The Simple Training Journal

Over this past week, I have been working on a post about understanding who you are as a practitioner and using that self-knowledge to help you find the training strategies that work to help you keep motivated and achieve your mastery goals. Well, it's proven to be a more interesting and challenging post to create than I thought, and I'm not done yet! So I thought that today I'd revisit one core strategy I have found very valuable in my journey, keeping a simple training journal.

A training journal is a log book of personal practice. It can contain goals, training plans, progress toward those goals, class notes, as well as general thoughts, comments, struggles, and successes. At its simplest, the journal is a way of keeping my training front-of-mind and it helps me keep continuity from session to session.

I find a journal helps me:

  1. Stay motivated by considering and witnessing my progress.
  2. Stay focused by reminding me what I'm working on.
  3. Stay inspired by giving me a place to reflect on and review new learning.

Sometimes the journal has full pages of writing and sometimes it's very simple one or two line notes. Even if you're not much of a writer, there can be value in this approach that I recommend you explore.

The Minimum To Get Started

If you like this idea, the simplest thing to do is to get yourself a small Moleskin notebook, a half-sized ring binder with some blank sheets, or and use a smartphone app like Evernote or OneNote -- which is what I choose to use. It should be something that you can keep with you and that you find enjoyable to write in.

Create a page or a note and title it "Training Journal". Then, write in it what you recall from your last training session. Start by putting the date and location, then include one or all of the following:

  • The theme of the session or lesson.
  • The exercises you did, or, if it was a sparring session, who you sparred with.
  • What you found challenging or interesting.
  • What you want to work on next time.
  • Any interesting "Aha!" moments you want to retain.

That's it.

Whenever I'm about to start a session I look at my last entry and when I'm finished I write a new entry. When I'm training a lot on my own, I'll sometimes write a little training plan for next time. That way I can help carry the inspiration of one training session forward to the next. It also helps me get started on my next session more easily because I don't have to think about what I'm going to do at the beginning, I just let my past-self tell me.

Start Small and Expand

If you feel inspired by the journaling process this little book can become a repository for class notes and discoveries, records of sparring matches and the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents, long-term training goals, and more. Get into the rhythm and then do as much or as little as feels valuable to your process at the time.

A couple years ago I wrote a post on how to use the training journal to track goals and to track sparring. If you're interested I recommend checking out that more detailed post here.

Happy journaling and happy training!

Devon Boorman is the Co-Founder and Director of Academie Duello Centre for Swordplay, which has been active in Vancouver, Canada since 2004. Devon’s expertise centres on the Italian swordplay tradition including the arts of the Renaissance Italian rapier, sidesword, and longsword, as well as knife and unarmed techniques.
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