Finding the rhythm of your training and simply enjoying the process is a beautiful state to work toward in your martial endeavours. However, most of us also want to see progress. There’s a natural desire to be able to do a technique more deftly, swing a sword more powerfully, or defeat an opponent you couldn’t even hope to hit a year earlier.
The problem with progress is that it’s often difficult to see it from the inside. With each improvement your perspective moves upward along with your skill. There are always new challenges to face and your ability to see those challenges expands along with your ability to meet previous ones. I often hear students comment on feeling like they aren’t improving at all, yet if we could compare where they are now to a snapshot from a year before the differences are marked.
The challenge is figuring out how to compare and having landmarks to compare against. This is where data comes in. If progress is important to you, establish some baseline data about your practice and then measure it regularly. Here are some types of data to consider measuring:
- Fitness data
- Amount of time you can comfortably fight without being winded.
- Reps of a particular exercise (calisthenic of martially technical) within a minute. Give yourself some quality parameters for this as well, so you don’t count sloppy reps.
- Martial Quality Data
- Cutting with sharps (number of cuts you can make on a single mat or jug, quality of the cut, skill level of the cutting pattern).
- Martial forms (number that you know, speed of quality execution, etc).
- Success in conducting certain techniques, in exercises or in combat.
- Number of techniques learned (in our school we have technical objectives for each level that are tracked).
- Competitive data
- Tournament placement.
- Ladder standing (some schools and groups use competitive scoring ladders).
- Success versus a given opponent.
- Average number of passes won in a ‘best of 10’ scenario against a given number of opponent’s in a period of time.
- Psychological data
- Number of fights against intimidating opponents.
- Effort data
- Number of practices/classes attended in a given period.
- Number of fights fought in a given period.
Pick data that’s easy to track. Team up with someone who is also passionate about data. Then measure regularly, and be patient. Progress does not always happen in a steady upward trajectory — it is often a ‘peak-and-valley’ type climb. The nice thing with data is that it can help you see progress on a longer scale even after a disheartening performance.