July 2014

What Drives The Motivation To Train?

An interesting question, however, not easily answered. I don’t think that there can be a singular answer on the surface but if we dig deeper we may find that training, whether in Martial Arts or any other sport for that matter, is fulfilling a basic need, that we have associated the fulfillment of, by training.

Learning what that basic need is, and understanding it, may give you the means by which you can motivate yourself to train when you feel yourself losing motivation and giving yourself excuses to stop.

If you can understand this process you will have a method to maintain your motivation and increase your achievement of anything that you wish to accomplish, whether in martial arts, academia or any other area of interest.

The most dominate driver of all motivation - for an organism to do anything - is that of pain or a stimulus that signals potential destruction and damage.

Some “gurus” in the self development industry have placed the focus on pain and pleasure and while this may seem to satisfy most of their followers I think that it is too simplistic. I would suggest that ultimately even pleasure can be reduced to pain as being the main driver because the seeking of pleasure is the movement away from pain, whether physical or emotional.

Therefore if we can identify that pain, which our training serves to alleviate, we have a very powerful motivation activator and driver.

Keep in mind that our emotions underlie the decisions that we make and, in fact, are integral to our decision making process. Thus we can find those things that drive us by looking at the events in our life that have evoked our most painful emotional responses, such as being bullied, homeless or other in other seemingly helpless situations. It is during these times of emotional helplessness that our drive to survive becomes its’ strongest and we may feel our motivation to achieve surge.

By anchoring to and remembering these periods we can instill a tool that will serve us at anytime in our life when we need to kick our motivation into operation, or just revive it, when it starts to fade. It is particularly powerful for martial arts and sporting achievements as the underlying reasons behind our motivation to train are often quite painful past experiences that have resulted in very emotional memories and responses.

Fighting and Martial Arts is About Movement, Not Moves.

I was listening to a video recently in which Ryan Hall, a very talented BJJ practitioner, was instructing and demonstrating methodologies of working the guard. He made a very good point that grappling was about movement, not moves. I would take this a step further and suggest that all fighting and combative martial arts is about movement, not the moves.

In my early days of training, almost 40 years ago, the way the many of us were taught was by learning moves and techniques. It was not until many years later when I had developed a more in-depth understanding of fighting that I sought out and learned from teachers that understood principles and concepts that would give a more complete and useful understanding of actual fighting.

Now with the growth of BJJ and MMA this has increased to even greater levels. And although those of us who are devotees of the grappling systems have come to regard knowledge and training of the details underlying our techniques and the importance of moving correctly, smoothly and efficiently as just the “norm” and the way we do things, other instructors in other disciplines have not been so analytical in their approach and instruction.

Too much emphasis tends to placed on speed, power and the execution of the techniques. It matters little how fast or how powerful your particular attack is, or how precise your defence is, if you are not in the correct position at the right time and with optimal balance and positional structure (posture) to execute the best attack or defence required.

One of the great strengths of BJJ is it’s setups of which a major component are the movements that are integral to their execution and control. Although faster in nature, the striking discipline of Muay Thai is just as sensitive and dependant on correct and precise movement.

If your movement is slow or puts you in a position that leaves you open to counter-attack you will be forced onto the defensive and ultimately defeated, However, if you move quickly and more precisely placing yourself in a position that makes an attack from the opponent ineffective you can quickly force the opponent on to the defensive or counter-attack and opponent’s offensive and mount an attack.

In the case of standup striking distance, balance and the use of angles are the key attributes. For grappling balance, leverage and, spatial and tacto-positional awareness are the keys.

These qualities are only gained through consistent quality training and drilling with feedback provided by a cooperative training partner and experienced coach, once again highlighting the value of attending a school with experienced instructors that are actively engaged in the discipline.