“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.”
Oftentimes, when we are trying to improve something, we reach a plateau that seems impossible to surpass. No matter how hard we try, the wall blocking our path sometimes seem impenetrable. The frustration sits in and many either give up or throw themselves against the wall with reckless abandon.
So what do you do once you reach such a level that any further progress seems impossible? The answer may seem counter-intuitive, but you may actually need to regress to a lower level.
The easiest way to illustrate this through physical endeavors. Visit any fitness forum and you’ll find countless questions asking how to break through a lifting plateau. The situations may be different, but the answer seems to always be the same; regress back.
Some suggest taking a week or two off lifting before coming back. Others suggest dropping the weight and slowing down the tempo of the lifts and/or focusing on their form. These are all different approaches to the same strategy.
The same holds true for martial arts. By the time a student reaches the level of black belt, they have likely gone through their techniques thousands of times for each technique. While they’ll still grow throughout their years as a black belt, there will come a time when progress slows to a crawl or stops completely.
No matter how hard they train and push themselves, they just can’t seem to raise themselves to the next level. This is when they need to take a step back and regress down to a lower level.
If you were going to add another level to a one-story house, you wouldn’t simple build a second story on top of the first, would you? No, you would tear the roof off, reinforce the foundation, add load-bearing walls to the first floor, and run new electrical wires and plumbing up to where the second floor would be.
The same holds true for martial arts, or anything else for that matter. Sometimes you must go back to the basics, tearing down everything you believed, and improving yourself from the foundation on up. In regards to martial arts, this can be accomplished by scrutinizing the basics and looking for any subtle flaws to your technique/application or it can be accomplished by taking an entirely different style of martial art to offer a fresh perspective.
Whatever you’re working on in your life, if you’ve found a yourself in a spot where progress has tapered off, take a moment to review where you are and if it’s time to take yourself down a few levels to reinforce what you already know, be it fitness, hobbies, business, or your studies.
A foundation can never be too strong and even the core basics can offer valuable insights to a master.