I always say that the mat is a microcosm of our society. People bring their personalities to the mat, and they express them loudly, without words, but with their bodies. I’ve identified three distinct approaches to training, and I’d like to share those insights in this article.

Students’ approaches can vary as widely as their goals and personalities. On one end of the spectrum, we have students who understand the power of consistency, believing that steady, disciplined practice is the golden path to long-lasting results. These students often build their progress on a healthy routine, understanding that small, incremental improvements help them learn faster.

Transitioning from the value of consistency, we look at the other end of the spectrum. Here, we find those who chase intensity with a passion, convinced that pushing their limits in each session is the quickest route to success. They thrive on the adrenaline and rapid advancements that come from such an all-in approach. If I teach a class that is more technical and less intense, I often hear from such students that they wish I would allow them to go faster and use more strength.

This contrast highlights the diverse strategies students adopt, each believing in a different path to achievement.

As we consider these two approaches, there’s also a third group of students. These students wander without a clear plan, often lured by the initial excitement of starting something new without a specific goal. Typically, these students start training because they seek a quick fix, not a change in lifestyle. Unfortunately, they often find themselves overwhelmed or uninterested, leading to a quick exit from their training journey. To those I say, if you don’t know where you are going, how would you have arrived?

Without direction, progress is hard to measure, and motivation quickly wanes.

Now with these approaches laid out, let’s explore the balance between them.

Consistency depends on discipline, not on mode. Maintaining a steady, regular approach to something over time is more about personal discipline than trying to get good results as fast as possible. The way to meet your goals matters just as much as the goal itself. Consistency is formed with habits and routines that are cultivated through disciplined practice rather than constantly changing tactics or strategies.

Intensity depends on motivation, and as the old saying goes, “easy comes, easy goes.” I have witnessed this phenomenon more times than I can count – people come to the gym, asking to train 4-5 times a week and work harder than anyone else, but often their bodies aren’t ready for such training, leading to injuries during warm-ups or while attempting to hit too hard. Often enough, a small setback is enough to drive them off the mat forever. From this observation, my conclusion is that “boot camp” style training is not suitable for everyone. Although it may seem appealing and cool, what yields better results is a slow and steady approach.

Delving deeper into the nuances of training, intensity is undoubtedly an important element, but it is not conducive to quickly seeking permanent changes. Long-lasting lessons are learned slowly because learning requires attention and retention in memory. Our brains are capable of changing and adapting to almost anything, but rebuilding and strengthening those changes takes time.

When considering when one can truly benefit from intensity, achieving a goal under time pressure becomes crucial. The concept of “meeting a deadline” can propel students into the necessary physical and mental states to fulfill their objectives. This dynamic is shaped by both internal and external factors.

For instance, take athletes preparing for competitions. They often undergo intense training sessions before major competitions such as the Olympics, marathons, or world championships. This high-intensity training is designed to maximize their physical and mental performance, pushing their limits to achieve peak conditions at the right moment.

Another example is soldiers heading into boot camp or police cadets starting their training at the police academy. They are expected to immerse themselves in an intensely demanding regime for a set period. This process often necessitates a significant, rapid physical transformation, a shift in mindset, and often in lifestyle altogether. Knowing the rigorous demands and the profound changes they will undergo prepares them mentally, enabling them to harness the power of intensity to adapt quickly and effectively to their challenging environments. In these scenarios, intensity is essential, driving rapid learning and adaptation that long-term, gradual training may not achieve as effectively.

As we draw connections between different spheres of life, when people undergo a significant change in their professional lives—such as a promotion to a leadership position, a transition to a new career, or adapting to a new social or cultural environment—their success in these new roles depends significantly on their ability to adapt to new responsibilities and expectations. The environment plays a critical role in this process.

Reflecting on personal experiences, those who have experienced trauma can find “comfort” in intense physical training, which can offer a pathway to regain control over their lives. Krav Maga, for example, provides a structured environment that allows these students to channel their energy, build resilience, and foster a sense of empowerment and self-agency.

I have gone through this process with thousands of students, and the results were never too late to come for those who found the discipline to do the work required to heal. In many such cases, intensity as an approach to training serves as a great source of escape, using the energy of the overwhelming feelings as a catalyst to turn pain into growth.

As I grew older, I learned the fact that everyone has a story to tell and a battle to fight. That is why I care so much about what I do and HOW I do it.

The bottom line is that I believe that a blend of consistency and appropriate levels of intensity, wisely managed, will lead to the best outcomes. Consistency ensures steady progress and the embedding of good practices, while strategic bursts of intensity help accelerate progress at key moments. Ultimately, the principle that drives success in self-defense is the combination of intense preparation and safe, repetitive practice. This combination ensures that trainees are prepared to face challenges and are more likely to implement the change in their bodies and minds.

Between consistency and intensity, the route that will take you further depends on the context and goals. Consistency is often key to long-term success and skill building. It builds a strong foundation, ensures steady progress, and helps in the formation of habits that lead to the achievement of objectives over time.

So, here’s the takeaway: think of the old tale of the rabbit and the tortoise. Diving in headfirst without a clear direction is akin to the rabbit zipping off without a thought—fast but without focus, you’re likely to end up off track. And those gunning for all-out intensity from the get-go? They’re like the rabbit, too, sprinting ahead only to crash before the finish line. Now, the tortoise—that’s where the wisdom lies.

Slow and steady, with a consistent pace, wins the race every time. This approach isn’t just about avoiding burnout or injuries; it’s about building resilience, skill, and depth, step by step. In the grand scheme of things, adopting the tortoise’s mindset doesn’t just bring you across the finish line; it ensures you’re in good shape when you get there, ready for whatever comes next. That’s the kind of journey that not only leads to success but makes the whole adventure worth it.

Do something amazing,

Tsahi Shemesh
Founder & CEO
Krav Maga Experts

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