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My 12 Rules for Training: Part 2

By Dave Kovar


In an earlier column, I discussed the first six rules of “My 12 Rules for Training.” They were:

  • Empty Your Cup
  • Be Present-Focused
  • Don’t Compare
  • Be Thorough With Your Warm-up
  • Focus on One Detail at a Time
  • Visualize the Application

This month we I’ll discuss rules 7-12. Here they are:

7) Embrace Fatigue. As legendary pro-football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Poor endurance makes cowards of us all.”

Rarely do we perform as well when we become fatigued. Of course, from a fitness standpoint, training to fatigue helps us become better conditioned. But more importantly, it gets us to be comfortable being uncomfortable. The more we train fatigued, the easier it becomes to deal with it.

From a self-defense standpoint, it’s important to remember that chances are very good that if we ever have to defend ourselves, it will be when we are fatigued. If we are used to being in this state, it will be easier for us to call upon the courage and tenacity that it’s going to take to overcome the challenge.

8) Be Consistent and Think Long Term. This is an often-neglected rule. It’s been my experience that it is hard to find an active martial artist over the age of 50 who is not consistent. Inconsistency almost always leads to injury. As my dad always said, “A little of something is better than a lot of nothing.“

It’s important to remember that a short workout is better than no workout at all. We should try to get some training in every day.

9) Train Safe. There are so many things that go into training safe. To begin with, I think it’s important to always listen to your body. Sometimes your body is just sore and you can work through things. But other times, it’s more than that and your body is telling to you take it easy so that you can avoid an injury. Make sure to listen.

Also, as much as embracing fatigue is important, it can also lead to injury if you’re not careful. That’s why it’s so important to pick your techniques and your partners wisely. Make sure that what you’re doing is age- and skill-appropriate.

10) To Be Fast. . . Go Slow. Many times over the years, in my hurry to do a movement quickly, I have glossed over some important details only to later have to go back and re-learn something. It’s been my experience that relearning something is a lot harder than learning it right the first time.

That’s why I try to focus on going slow and being smooth until I get a movement down really well. Then, I can gradually pick up speed.

The results of this type of training have been that I have developed fewer bad habits. Therefore, my movements are more efficient, which translates to greater speed and power.

11) Stay Playful. Probably one of the most important rules is keeping training fun. Everyone started training for different reasons, but what keeps us coming back decade after decade is not self-defense or fitness. It’s enjoyment. I find it really valuable to create an environment that makes it easy to have fun.

12) Constantly Review and Evaluate. Have you ever had to relearn the same technique several times because you didn’t practice in between sessions? I thought so. Me, too.

It has been my experience that if I take time at the end of a training session to think about what I’ve learned — and perhaps even review it again — then I retain it much better in the long run. This might seem obvious to you, but it took me decades to figure out!

If you put these 12 rules to work, I believe you’ll find them to be as valuable for you as they have been for me.

Happy training!


You can contact Master Dave Kovar at [email protected]

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