Proper instruction is essential for development as a martial artist or combat athlete. While athletic attributes (e.g. strength, endurance, "cardio", flexibiliy, recovery) are extremely important, technical development can only be learned and practiced. Even the most athletically gifted individual with no training will have a hard time with a technically developed competitor who has problems walking and chewing gum outside the ring or off the mat. However, if given the opportunity, work both your athletic attributes and your technical game which makes it so much easier to spank the new muscular spaz in class or the highly technical (but often winded) upper belt.

Group Class
A group class is one of the best ways to learn about contact martial arts and combat sports. The different experience levels, body types, stylistic naunces, and sheer number of partners allows for greatly increased learning. First, if there are people you don't want to work with you can avoid them, but try to work with as many different people as you can (hence the instructor always telling you to switch or rotate). Also different people have different strengths. Try knife sparring with the lightning quick girl in your class, then try wrestling with the 300 lbs. guy in your class, try boxing with the former Golden Gloves champ in your class. Always use the group class environment for maximal learning, both your's and your partner's. If someone is not as good as you (they are not as strong, they are new, they have an injury, etc.) work on your weakest skills. With someone of your level try to keep a friendly, team-building, competition going, it will force both of you to grow. With someone ahead of you, try to watch and absorb their game, and work your tried and true basics (plus a whole bunch of defense).

Look for a group, club or academy with a skilled teacher, one that has something valuable to show and keeps a good level of safety in the practices. Look for a good teacher before a good fighter (although if you are lucky you can get both). If you don't feel comfortable watching the class or participating in it try to distinguish your personal fears from anything that is actually dangerous or wrong about the class. If you still feel unsafe -- leave and find somewhere else to train. However, once you have made a commitment to a group, keep it, make as many practices as you can and don't go shopping for another team as soon as you hit your first lull.

Private Lessons
Privates are a mixed blessing and are probably most beneficial when used in conjunction with group classes. One-on-one instruction about specific topics that you have chosen can be extremely beneficial and can increase your potential manyfold (as long as what you want and what you need to work on are the same thing). However, working with a highly talented instructor and then translating that to working with everyone else is a leap (one is theory the other is application -- don't be discouraged). If your development is sticking or something in your game in consistently falling short, consider the price of a private (anywhere from $15 to $200 per hour) to get you over the hump. Optimally, a private every week or two coupled with a group class would be ideal, but can you afford it?

Generally, get privates from your group class instructor or from the specialist that you need to develop your game. Try to find someone that will expand your abilities and can analyze both your strengths and weaknesses. This is obvious when they make minute adjustments in your posture, stance or technique that yield much improved ability.

Seminars, Workshops and Training Camps
Seminars are expensive but offer a density of highly skilled instruction. The seminars that are most beneficial are taught by nationally or internationally ranked competitors and reknown experts that are also good instructors. Being a champion and being a good teacher are not the same thing. As with group classes and privates, look for a good teacher before a good fighter. Also, typically you will have to travel to the seminar and pay a fee equal to or greater than your monthly dues. You may even have to stay overnight for a multiple day seminar, workshop, or training camp which adds to the cost.

Go to the seminars that offer instruction in what interests you. It might not be what interests your instructor or your training partners but if you want to spend the money, spend it on what interests you. However, don't blow of class just because a seminar is in the area. Seminars are not a replacement for training and practice, only a supplement. Also you will retain only a small percentage of the material, no matter how many notes you take. Remember to get pictures with the seminar speaker, its a cool keepsake.

Multimedia includes books, magazines, videos, DVDs, CD-ROMS, webpages and the like. First, any multimedia is supplementary to proper instruction. Second, multimedia "instruction" is more beneficial to a skilled practioner than the novice, someone who has some experience simply has a better frame of reference than the novice. Also, most material from multimedia sources is pretty high level (even the "Beginner" or "Introductory" stuff) and not really full of moves or skills that have a high reward-to-risk ratio. They are generally overly technically demanding. However, understanding these limitations, you can use all types of multimedia to supplement and expand your martial arts arsenal. You can review moves ad nauseum and see how different people do the same thing. If you have a weakness in your game you can find resources to plug that hole.

We do not condone any sort of copyright infringement. So if you want to increase your martial arts multimedia library, be prepared to pay for it. Look at reviews and see what sources people recommend. Find the tapes that interest you or address a weakness in your game.

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