How often should you train karate to accelerate your progress? In my opinion, the answer is pretty simple, if you want to progress fast in karate, you should train daily. However, this does not mean you must turn up at your dojo and train seven days a week. Instead, a well-structured training program combining dojo training and home training can help you progress faster in karate while avoiding overworking and stressing your body. I’ll discuss this in more detail shortly, but first let’s explore the reasons why you should train daily to maximize your progress in karate.
Why You Should Train Daily?
Training daily helps you progress faster in karate because it improves knowledge retention, build and maintain neural connections and muscle memory better, and improves overall physical fitness.
1. Training daily enhances knowledge retention
Training daily helps you retain more of what you learn and progress faster in karate.
We all forget what we learn over time unless we revisit the material we learn frequently. The longer the gap between the initial knowledge acquisition and the subsequent revision, the more we will forget.
For example, in the 1880s, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus conducted a series of experiments on himself and discovered a significant loss of learned information over time. Immediately after memorizing a list of nonsense syllables, Ebbinghaus had a 100% recall rate. However, after just one day, he forgot approximately 70% of what he learned. After a week, he had to almost relearn the entire syllable list.
On the other hand, if you review the materials you’ve learned frequently, your retention rate can increase significantly. With adequately spaced repetitions, it’s even possible to achieve a 100% recall rate.
This can happen in karate training as well as other fields of study too.
If you learn a new technique or concept but don’t have the opportunity to practice it shortly after, you will likely forget most of it within a few days. If you don’t practice it again for a week after the initial training session, you’ll remember very little and have to essentially relearn it from scratch.
However, if you can practice daily, you’ll have the opportunity to reinforce the new material within 24 hours. This enhances knowledge retention and allows you to absorb and retain techniques, strategies, and concepts more effectively.
Imagine the incredible progress you would make in karate if you could retain and absorb 100% of everything you have ever been taught. You’ll be able to achieve karate mastery or at least become a very good fighter in a much shorter period of time.
2. Training daily better builds and maintains neural pathways and muscle memories
Practicing karate on a daily basis helps build, maintain and strengthen neural connections and muscle memory. This is crucial for martial artists because it enables them to react swiftly and instinctively during actual combat scenarios.
Practicing daily will build and strengthen synaptic connections related to your karate skills.
When you first learn a new technique, it can be challenging. However, with consistent practice, you will find that the technique gradually becomes easier. Through sufficient practice, executing the technique becomes second nature because strong neural connections and muscle memory have been well established. This is where the magic happens. When a punch is unexpectedly thrown at your face, you will be able to react without conscious thought, instinctively blocking it in the precise manner you have practiced thousands of times before.
There is nothing that beats daily practice. If you want to be good at drawing, draw every day. If you want to be good at a particular language, spend at least 15 minutes a day learning it. If you want to be good at writing, write every day. Similarly, if you have a passion for karate and aim to improve, practice it daily. There are no secrets, magic principles, magic potions, special ingredients, or hidden techniques. The key to mastering karate lies in the time and commitment you invest in your training.
Doing a big blast once in a while is not as effective as training daily even for a short period of time because you will have forgotten a lot of what you have learned in the previous session. As mentioned above, too big a gap and you might forget all the new things that you’ve learned. You will likely lose the neural connections and muscle memory that you have previously established if you leave a big gap between training sessions.
3. Training daily improves physical fitness
Regular training not only benefits your karate skills but also significantly improves your physical fitness.
Because physical fitness is not something that you can store, you need to either exercise daily or find opportunities to be physically active throughout your day to maintain your fitness. If you happen to love karate, training karate daily is a great way to improve all aspects of your physical fitness, including:
- Cardiovascular endurance: The sustained effort required in karate training, from basic techniques to footwork drills, kata, and kumite, improves your cardiovascular endurance and overall fitness
- Muscular strength and endurance: Karate techniques, such as strikes, kicks, and blocks, require the engagement of various muscle groups. Through daily practice, these muscles are repeatedly engaged and strengthened, leading to improved muscular strength and endurance
- Flexibility: Karate training involves a wide range of stretching exercise at the beginning and the end of each session. Dynamic movements performed during training also help improve overall flexibility
- Balance and coordination: Karate training incorporates various stances, footwork, and rapid movements that enhance balance and coordination
- Agility and speed: Karate training emphasizes quick, explosive movements and rapid transitions between techniques and this helps improve agility and speed
- Core strength and stability: Karate training involves numerous exercises that target the core muscles, including abdominal, back, and hip muscles and helps improve posture, balance, and overall body control.
In today’s environment, living a physically active lifestyle can be challenging due to various barriers, such as desk-bound jobs, poor public transport systems, crimes, lack of walking paths and cycling trails, increased screen-based leisure activities, and time constraints. Therefore, every bit of physical movement counts. If you have a passion for karate, training daily, even for a short period of time, can significantly increase your physically active time, leading to improved fitness and overall well-being.
How to Avoid Overworking Your Body If You Train Daily?
While daily training helps you progress faster and offers many health benefits, consistently training hard and for a long period of time can have a negative impact on your health because your body doesn’t have enough time to recover.
Therefore, it is important to establish a training program that balances intensity and recovery to prevent injuries, avoid over-stressing your body and maintain long-term progress.
If you are an instructor or are so passionate about karate that you train every day and for a few hours or more each day, it is important to vary the drills and the levels of intensity so that you don’t overwork your body consistently. For example, alternate between focusing on hand techniques one day and leg techniques the next, or alternate between training at 100% effort and 50% effort. Avoid giving 100% physical effort all the time, as it doesn’t give your body the necessary time it needs to rest and recover.
Research indicates that insufficient recovery time is detrimental to one’s health. While leisure time physical activities like hobbies, sports, dances, and non-work transportation improve health and increase life expectancy, occupational physical activity involving long working hours can be detrimental due to inadequate recovery time, resulting in increased inflammation levels.
For most people working nine-to-five jobs, I think training 2-3 times a week at the dojo and aiming for 30-45 minutes of training at home on the remaining days should be a good balance.
Even with this kind of training schedule, you still need to vary the levels of intensity and the amount of physical effort you put in your training to avoid overworking your body.
During dojo training, it is a good idea to put in 100% effort unless you are instructed otherwise. If you choose to do so, home training should be done at a lower level of intensity. Home training is a good time to focus on finer technical details, test out things, find out what work for you, and be proactive with your training. If you have put in 100% effort 2-3 times a week during dojo training, you should only occasionally go 100% during home training to avoid burn out.
A good rule to protect your body is always listen to your body and respond accordingly. If your arms feel sore after a training session, shift your focus to kicking drills the next day. If both your arms and legs are sore, train at a reduced power level of 30-40%, practice “Tai Chi Karate”, or take a day of rest while practicing karate through visualization only.
You are likely to train more intensively and for longer time to prepare for grading and tournaments but make sure you still vary techniques, intensity levels, duration and target different body parts to avoid overwork your body, cause it unnecessary stress, and negatively affect your health.
Training daily offers many benefits and can help you progress faster in karate. However, it doesn’t mean that you should turn up on the dojo floor and train seven days a week. Over-training is bad for your health. For most of us, training 2-3 times at the dojo while supplementing it with home training that focuses on different aspects of your karate is the ideal.
However, everyone’s circumstances and commitments are different. There is absolutely no shame in attending the dojo only once a week and spending a few minutes here and there to supplement your dojo training, if that’s the extent of your availability. If you have limited time and resources but stay consistent and committed to your karate practice, you still can make significant progress in the long term. The key lies in making the most of the time you have and staying dedicated to your training goals.
In addition to the time commitment, don’t forget quality which is what counts the most towards your progress. Don’t turn your karate training into mere workouts. A good workout is still good, but try to learn something new at every training session, no matter how small that “something new” is. All those little “something new” will add up over time and lead to more in-depth understanding and substantial progress in your karate.
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