Studying the martial arts is about growing and learning from your mistakes. Here are some common mistakes that most students make at one time or another. (...adapted from a piece in the June 2001 issue of Black Belt Magazine Mistake # 1 Training one side of your body more than the other. If you are ever in a real self-defense situation, you probably won't be able to choose which leg to kick with, so both must be equally strong. Solution: Train you weaker side first and force yourself to use that side when sparring. Switching your stance when sparring can also help keep you focused on making your techniques sharp. Mistake #2 Stretching too far too fast. This is a common problem with adult students just beginning to study. When your motion exceeds what your body can handle, it can result in sore muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Solution: Arrive at class a few minutes early and get properly warmed up before class begins. Mistake #3 Holding your breath. Many students concentrate so hard on what they are doing, they forget to breathe, causing lightheadedness, dizziness, and a reduction in energy level. Solution: Relax (You've probably heard that before!) Breathe while you move, exhaling as you kick, punch, or block. Try to breathe deeply, from your stomach, rather than from your chest. Mistake #4 Practicing advanced techniques before mastering the basics. There is nothing worse than seeing a black belt with sloppy and incorrect form. Advanced students should never have to be reminded about making a tight fist or keeping their fingers tight in knife-hand blocks. Solution: Practice, practice, practice those fundamental techniques--they are the building blocks of the advanced techniques. If you spend time practicing the basics, your advanced techniques will look good and you won't end up as a black belt with sloppy punches. Mistake #5 Overdoing it. Know your limits and don't exceed them. It is very easy to fall prey to an injury if you allow yourself to get too tired. Solution: Training should be 90% physical and 100% mental. Save some physical energy for your next workout and concentrate all of your mental energy on making your techniques controlled and precise. Mistake # 6 Practicing only your favorite techniques. Everyone has a favorite technique that they are good at, as well as ones they need to work on. If you only practice you favorite kick, you will never make any improvements to your other kicks. Solution: Perform all your techniques using both sides of your body. When sparring with a familiar partner, surprise them by throwing a technique you've never used before. Mistake #7 Coming to class only once a week. With today's busy life style, people often find than exercise gets a low priority. If you only come to class once a week, you have six days in between for your memory to fade and your techniques to deteriorate. Solution: Make a commitment to yourself to get to class often! On your days off, think about your kicks and blocks. Go through your forms in your head. Think of it as doing your martial arts homework and come to your next class prepared to learn. Any others????