How to Use the “Shark Theory” to Stay Focused!

Written by on February 28, 2011

Can you believe spring break is right around the corner?  It seems like just yesterday we mapped out our goals for the year.  (How are you doing on your goals, by the way?  Are you still on track?).
Anyway, now that spring break is fast approaching, I want to pass along five key tips to help you stay sharp – whether you’re inside or outside the academy, out of town or even on vacation!

Keep the Momentum Up!
Top athletes understand you lose fitness when you miss a workout.  Some pro bodybuilders, for example, notice muscle loss after just three or four days of skipped training.  The reason for this is simple: Your body never stays the same.  At any given point in time, you’re either gaining muscle or you’re losing muscle.  You’re either increasing your flexibility or losing it.  You’re getting stronger or getting weaker.  You’re always moving in one direction or the other. That’s why inactivity is your enemy.  The secret of lifelong fitness and martial arts skills is consistency.   Experts agree that a little bit of effort spread out over time makes a much bigger impact than massive effort all at once.   You must keep moving forward. I call this the “shark theory”.  That’s because sharks have to keep swimming in order to breathe.  If they stop moving, water won’t pass over their gills and they can’t survive.

Use It or Lose It.
Whether or not you’re going on vacation this spring break, you can use these tips to avoid backsliding when it comes to your martial arts progress.  Let’s face it: You’ve worked hard and have come a long way since you started.  It makes no sense to give up your gains just because you’re out of town.  (You can also use these techniques on days the academy is closed).  So here they are:

1.)  Maintain Your Mindset –
Believe it or not, the biggest loss you face on vacation isn’t your strength, flexibility or cardio (although they DO diminish  – even with just a week off).  No, your biggest loss is your mental edge.  Many people simply lose focus when they’re out of town.  The good news is this: All it takes is a little focus to sustain your skills and it starts with your mindset.  Instead of allowing yourself to mentally “check out” on vacation, stay focused on your goals.  Remember: You’re a martial artist anywhere you go.

Runners are famous for staying in the “training mindset”.  No matter where they are, many runners stick to their normal schedules and find a little time to run.  Do the same.  Besides, people who have active vacations report feeling more energized, rejuvenated and rested than those who lazed around for a week.

2.)  Practice Your Techniques
While some of our techniques aren’t possible without a training partner, there are many moves we teach that require no special equipment at all.  This means you can practice them literally anywhere.   Forms are a great example of an exercise you can do almost anywhere.  If you don’t have room for forms, practice segments of the form and you can maintain your strength by doing basic bodyweight exercises like push-ups, dips, crunches and squats.  You don’t have to go crazy, either.  Just “activating” those muscles for a mere 20 minutes helps maintain muscle mass while you’re out of town.  And at the very least, you can stretch to maintain your flexibility.  Maintain your muscle memory when you’re out of town.

3.)  Visit Another School
This is one of the all-time great things about being a member of the American Taekwondo Association: wherever you go in the world, there’s an academy full of “future friends” waiting to train with you!  Our organization is a world-wide—known as WTTU and STF out side of the United States.

If you’re out of town for an extended period, visit a “sister school”. Not only is attending an out-of-town Karate for Kids academy a great way to stay sharp on vacation, but it’s an awesome way to meet new people, too!  A quick tip: Before you leave town, go to and find an academy in your vacation area.  I will then call ahead and introduce you to the head instructor and let them know of your pending visit.   I can even find out about the class schedule and special events that you may want to attend.  No matter where you go in the world, rest assured there is an ATA, WTTU or STF Karate for Kids Academy for you can train in.  (Incidentally, people who move across the country or even overseas report that connecting with a Karate for Kids Academy is a great way to ease the transition.  You’ll meet a bunch of new people with similar interests, goals and family values.

4.)  Use Creative Visualization
Did you know you can actually improve your technique even when you’re not physically performing your moves?  It’s true.   Athletes from many different sports use “positive visualization” to enhance their skills.  Here’s a true story that illustrates this point: An American soldier in Vietnam was an avid golfer before the war began.  During the war, he fell into enemy hands and lived in a tiny cell for more than seven years.  After he was finally free, he couldn’t wait to get back to the States and play a round of golf.  To everyone’s shock, his first time back on the course turned out to be the best round of golf he ever played!

People asked how he kept his skills so sharp during his years as a POW.  Did he have access to a golf course during his captivity?  Did he practice his putting?  Of course not.  The soldier revealed that he mentally played golf in his mind over and over, year after year on imaginary “courses” during captivity.  (This was also one of the ways he coped with his horrifying experience of being a POW).  So, in spite of not picking up a club for years, he was still “practicing”.  His body then fell back into its groove when he was back on the real course again.  Amazing, isn’t it?

Positive visualization can be a big help to your goal of improved technique.  The U.S. Navy Seals are famous for positive visualizing, too.  Like the other tips I’ve passed along, you can do it anywhere! 

5.)  Schedule a Private Class
Finally, if you’re going to be out of town soon, schedule a private lesson.  Together, we’ll map out a specific plan of some basic drills and exercise so you don’t lose an ounce of your hard-fought fitness and you can stay sharp on your vacation.  When you get back, you won’t miss a beat!  Follow these tips to stay sharp and maintain your forward progress!

Don’t forget, we have videos of the current curriculum posted to our website, so even if you don’t have space to workout, watching it will help to keep yourself sharp.

—-Senior Master William J. Babin

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