Training on your own- some suggestions

‘What can I do on my own’ is a question that’s often raised by members of our club. Training partners aren’t always available, and people are eager to develop their skills but don’t always have a good grasp on how to go about working on their own. Individual practice can be invaluable for developing as a martial artist as it’s the one time where one can train with only your own goals and needs in mind. Specific problems can be addressed, attributes can be enhanced, and one can take the lead in one’s own development. With that in mind, let’s explore solo training in more detail.

Getting Started

If you aren’t in the habit of training on your own, the first thing to do is get the habit of doing it. Figure out how much time you’re willing to commit to training, a place to train, and what tools you have. Write out a schedule and live up to it for at least a month. 20-30 minutes 4-5 days a week is a reasonable starting goal. Use that time efficiently- one useful tool is a stopwatch or round timer. Train for 2-5 minutes, then take 30s-1min to rest and move on to something else. During this phase don’t get hung up on what in particular you’re working on. Do whatever you feel is comfortable and you enjoy. Make working on your own a positive experience so you’re eager to train, not dreading it. Maintain a sense of play, working through things covered in practice or some of the ideas listed below.

At the beginning, the most important thing is to develop the habit of training. Don’t let worrying about structure get in the way of developing the habit. Down the road, don’t let structure get in the way of your training- some days don’t work out the way you planned- sometimes it’s better to just play for a while, rather than get bogged down in details.

General Principles for the Intermediate and Advanced Trainee

Once you’ve been training for a while, you should have a sense of your strengths and weaknesses. Reassess these qualities periodically, as they may change over time. Spend your time working on improving both your best and worst qualities. If you have a natural affinity for something, run with it and get it as good as possible. Likewise, if you find a problem area, concentrate on that until it’s no longer a weakness. If you’ve encountered new materiel, some of your practice should be spent reviewing it.

Practices should generally follow a specific order to maximize their benefit. New motor skills should be worked on before old motor skills. Speed should be worked before power, power before strength, and strength before endurance. My preference is to conclude a workout with some light training that reviews what was covered earlier in the practice, consolidating earlier learning.

When it comes to learning motor skills frequency of exposure is generally more effective than volume of exposure- 20 minutes of practice 3 x a week will get you more gains than 1 hour 1x/week.

Structuring a workout

With the above in mind the order of a practice would look something like this (deleting pieces as needed based on what your goals are):


    Supplementary exercises to develop specific motor skills/qualities ‘New’ motions
    Consolidation (some form of shadowboxing)

Workout for a trainee working on body connection and shoulder girdle use:

    Shadowbox with a staff – 5min (warm up)

    Shoulder circles with a staff – 3min (supplementary exercises for specific motor pattern)

    10 direction stepping making double hits with single stick, both hands, focusing on coordinating shoulder use with body rise/drop – 5 min (specific motor pattern/new skill)

    Staff- (power, using motor pattern/skill) 3-5 min - Stab, double forehand hit x10 RL -Stab, forehand/backhand x10 RL

    Shadowbox/bag work 3-6 2minute rounds-(endurance/consolidation)


Some useful equipment- essential stuff is marked with a *


    Notebook or whiteboard*

    Slip line

    Footwork ‘ladder’


    Resistance tubing rigged to a support

    Practice weapons:

      -single stick*
      -double sticks*
      -double machete
      -double knives
      -stick and knife
      -machete and knife
      -long stick
      -hand axe

    Heavy bag

    Double ended bag

    Suspended tire

Specific exercises

This is a very incomplete list. Each of these exercises deserves an article of its own with video, which it will get in the future

10 direction stepping :

    -each step with at least 1 hit, work on coordinating the action of the arm with the step so the weapon leads but is still powered by the body
    -keep a focal point in front of your original point position which you maintain as you move from point so your focus stays the same as you move
    -vary the length of the step in each direction, finding the longest step you can take. Work all the steps in between shortest (on point, hitting short) and longest
    -make multiple hits, dropping in place, as low as you can go for each position. Keep the focus (target/zone) the same, so your hit gets longer as you drop

Point stepping:

    -Double stick patterns or staff in center grip coordinating the step and the hit- cob-cob and high low work well for this. Step back to point with a high hit, come out from point with a low hit
    -Start moving the point, rather than always returning to it

Shoulder circles:

    -place a staff or stick in the crooks of the elbows and make circles to teach use of the shoulder girdle. Coordinate with the rise and fall of the body. If using a stick, pass it from across the elbows to in the hand to in both hands to feel how the circle of the shoulders generates figure 8 hits.

Zoned hitting:

    Full step, half step, feet planted. Make zoned full power hits in the air.

Linear stepping drills:

    Shuffle forward and backwards, working in a straight line

Anchor drills:

    Anchor the front foot, circle, hitting or making box
    Anchor the back foot, circle, hitting or making box

Slip line:

    Passing, changing feet going forwards and backwards
    Keep the same lead going forwards and backwards
    Go from empty hand to progressively longer weapons

Use a 2-6″ step
Step down with a hit to exaggerate the use of the drop and braking action of the front foot
Step up to develop the rise- use of hip extension to drive the hit

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