Training solo for most sports isn’t ideal, for combat sports it can feel almost impossible.
The idea of competing against another person who is attempting to best you via sanctioned violence can be a taunting task at the best of times, adding less than ideal training conditions to this can make the whole situation seem insurmountable.
I know these feelings all too well as I’ve spent a large part of my training time myself in order to compete in a variety of sports, including currently training myself for Sumo competition. I’ve taken the opportunity to map out some of the tips and tricks I’ve used to accentuate the positives in a less than positive predicament.
Rationalisation can be looked at in a couple of different ways; the two I would tend to focus on would be self-rationalisation & training rationalisation.
Self-rationalisation should be the starting block for a plan of attack in regards to solo training; it is of the utmost importance to take stock of the level of your current skillset & where that leads itself in terms of attainable competitive levels. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t strive to compete at higher levels, it is however a way to assess where you should be focusing your competitive energy. Training solo will mean that there is obviously less opportunity to get the regular physical work in against a partner/opponent; competing as regularly as possible at the “grass roots” level allows you to gauge your progress/ability and gain experience without the need to dive straight into the deep end of the pool. As the skill level rises so should the competition level, therefore self-rationalisation is an ongoing process.
Training rationalisation should be used in relation to training selection, more importantly where and when to focus your training energy. Ideally at some point in your training you are able to get to a gym to work with coaches/training partners, when this isn’t a viable option due to locality or availability issues training selection becomes increasingly important. When selecting where to focus your training energy take into account what you can control and what you can improve. For most people this will be conditioning and technique work.
I know personally that for my own training I spent a large portion of my time on sport specific conditioning due to the fact it was something I could directly control, with the rational being that if I didn’t have the “gym” time of my opponent I would be fitter/stronger/better conditioned and therefore able to utilise what skills I did have to the highest degree. I also placed a high emphasis on sport specific skill/technique training, the rationalisation being that my technique would need to be as refined as possible in order to combat the shortcoming which would be less “contact” time. When talking to young fighters I try to stress the importance of spending as much time possible refining both of these aspects in their training, regardless of if that are able to train in the gym, and especially if they are forced to train solo.
Visualisation is an important skillset that requires constant refinement, and in some cases can be the downfall of an athlete. Training alone can mean very limited time is spent live drilling techniques; this could mean a possible “disconnection” from the technique itself.
In recent years the internet has become a handy training tool given the availability of training/fight footage. In substitute of live drilling there is the possibility of watching fights/training vids and mimicking the technique as a solo drill on the bag/training dummy or as last resort as a body weight exercise/shadow boxing movement.
This isn’t to say watching techniques and replicating them is a completely viable swap for training live with a partner, but as an interim option it can be a handy tool in tightening up technique as best as possible. Constant technique refinement can mean the process of transitioning from solo training to live training/fighting can be smoother with less of a learning curve.
The other visualisation technique that is undeniably valuable is the ability to visualise successful techniques/sequences in a fight scenario. If you as a fighter have a particular technique and/or skillset that you are confident with it is a valuable asset to be able to visualise the technique/sequence taking place in the fight itself. This is an opportunity to mentally practice how you would enter/execute the planned technique/sequence; it can also be an opportunity to problem solves the technique based off of possible counter scenarios your opponent may adopt. Being able to visualise successful techniques/sequences can make the transition feel more comfortable as it can almost feel as if you’ve been there before.
Fighting is not for everyone, some may train alone purely for strength and conditioning and find that martial art style training is the most enjoyable and therefore the easiest to regularly partake in, leading to the best results in desired fitness levels.
But if you are training with the intention of fighting actualisation is the final step in the process. Ideally even if you are training solo there is the option of getting some training in with partners, or even possibly attending a seminar. There is also the option the create training partners with friends or likeminded people who want to try martial arts but also don’t have access to trainers/training.
The most important aspect of actualisation is competing in your chosen combat sport, this will allow you to adjust your training accordingly to address any glaring issues you may have in your skill set (to the best of your ability). Picking the right level of competition is an important step in the process as mentioned previously, the most important aspect in the process though is the actualisation of putting the training into action. More is learnt in the act of competition than in all the time training in terms of knowing what works for you and what doesn’t.
I can say from experience training alone isn’t the best option available, but it is a viable option. If given the choice of training alone or not training at all I can say without hesitation I would gladly strap my gloves on and get out in my garage gym, and hopefully if you are in the same situation you can make the same choice.