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A Simple Way To Double Your Learning Rate This Year
By Pete Kautz 2006

I want to take some time in this article to talk about one of the most important pieces of training equipment you can use.  It’s something that is “almost free” and will double or triple your learning rate.  It is also one of those things you may have heard of before but so few people use it as to make it a secret hidden in plain sight.

With that said, let’s get to it shall we?

I know you’re wondering, “Just what the heck is this “training device” that will double or triple my learning rate?”  Probably you have some ideas of your own about what this could be.

Some kind of punching bag or dummy?  Maybe sparring gear or training weapons?

Nope…it is the humble notebook.

Keeping a training notebook of what you work on in class and on your own is one of those things that a lot of people *think about* but very few ever really do!  Of all the students I have had over the years, only a handful of them ever kept serious training notebooks…and amazingly every one that did has gone on to become a great martial artist.


The fact is so much gets covered in any given class here that without writing it all down it is honestly hard to remember every drill and variation you did even just a half-hour after class.  (I’m betting it is the same where you train.)  Seminars are even worse for this “brain overload”.

When we review everything over a cup of tea afterwards and folks write it all down in their notebooks it forces them to understand what we do on a deeper level than those who do not write it all down.  Having to put techniques and drills into words means that one has to understand each step clearly…you can not be “fuzzy” about what happens.

This clear understanding is especially important for the beginner, so that they can learn to do things correctly and not build bad habits.  Writing forces them to understand each part of a movement 1-2-3-4-5 what happens at each stage.

Take the common Filipino drill known as Sumbrada (or 10 Count Drill) for example.  I have met a lot of people who have learned to play this drill with some level of skill, but they are unable to explain its workings, unable to play variations on it, unable to use alternate weaponry, unable to do it as a solo set, and unable to do it with their opposite hand because in essence they don’t really understand it clearly.  They can do the dance if someone else leads, but they can not act independently.

On an even simpler level, think of when you learned to kick.  There are a lot of “steps” to what makes a good side kick…leave any one out or do it at the wrong time and you will be sub-optimal.  What moves first, what happens second, when do you shift your weight, when do you lift your knee, where does your foot go after the kick…there are a lot of elements here!

Simply writing things down lets you figure it all out, and also teaches you what you *don’t know* so you can go find out from someone who does.

So, now it is all up to you…a lot of people may read this and not do it, but I hope YOU will “get it” and start to keep a detailed training notebook if you don’t already.

What is there to lose?  What is there to gain?

Those are not rhetorical questions, either…answer them for yourself and see if you don’t think keeping a notebook just “might” be worth a try!

So, what might you put in a training notebook?  To start, here are four very general sections you will probably want to have.  These include:

1) Class Notes.  This was what we covered in the last e-mail.  Use this section to keep detailed notes of techniques, drills, and variations you are learning in your class along with any other relevant notes such as insights you had in class or tough situations you found yourself in that you want to learn to counter in the future.  This mental discipline will greatly enhance your understanding of the art.

2) Physical Conditioning.  This is where you list all the physical conditioning you are doing, both at home and in your regular classes.  Each day, write in the date and what you did.  If you did not work out, still write in the date so you know it was a “skip” day and can accurately track both frequency of workouts and specifics of what you did and how much.

3) Food & Supplements.  This section is more important for some martial artists than others.  Now, we all need to eat, but if you A) often feel poorly and have bad digestion B) want to gain weight or C) want to lose weight then you need to pay attention and track your food in your training notebook.  Otherwise you are just guessing and your results will not be predictable.

For those in group A, If you often don’t feel well, remember that foods can cause reactions in the body for up to 3 days after you eat them, so without accurate tracking it is difficult to diagnose what foods are sabotaging you.  Changes in diet alone can make a sick man well, or a well man sick, so look at what you are eating in a critical way.

For those in groups B & C, obviously if you want to gain or lose weight then you will need to know if you are getting the right calorie intake and be able to see how healthy it is (not all calories are created equal in that sense).  The only way you will accurately know what all you eat is to track it.  For those who take multiple supplements, it can be handy to track these as well to make sure you get in all the ones you need for a day.

4) Sparring.  This is where you write out what happened on the mat.  Where did you get stuck, where did you succeed, how did you feel inside, what did you learn, and so on.  This helps to point out what you need to work on and well as areas you excel in.  Knowing both is important for your training.

5) Personal Goals.  Now, depending on what your specific personal martial art goals are some of these previous sections may be more or less important to you.  Because of this, it is important to have already determined your training goals are and then build your training notebook around that.  Do you want to learn a certain weapon?  Do you want to develop certain attributes?  This will shape your notebook!

Whatever it is, you will want to create further sections to record what you are doing to improve in that area and the results you are getting.  Maybe we can get more into detail about developing specific plans in a future newsletter if people are interested.

Remember – your training notebook is only as useful as you make it.  If you use it every day to inspire you to action and to track your results then it will work like a charm.  If it sits untouched under a stack of papers on your desk for months at a time it will be of little value.

Like so many things in the martial arts…it’s all up to you what you get out of it!

All the very best,

Pete Kautz

PS - If you want to see the HIGHER LEVELS of the Sumbrada Drill I was talking about earlier then you have to check out Jim Keating's Advanced Sumbrada DVD.  Jim breaks this drill down and shows you how to explode your skill with it.  If you are new to this you will have everything you need to become an expert.  If you already know the basics of this drill it will completely blow your mind and expand your options exponentially.

Comtech Advanced Sumbrada
Single Tape $49.95
A Mind-Blowing Journey Through This FMA Drill


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