As with any skill you wish to develop, especially a martial arts skill, you have to put in the practice time. Class time is for instruction, new material, partner drills, and some review. The majority of practice repetitions should be done outside of class though. Two things are important when training at home: what you are practicing and making sure to vary it up. These ideas go hand-in-hand as there is a lot to learn, and reviewing the same material over and over could lead to burnout. Here are 5 drill ideas to work on at home.
Practice the basics – Basics are the building blocks of self-defense, techniques, forms, and sparring. The basics include blocks, strikes, kicks, stances, parries, etc. And great martial artists have rock-solid fundamentals. You don’t develop great basics without doing them over and over and over. There isn’t enough time in class to perform those necessary repetitions. So home practice is definitely important. You should have a clutter free area to work at home. Spend a few minutes going over the basics you know. You could use this as warm up for additional practice you intend to do.
Do the techniques and forms - Every week or so, you should be learning new curriculum of techniques, forms (katas), and/or sets. These are the vessels for learning the core principles of Kenpo karate and other martial arts. As such, practicing them while they’re still fresh on your mind allows you to absorb them faster. Don’t let it stop you from practicing at home if you think you may be doing the maneuvers incorrectly. As long as you’re attending class regularly, your instructor will have time to make corrections or adjustments before muscle memory turns into bad habits. If you have questions, be sure to ask the next time you’re in class. Most instructors are hesitant to keep teaching your more new material if you don’t show ongoing retention of older curriculum. If you only plan to practice twenty to thirty minutes per day outside of class, techniques and forms should take up the majority of the time. I recommend doing new techniques 10 times (on base and opposite side) and new forms/sets 2 or 3 times. Following those, review prior curriculum by either belt color or common attacks.
Exercise and Stretch - In a street fight scenario, where flight isn’t available, one of your advantages as a martial artist is to outlast your opponent. We practice hard in order to develop the stamina and endurance to survive longer, stress-filled situations. As you train at home, one of your goals should be to increase your strength, stamina, and flexibility. To that end, you could alternate days of doing basics with days of doing traditional exercises. If you have enough time, you could do both the basics and regular exercises. However, if you’re short on time, you can perform your basics with speed and power (training with intent). If you’re not working up a good sweat at the end, you may not be doing it right.
Learn the sayings - For the times when practicing the physical aspects of martial arts isn’t possible, this is a great drill to work on the mental portion. Along the path to each belt in Kenpo are some sayings and pledges. These ideas have value in articulating some of the core principles of karate, of responsibilities as a martial artist, and of just being a good person. They’re important and should be learned at a deeper level than memorization for a belt test. A great way to internalize the sayings and pledges is to learn them when riding in the car. It’s easy enough now to record yourself saying them and play them back on an iPod or CD. Not all martial arts is learned and practiced on the mat. This is one of those times, but should be a part of the regular out-of-class practice.
Read a book - Ok, so reading a book isn’t really a karate drill. But there are dozens of outstanding Kenpo and other martial arts books out there. Each is filled with knowledge and perspective you aren’t likely to receive on a regular basis in class. The five volumes of Ed Parker’s Infinite Insights into Kenpo are must haves for the serious Kenpoist. I also recommend The Journey: The Oral Histories of 24 of the Most Proficient American Kenpoists of Today and any of the Kenpo books by Mr. Lee Wedlake. If you can get your hands on some of these books, reading them will certainly improve who you are as a martial artist. Devoting a little time to reading isn’t too much to ask.
To be good at karate requires a lot of hard work. Work likes this has to happen outside the dojo in addition to the time spent on the mat. Pick some of these drills and work them into your daily routine. You’ll be proud of the results.