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The 10 commandments of martial arts of cross training - how to get the most out of your training



Cross training (martial arts): Training in different martial arts or fighting systems to compensate for the perceived shortcomings of a certain style.

Mixed Martial Arts: Often run by instructors who cross-trained, such school incorporates different systems into one curriculum.

Bruce Lee, often credited for being the first who popularized cross training.

Martial arts cross training is easy! Just sign up to different schools, “take what is good, reject what is bad” and magically, you will be an expert fighter. Bruce Lee did it that way and if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for you!


Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Cross training requires an open mind and a lot of humility. Keep in mind it won’t automatically make you a better martial artist. The real secret to being a good martial artist – whether cross training or not – is to train hard (and train smart).

As the saying goes: “He who chases two rabbits catches neither.” Done improperly, cross training will impede your martial arts progress. Here are 10 commandments to get the most out of cross training (So you can hopefully catch both rabbits).

If you can’t follow these commandments, then perhaps it is best you do not cross train.

Either the school is inadequate, or more likely, arrogance or a closed mind prevents you from absorbing the teaching of the new school. If that is your case, stick to your own school and keep training hard!



1- Stick exclusively to your primary style for at least 5 years

-     Sticking to your primary style for at least 5 years will allow you to acquire the maturity that will help you better understand the workings of another school.

-     You cannot improve that which you have not mastered

-     Cross training should be used to supplement and improve your own training.

-     Going from school to school every few years is not good cross training. If you don’t stick long enough in one school, you cannot fully assimilate all the intricacies of its training, making you at best a mediocre practitioner. Being a mediocre practitioner in many styles does not make you a good practitioner; it only makes you a practitioner with lots of experience at being mediocre.


2- Do your research first:

-     List weaknesses from your training that you think would benefit from receiving instruction elsewhere. This will provide you with a goal and motivation needed to succeed.

-     Ask yourself: “What you want to get from cross training? What aspect do you think will be improved? How does that school help you achieve your goals?”

-     Research on the internet or in local business directories for schools that may offer what you need. Call to make an appointment to visit that school to see if it fits your needs. Try out free classes if you can or better yet offer to pay for a month’s instruction to get a better feel of the training atmosphere. Doing so will eliminate places that do not match your requirements.

Research before starting martial arts cross-training
Do some research before signing up in a new school.
photo courtesy of psycho-poetry

3- Empty your cup

-     Just like a filled cup cannot take anymore liquid, you cannot gain new knowledge if in your arrogance, you think you know everything.

-     In other words, stay humble. Humility is NOT the art of drawing attention to whatever we are trying to be humble about. Be genuine in your humility.

-     Forget everything you have learned before. Pretend you are completely new to martial arts. If the new school uses a belt system, wear the lowest belt.

-     Remember that you are there to learn, not to teach, show off or otherwise be a disruption to the class.

-     As soon as you step in the training floor, remember the fact that you are a novice to that school. Give due respect to those who were there before you.

-     Novice students with an open mind and the determination to learn are usually given the most attention and the best instructions.


4- Do your best to learn everything

-     You’re going to be there anyways, why not get the best out of it. Learn everything the school, the instructor and their students have to offer.

-     You may be shown familiar movements executed with a different flavour. Try to do it their way; the subtle differences may help you gain a deeper understanding of the movement.


5- Do not judge or reject anything

-     You do not have enough knowledge or mastery to be able to properly judge a technique or philosophy.

-     People often quote Bruce Lee out of context: “Keep what is good, reject what is bad” is being said in the context where the practitioner gave the training an honest chance. Only after he has assimilated and understood the movements and principles, can he make an educated decision on what to keep working and what to dismiss.

-     Some attacks, blocks or tactics may seem strange and impractical but give it an honest try. If you judge the technique and reject it based on your intellectual understanding, you will be missing important aspects of the art. It takes years of dedicated training for the principles to be clearly understood

-     The first time you learned martial arts, you listened, worked hard were humble enough to acknowledge that you didn’t know anything. Keep that mindset you  start at a new school.

Photograph by Tuan --
Someday, you will understand the wisdom of what is being taught to you
Photo courtesy of Tuan

6- Don’t be better than anyone else

-     There will be aspects where you are stronger than the students there and aspects where you will be weaker. When training at the new school, forget the areas you are stronger and focus on your strengthening your weaknesses.

-     Look at it this way: If you are better than the students there, they will learn from you. If they are better than they are, YOU will learn from them.

-     You have nothing to gain from showing off. If people perceive you as arrogant and unpleasant, they may not want to teach or correct you if when you make incorrect movements.

-     People will you respect as a human being if you respect them, their art and ways.

Photograph by Tuan --
Overpowering others may be make you feel great but won't teach you anything new.
Photo coutesy of Tuan.

7- Get out of your comfort zone

-     Even in your strength, you may find weaknesses: If your strength during sparring is kicking, try to setup your kicks differently. Kick from angles which you are not comfortable with. Better yet, don’t use kicks!

-      Do the imposed exercises even if they don’t feel right. With time, you should grow accustomed to it.

-      You cannot strengthen your weaknesses if you never get out of your comfort zone.


8- Follow the path created by the school

-     Do not try to impose anything on the school. The minute you signed up and walked in that school, you morally accepted to submit to their teachings, their rules, their ways. If you cannot follow their rules for any reasons, then you should find another more suitable school.

-     Try to progress at the pace you school designs its classes. Don’t try to skip steps so that you can directly do the fun stuff.


9- Refrain from telling people your training experience

-     It is best not to divulge your martial arts experience, unless you want to be part of endless comparison between your new and old school. 

-     You have emptied your cup anyways, so you have no past training to talk about.

-     Not talking about your past experiences will also help keep your pride, vanity and arrogance in check.

-     Also, revealing yourself may invite hotheads in your new class to come and test their skills against you. This kind of situation makes it hard to avoid being better than other people and to stay humble.

Photograph by Tuan --
They may kick your ass, which does make it easier to stay humble.
Photo coutesy of Tuan.

10- Stay at that school for at least a year

-     Stay long enough to assimilate the basic mindset of the school.

-     Once you have a deeper understanding of what the school has to offer, you must review your objectives and analyse if that school is still suited for your needs.

-     Now that people are more familiar with you, you may slowly play around and test your skills against people. Keep in mind that courtesy and humility are still recommended.

-     If after one year, even after giving your most honest effort, you still don’t see how the schools teaching helps your personal development, then perhaps, it is time to look for a new school… or a new attitude.




To see more of Tuan's work, please visit: or

To see more of psycho-poetry's work, please visit:



Last Updated on Sunday, 27 June 2010 07:09  

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