I am often asked the question, “How can I practice at home?” Because we practice a martial art that utilizes the energy provided by an attacker, we do need to spend a lot of time practicing with a training partner. This is what makes our art much more efficient and effective than those that only practice hitting and moving against the air or a stationary target. The bad part is that it makes solo practice much more difficult.
The first type of solo practice is known as kata or form training. This is done by imagining an Uke performing the attack against you as you try to do the technique perfectly in the air. During this training it is important that you focus on perfect footwork and taisabaki (body movement). You might envision the practitioners of Tai Chi in a park, slowly working on their movements. This is a time to do the movement slowly and with purpose, making sure you are in the perfect position and have the proper muscle tension and hip movement throughout the entire form.
This kata or form training is an important aspect to martial arts training. By doing this training with total conscious attention, you will program your body to move in a powerful and efficient manner. I would recommend that you do at least 5 minutes of technique form training per day. This can be done both with unarmed and weapons techniques. If you dedicate this time to your training you will see a significant improvement in your training when you are training with a partner at the dojo.
The second type of solo training is conditioning. We don’t spend a lot of time at the dojo working on our cardio, strength or flexibility training. This is intentional as we want to spend the maximum amount of time working on the fighting skills side of warrior training when we have partners available. I recommend that you spend at least 3 days per week working on your cardio and strength training. I personally enjoy going to a gym and being around like minded people who enjoy working on being healthy and strong.
You don’t need to spend the money on a gym though. Doing basic calisthenics such as push-ups, crunches, pull-ups, planks, lunges, leg raises and burpees will give you a good workout without having to use weights. Be sure to stretch your major muscle groups daily to maintain good flexibility!
Another type of training we can do at home is taijutsu (art of using the body) training. This is done by using ichimonji footwork movements while doing your chores or opening doors. If you teach your body to move that way in normal everyday situations you will just move that way when practicing your techniques, especially when we are put under stress.
You can also practice walking in a way that keeps you in balance instead of falling into the next step. This will help in fighting as well as in stealth techniques. There is an endless amount of training you can do every day as you go about your daily routine. Be creative!
The last type of training I want to talk about today is visualization training. This is done by sitting comfortably and clearing your mind. Visualize yourself doing the technique you are working on perfectly. See this over and over. Your mind doesn’t know the difference between this type of training and physical training at the dojo.
I recommend doing this type of solo training often. You will see a huge improvement in your techniques when you come to the dojo! Just like every skill you want to master, you have to think about it all of the time and make it a way of life. If you do this, Budo or way of the warrior, will become what you are and not what you do twice a week!