Stop Slowing Yourself Down

My friend Jamie Crowder introduced me to the important distinction between “dilemma” and “problem” as it relates to martial arts strategy. A dilemma is defined as “a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially equally undesirable ones.” This means that unlike a “problem” which has one or more clear solutions, a dilemma gives you the choice between bad and worse. In martial arts, it’s clearly better to present an opponent with a dilemma than a problem. This way no matter his decision for how to deal with your initial proposal, things won’t go well for him.

Strength training is rife with problems, some are technique based, others programming. But these problems are easy to deal with: find a qualified StrongFirst coach and you’ll have all the answers to all your problems (at least the strength training ones). But in addition to the easy to deal with problems, strength training also presents at least one serious dilemma that many people experience. How to get strong or technically proficient and do so quickly?

I’ve been coaching martial arts for over 20 years and kettlebells for 10 and I’ve seen this problem a great deal. Students get fired up to learn. They’re really into training. They love coming to class and are definitely making progress, but it’s just not fast enough. They either do not understand that learning and imprinting movement patterns take time, or they think it’s taking too much time.

While a dilemma by nature does not offer you the answer you desire, you are in control of your reaction to the strength training dilemma. And that reaction must be patience. If you’re attracted to what StrongFirst does with the kettlebell, barbell or body weight, you are definitely a goal-minded person who wants to make progress and make it quickly. This is a natural desire, but also completely unrealistic since the requirements for strength include technical proficiency as well as time for the body’s adaptations to occur. Unlike martial arts which require patience primarily for learning the movements, in strength training you have to be patient while learning the movements AND while the body adapts and becomes stronger.

Senior SFG Steve Friedes put it very succinctly a while ago, “Strength takes time.” One must be patient for the process of both learning the movements and adaptation of the body. As I have said to my martial arts students for years, “You can’t speed the process up, but you can definitely slow it down.” And the same holds true for the strength training dilemma. If you are impatient you will try to rush the process which will end with injury or frustration…or both. So be patient.

For what it’s worth, being patient doesn’t mean you lay around waiting for enlightenment to knock on your door. Since you are responsible for not slowing the process down, you must be proactive. Train with your coach regularly. Take notes – yes, actually handwritten notes. Read through the notes to help you remember the details that inevitably escape mental recall. Work diligently, meticulously and consistently toward your goal, but accept the progress you make for what it is and do not try to rush the process.

Essentially, you do your best. Nothing more, nothing less.

Frustrations like the strength training dilemma are the speed bumps of life. Patiently chip away at those speed bumps and before you know it the road will be smooth.

John Spezzano
StrongFirst Certified Team Leader, Elite Instructor at Source 1 Martial Arts and Fitness
Located in Los Angeles, CA, StrongFirst Certified Team Leader and Elite Instructor, John Spezzano, has over thirty-five years of martial arts training and has been an instructor in six different systems since 1995: Filipino Martial Arts, Jun Fan Gung Fu / JKD Concepts, and Maphilindo Silat all under Guro Dan Inosanto, Muay Thai under Ajarn Chai Sirisute, Wing Chun under Sifu Francis Fong, and Savate under Nicolas Saignac. John is also a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Prof. Shawn Williams.

John’s thirst for knowledge is unquenchable and he is constantly searching for more ways to improve his training and that of his students.

8 thoughts on “Stop Slowing Yourself Down

  • Hey John,
    Sadly it seems young people today don’t want to put in the time or effort to learn a traditional martial art. The flavor of the day rules and respect for the art is diminishing. These things I have observed recently, I started in 1987..
    Great points on problem vs. dilemma, well done sir.

  • Well written. Just what I needed to hear. I greatly benefited from these words. Thanks a lot.

  • Well done!
    I really like the distinction between dilemma and problem.
    Thank you for writing!

  • Sounds like the path to greater aeeobic capacity too!

    Slow down to speed up 🙂

    Good article to remind us all

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