Many times this is the slow time of the year for regular martial arts classes, people are on vacation or attending summertime events, but it is also a really good time to change up your training and get outside. While there are certain things that can be only practiced inside under controlled conditions, outside practice is one of the best ways train under different conditions and improve your skills. The Chinese Martial Arts Group which I instruct move from our inside school at Young’s Tae Kwon Do across the street to the Bellefonte Park whenever we can during the summer.
Take your forms out of mothballs and give them a new feel
Getting your feet on uneven ground is a great way to change and improve your forms. Anyone who has competed can tell you having to change your surroundings or direction can throw you off so getting outside where there are no fixed points can greatly help your forms. If you traditionally train barefoot you may need to adapt to wearing shoes and/or the uneven surfaces. This is usually more extreme a change than vinyl mats, wooden floors, or carpets. It also forces the body’s muscles to work slightly differently since to maintain balance the feet will need to sit differently on the ground. You also learn to work through distractions. Parks or college lawns are great for this since there are always other people in the area.
Enjoy the open spaces while you are out too. Many times during the winter months you need to shrink down your forms to fit your home, apartment, or even your allotment of space at your school. The chance to spread out will help keep things balanced. If you are always skip stepping because of a wall you need to break the habit while you have the space. And it is a great time to go over any forms you haven’t been practicing lately.
Fixed form and open sparring will also be different outside than in so take advantage of it.
Breathe and Meditate
The outside air is much cleaner than inside so if your style practices meditational breathing this is also a great time to practice.As a Qi Gong practitioner we tend to like practicing in the elements and drawing from the experience of nature… I personally like meditating next to a stream where I can see the water and maybe feel spray from the water. Usually the sound of the water provides the background noise that you need to insolate yourself from street sounds.
Meditative running, walking, and hiking can improve endurance and grounding (the ability to lower your center of gravity). If you practice a high kicking art it can also strengthen your knees. Meditative running, walking, and hiking are different in that they focus on form and function not speed.
Rock climbing is also great cross training because is actively trains the hands, fingers, and feet to grip and strengthens them. Both grappling and striking arts can benefit from this. Changing vertical terrain requires even more concentration than ground training outside.
Both swimming and water training have a lot of advantages. To swim the whole body works together to propel itself through the water, the muscles coordination and body balancing can change how your martial arts flow. Similarly form training in water provides both resistance to movement and creates buoyancy. If you are not using proper form or are off balance with your weight water training will show it to you quickly.
Seasonally Spring and Summer is about growth and expansion so your training should follow the same principles break out of the limiting patterns you may have developed.