When I first got back on the mat after taking a long sabbatical I was powering through not only learning new material but re-learning old material.
I was taking privates and attending group classes to play catch up. I began to not only climb the ranks but also began teaching and running classes for my Sifu. It was riveting and exciting to chart my growth in almost every aspect of my life and it was all because of Martial Arts.
I received my blue belt...
I fought through my green belt...
I trudged through my 3rd brown only to breeze through my 2nd brown…
And then it hit me.
It hit me hard.
At some point in the study of my 1st brown and when I was so close to achieving black belt, the number one killer of Martial Arts careers hit me.
The Plateau Effect
Many of us have heard people use the phrase “you’ve hit a plateau.” This correlates to the Plateau effect. The Urban Dictionary describes the phrase as a reaching point where gradual progress is no longer possible and stagnation is likely, where advancement can only be achieved by a sudden, difficult and possibly risky leap up to the next level.
I found myself in a situation where when judging my own progress, there seemed to be little or none. Worse of all was this feeling of deficiency and even inadequacy. It was beginning to consume not only my training by my attitude of the dojo.
I began to dread going to the dojo whether it was to train or run class. Fearing the idea of having to talk to anyone because I just couldn’t muster the previous enthusiasm I once had. My dojo was once considered a home and it was now nothing more than work.
Terrifyingly enough there are many students as well as instructors that can suffer from the Plateau Effect.
I immediately contacted my friend Andrea Harkins. Mrs. Harkins is a 2nd Degree Black in Tang Soo Do, a 2nd Degree Black in Taekwondo and an active Tai Chi Student. Apart from her impressive Martial Arts resume, she is also a fellow writer and motivational speaker.
Mrs. Andrea Harkins a.k.a The Martial Arts Woman
Mrs. Harkins explained how her Martial arts and speaking work together,
“I use martial arts as the basis for all of my motivational talks, as well as what I share on Facebook and social media. I found that most people have an interest in martial arts and that even non-martial artists enjoy hearing how the martial art mindset works in real life.”
Andrea is so inspiring that she recently had a book published titled “The Martial Arts Woman”.
The book features over 25 female martial artists and their stories of overcoming obstacles in Martial arts.
“My overall mission has always been to make the world a better place through both positivity and martial arts. It is an empowering blend that you do not normally see.”
Andrea believes every student will reach a plateau at some time or another but there is never really a precise time it will strike and what can cause a plateau may vary amongst students and instructors. One day, you show up to class and think...
“I don’t want to be here.”
“A plateau often happens in a belted system somewhere between the middle colored belts and black belt. The training gets more difficult. The student either does or does not want to put forth the effort. The plateau is created because they do not have the time, energy, or desire to push through.”
Whatever the cause or time frame the side effects are the same.
-Stop coming to class
-Do not give 100% effort in class
-Don’t ask questions or seem concerned
-Issues in personal life
-A change in demeanor
-Seeking training elsewhere
Each student is an individual and can have different reactions to hitting a plateau. My Sifu constantly reminds us,
“that each person’s head is a different world.”
Mrs. Harkins with a few of her students.
Jesalyn Mae Harper
Hello my name is Jesalyn. I'm a divorced single mom and a karate addict...