Sifu Rebecca Knapp, Waterloo Kung-Fu Academy

By Sifu Rebecca Knapp

Adult Student’s Corner

Self-reflection drives your “current” self to grow into your “ideal” self—the martial artist you aspire to be.

With the year coming to a close and a new one about to begin, it’s a great time to reflect and take stock of our behaviours, accomplishments and challenges – this will help to enlighten our paths through 2016.

Before we consider what this looks like, I’d like to make a distinction between self-reflection and something called rumination. Rumination is a negative process where we get “stuck” in the past; dwelling on events and being angry about outcomes we produced. It is not positive, nor helpful, and sitting around beating ourselves up or finding blame does nothing but deplete energy – it is past-focused and a waste of your time. Self-reflection, on the other hand, is forward-focused: it’s about contemplating past events to evaluate their successes so we can use that information to be more successful moving forward. It’s about using the past to improve on the present and future.

Studies have shown that one quality that separate elite athletes from the rest is the ability to reflect on performance and alter their learning strategies or behaviours. This is important because it shows that development is much more than just technical and physical – it is also mental. So how can you as a martial artist self-regulate your learning environment? First you set goals and develop action plans that will help you reach your goals. Then you regularly reflect back on your training and performance and ask yourself:

What were my goals? Did I achieve them? Were they as fulfilling as I thought they would be? How did I achieve them? Was the journey rewarding? What were the highlights for me? What did I do really well? What did I not do well? What would I do differently, if I had the opportunity to do it again? Did I train hard enough/smart enough? What do I want to achieve this year? How can what I’ve learned make my goal achievement even more successful this week/month/year?

As martial artists we can’t improve without reflecting on what we do well and not well. This allows us to determine where we need to focus our efforts, and also how we can leverage our strengths to support skill development in areas where we are not as strong.

I should point out that this should not be limited to an annual event! Ideally, once you are comfortable with self- reflection, it’s something you incorporate into your day to day life, and across all facets. Regardless, in terms of your martial arts training, the point is that the ability to work hard with focus, effort, and determination to close the gap between desired performance and current performance is one of the key factors that separate the best from the rest. Make a habit of becoming fully aware of your performance and evaluating it regularly so you can reflect on what you need to do differently to continuously improve.