Whether you are just getting into martial arts training for the first time or trying to return to training after a long lay off, getting started can be difficult. It can be challenging to find the perfect time to start (or resume) training. You want to jump in enthusiastically, but you know the next month is going to be busy at work. Or maybe you are looking forward to the physical challenges of working out, but you are wondering if you should spend a couple of months in the gym before you start, so you don’t embarrass yourself by not being able to keep up. Or perhaps you have been away from training for a long while and are concerned about having to be a beginner again.
There are so many things that can hold us back, and waiting for the right moment to start training often leads to never starting at all. Walking into a dojo for the first time – or after a long absence – can be a bit scary, as we worry about getting hurt, looking foolish, feeling incompetent, and that anxiety can lead us to delay that first step again and again.
There really is no perfect time to start training – but the best time to start training is now. Getting those first few classes out of the way allows us to get past our anxieties and see the way forward. It allows us to feel that first rewarding bit of positive feedback – “I did it! I put on a gi and took class, and I made it all the way through!” That feeling is what we can use to help us build a habit of training, and building that habit is what will allow us to keep training, even during periods when we are busy, or feeling stuck, or frustrated with a lack of progress, or physically tired. It’s all about getting there.
When new students start training with us, I tell them that they should try to come as often as possible during their first three months. It is natural to be a bit sore and achy after class when one is just getting used to the training, and so it can be tempting to take a week before coming to class again. That, however, is usually a mistake. It can lead to having a negative association with the dojo, because every time you go back, you are sore the next day. It is better to come to the next possible class so that you can both get physically accustomed to the demands of the training and overlay those negative sensations with the excitement of learning this new stuff and a feeling of accomplishment.
And for those who have trained in the past, maybe a long while back, there is the issue of frustration at not being as good at this stuff as you used to be (or remember being). If you did karate ten years ago and felt pretty good about it, and now you find yourself struggling to do the basic movements in this new class, the embarrassment and frustration can also create a negative feeling about going to class. The best way to get past all of that negative stuff is to train as much as you can at first, to get up to speed, so that you can relax and the body awareness and movement skills you built in your previous training can shine through.
It’s January, the first month of a new year. If you want to start or resume your martial arts journey, there is no better time than now. Don’t let the search for the perfect moment hold you back. Get into the dojo and start training.