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Your personal practice time is just that, personal. This is sometimes easy to forget when you have been told what to do at every step of your training. On your own, you may even hear your instructor’s voice in your head, pushing you to correct mistakes; hopefully you do. However, endlessly repeating the drills alone is hard when the goal is as ambiguous as “self-defense.” How much is enough? You can almost never know. What we do know is that if we are going to improve we have to keep practicing. And, in the solitude of your own personal dojo, if you can’t get motivated to run the drills as they were shown, get creative.

I have been rolling a lot lately. I was never fully satisfied with my falls and rolls so I have worked this into a regular part of my warm ups. In a recent post (Time to get hit) I discussed rolling a few times before going straight into a kata. This week, I took that idea a step further and began to roll in between moves within the kata. As I choreographed the routine to mix in rolls in both directions I discovered a number of things that are going to be interesting to work on in the future. It is challenging to come up out of a roll into a specific movement, and not just a general defensive posture. It is also challenging to remember where you are in the kata because directions keep changing. The rolls fit in certain ways that suggest throws and other applications I had not previously considered.

Now don’t get me wrong. Being creative like this is not for any external purposes. I won’t be teaching this “3D Kata” to my students. I won’t be posting it on youtube. I won’t be performing it at an upcoming tournament. And, most importantly, I won’t be replacing my regular training syllabus with something entirely new that I have made up. There is a reason why martial arts movements and kata have been developed in a specific fashion and I don’t presume to think I can improve on hundreds of years of knowledge. But I do train for myself and I plan to train for life. If changing things up inspires me to look at what I do with fresh eyes, it has benefits. If it get’s my adrenalin up and my body moving, it has benefits. And, if it allows me to take some time and think for myself, that is also a nice benefit.

This morning, when I was done “playing” with my kata, I worked on the regular stuff with renewed energy and insight. That is what creativity should do. You will only develop as fast and as far as the time, energy, and thought you are willing to put forward. Creative exercises can easily be a distraction to “doing the work” that will make you better. But adding a little spice now and again when things feel too routine is a great way to give all your training renewed life.