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Are You Still Training?

by Dave Kovar


I believe that one of the X factors that enable people to operate a successful martial arts school is maintaining a passion for the arts. Looking at it from the outside, most people think that because we run martial arts schools, we get to work out all the time. For many people, this is not the case. As a matter of fact, it can be challenging to find time to train when you’re running a business, raising a family and balancing other commitments.

With that said, we’ve tried to create a culture in our schools where personal training is not only encouraged but also expected. This has dramatically helped my team and me maintain our love of martial arts and our desire to improve, regardless of age or athletic potential.

As for me, I’m proud to say (at the risk of sounding arrogant) that it’s been 50 years since my first wrestling match in 1971, and I’m still training. I’ve certainly had my share of injuries along the way, but overall, I have been blessed with good health. I know that a big chunk of it has been luck and good genes, but I also have tried to learn from my mistakes along the way.

Here is my formula for longevity in training. It might seem a bit wimpy to the younger generation, but more mature martial artists will probably understand:

  • I run frequently, but I don’t usually run very far.
  • I spar occasionally, but I rarely spar hard.
  • I weight-train almost every day, but I rarely lift heavy.
  • I jump regularly, but I don’t jump too high.
  • I stretch daily, but I don’t overdo it.
  • I grapple often, but I try to stay smooth, playful and relaxed.


Regardless of the type of training I do, I always try to:

Pick my partners carefully. In my younger days, I would train with anyone who was available — including those who were less-than-ideal partners. Over time, I’ve learned that you can dodge a bullet every now and then, but if you continue to train with partners who have the wrong energy or no control, you will get injured.

Temper my emotions. Whatever I’m feeling before I step onto the floor, I try to release it when I bow onto the mat so I can have the right disposition for training.

Stay present-focused. This seems obvious, but if you don’t watch it, it’s easy to become distracted. Distraction increases the chance of injury while decreasing the gain you get from the training session.

Keep a beginner’s mind. (OK, so I have to work on this one a lot.) Every now and then, I find myself battling my ego. Things will pop into my head like I can’t believe I’m having a hard time learning this, or I don’t need to learn this; I’ve been training a lot longer than the instructor has. Both trains of thought are to be avoided.

Have fun. Whatever reasons you had for starting martial arts, if you’re still training, it’s because you enjoy it. That is why it’s so important to cultivate an element of playfulness in your training. That doesn’t mean it can’t be intense; it just means that when you’re done, you want to think, Dang, that was fun!

Be extremely consistent. With very few exceptions, I do the workout today that I planned yesterday. Some days, my workouts are forced, and other days, they flow gracefully. Regardless, I always try to focus on the great feeling that I have at the end.


To contact Dave Kovar, send an email to [email protected].


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