fixing them.  Our sense of self worth should always come from our own personal improvement rather than comparing ourselves to others.

Improving Our Martial Arts Training

Here are some simple principles to maximize your training efficiency:

1.)  Always put the responsibility on you.  If you lose a match, don’t just tell yourself that “oh, he was just better than me.”  Think through the match and see if you can find things that you could have done better.

2.)  The greatest learning comes from mistakes, if you let them.  Don’t be too hard on yourself, treat them like lessons from very experienced teachers.

3.)  Never be satisfied with “just good enough”.  The only limits are the ones we put on ourselves.

4.)  Always pay attention to the little things.  They have more effect than you realize.

5.)  Always ask questions.  Through questions we find answers.

These are the principles that I try to incorporate into my martial arts training, and I have found them to be invaluable to the learning process.  I would rather take great strides forward and lose, then stay still and win.

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