Most martial arts feature forms. Kata. Poomsae. Patterns.
Whatever you want to call them, these prearranged series of movements exist to serve as libraries for self-defense from which we can draw.
As a way to get myself ready for my next promotion in karate, and to continue developing in tai chi chuan and Hsing-i chuan, I came up with the idea in late 2013 to do a form every day in 2014.
I’d felt like I’d started to slack in my training, and at some point, I’d remembered a story I’d heard about how Jerry Seinfeld became successful as a comedian. He told a budding comedian to get a calendar with the whole year on one page, and mark a big red X on each day he wrote.
“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.
I wanted to create a chain of my own with my martial arts forms. “Whether’s it’s an hour or a minute each day,” I told myself, “I want to be practicing at some level.”
So I created a Google spreadsheet as opposed to a calendar. At the end of 2014, I wanted to be able to count all of the forms I did and do some analysis with it.
Each column was a form, and each row was a date. If I missed a form for a day, I’d mark the whole row red as a reminder of how recently I’d missed. I also kept all of the red rows to further motivate myself that I couldn’t let the rows keep increasing, which indicated breaks in the chain.
Looking back through this spreadsheet, I notice two most significant gaps in the chain.
The first was on Thursday, Sept. 25. After more than four months, which included trips to Washington, D.C., San Diego, Wisconsin, two trips to Las Vegas, and three trips to the Chicago area, the chain broke. It was my parents’ anniversary, and that morning, my friend’s mom had called to tell me that he had died. It was also the night of the last karate class I would hold for the foreseeable future, as I’d decided to cap off 21 months trying to build a karate school with a pizza party for my students.
It wasn’t until the next day, after wrapping up the party and visiting with my friend’s mom the rest of the night, that I’d realized I’d broken the longest chain I’d have for the entire year.
But that was okay. I had my priorities that day, and sometimes, you just get thrown off your game.
The next (and longest) gap in the chain came just days later, from Oct. 1-10, when I came down with a strain of the enterovirus. The illness forced me to miss being the best man in a friend’s wedding, and it kept me from the visitation and funeral of my friend that had died. It was a frustrating period, and in looking back, the lousiest stretch of 2014 by far. It would take more than a month to feel better after the virus left, as I rehabilitated myself with DDPYoga to work through the incredible aches I had in my hips. As I write this, some of those after effects still linger, but through DDPYoga and martial arts, I have been able to work through them.
For what it’s worth, I had 26 breaks in the chain. But, I also had 339 successful links.
If you have been struggling with staying motivated in your martial arts training, try this method. It’s a unique way to stay dedicated because you commit yourself to doing it. You have to focus on keeping your chain connected. And you’re held accountable when you break the chain because you can tell when you broke it.
Don’t break the chain.