The Student's Voice

Pushing Your Limitations

Cam Evans challenges everyone to face his/her limitations in this fine post.


I’ve spent a considerable amount of my recent training time focused on exploring my limitations; it has caused a shift in how I approach my training that I think is very valuable. So I wanted to spend some time and walk you through my thought process in the hopes it can help you with your training.
First things first, you have to identify a personal limitation.

One way to do this is to consider competing demands. For example, a stone falling to the earth will fall faster and faster. The faster it goes; the more friction is exerted by the air moving around the stone. At a certain speed, that friction will be slowing the stone at a rate that equals it’s acceleration. Thus, the stone is falling as fast as it can; it has reached a limit.

This concept can help you identify a limitation in yourself. For example, you can try to throw as many punches as you can in a minute, but that needs to be balanced by another condition. Instead, how many powerful punches can you throw in a minute?

The nice thing about this sort of limitation is that, unlike the stone example, it is not defined purely by the environment. This limitation can be lessened through rigorous, dedicated training.

Each limitation I’ve discovered and defined in myself, so far, can be categorized into one of two ways. They either exist physically or mentally. I believe that understanding this distinction can help you better identify and train a particular limitation.

Let’s say you’re trying to hold low stance for as long as you can. As time goes on it becomes more difficult, until you have to stop. Did you stop because something gave out in your body, or because of a mental block that prevented you from reaching the limits of what your body could do?

These types of mental barriers are not uncommon. Our natural survival instincts will work to protect us from danger, even if that ‘danger’ isn’t really dangerous – just like the low stance example.

So now you have defined your limitations. This means you can get started with the fun stuff; training them.

I recommend focusing your training at a level that is just beyond this limitation; sometimes referred to as outside your comfort-zone. You can tell if you’re training at around the right level if the following, competing demands are true

  • You should be failing more than you are succeeding, and
  • You should be recognizing those failures consistently, and understand what you need to do differently to be more successful.

If you train at too low a level, you won’t be exposed to the things you can improve upon. If you don’t know it’s there, how can you improve it? If you train at too intense a level, you also risk missing the specific things you could do differently, because there was just so much going on.

Training at an appropriate balance between both conditions will maximize your ability to stretch and train your limitations. Over time, and with purposeful practice, you may discover the need to increase the intensity of your training. Add more time, and you may even find yourself surprised with what your are capable of now when compared with a year or two ago.

It reminds of something Sifu once said. He explained that, when training with a sihing you need put in great effort; the better you do the better they have to do. With a sidai, you should stay within the drill they are working on (don’t do anything they aren’t allowed to do) but execute your techniques in the most precise and technical way possible. This way, again, both partners get better together. Both partners expand their limitations. Together.

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