Four reasons why you should cross-train

Five months ago, I began to cross-train.  Sure, I’ve taken tae kwon do for a year from some instructors who happened to be taking lessons from my karate instructors.  But they were still in my school and influenced, to an extent, by my instructors.

Reaching out to an entirely different art and going beyond my karateka has been the most beneficial learning experience I think I’ve ever had.  And I’m saying that positively – my instructors, peers and students have all shaped the martial artist that writes this very post.  But for me, venturing into another art was the next step that was missing in my pursuit of knowledge.

I understand I haven’t been training for the longest time in either art, but to this point, I’ve discovered four main reasons why I think every martial artist needs to cross-train.

But before even taking up another art, you may want to define your purpose.  Understand why you want to practice a martial art and what you’ll take away from it.

You’ll recognize movements from your martial art

It’s amazing to me what the human body is capable of doing.  I see new things all the time.  But there are only a certain number of ways that body can move.  Sooner or later, you’re bound to come across a move you’ve seen in your art.

In order to better understand the tai chi move being taught to me – and vice-versa – I try to run through my catalog of karate and see if I recognize it.  If I do, I can apply the principles of what I know to the new move.

You realize how much you really don’t know

That catalog has a lot of empty pages, though.  And there is a lot to be written in there about new moves, new philosophies and new ways to approach problems.

Karate has a lot to offer me.  But at this point in my life, I’m looking for something different.  Cross-training allows me to continue learning and seeking new knowledge to make me a more well-rounded martial artist.

You get out of your comfort zone

I come from a program that is mostly grade school and high school students.  Much has been written about Gichin Funakoshi and Jigoro Kano about how they – and others, to be sure – hid or eliminated some of karate’s and judo’s most brutal techniques so that school children wouldn’t abuse them.  Only as students get older do they realize how brutal some movements can be.  As I get older and train with martial artists whose experience range into decades, I’m realizing that my moves can cause a lot more devastation than I thought was capable.

I’ve also come to understand that karate keeps a pretty good distance between attacker and defender, if possible.  Tai chi, on the other hand, is very close-range.

I’m sure there are other examples, but these should show that cross-training gets you out of your element, exposing you to new ideas.

You get to meet new people

One of my favorite parts has been meeting other people – black belts, non-black belts, and non-martial artists even.  Some people are there for holistic purposes.  Other black belts bring their martial experience and can contribute.  I’ve said before and I’ll say again that one of the non-martial artists in the class has some of the most beautiful flow I’ve seen from anybody.  She really would fit well into the “artist” category of martial artist.

Plus, you get to study how different instructors teach.  Take some of these strategies with you and see how they work in your classes.

So those are my observations on cross-training so far.  What do you think about it?  Are there other bonuses I didn’t suggest?  What are the negatives of cross-training?  Leave me a comment!

By Adam Bockler

Adam Bockler is a B2B marketing professional, a black belt martial arts instructor, DDP Yoga instructor, and a personal trainer.