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Student burnout


For numerous reasons, martial art classes have a reputation for a high student dropout rate.

Why do they drop out?

Often student dropout is the fault of the instructor for not responding to the individual needs of the students. Sometimes it is the fault of the students having an unrealistic view of what martial arts training is all about. But what about those students who are progressing well, training hard, and then, suddenly, they just disappear. These are the students who are usually victims of "overtraining burnout."

Overtraining burnout

Overtraining can take many forms such as training extra hard for an upcoming belt exam or a tournament. Some students seem to eat, sleep, and live martial arts training. However, constant heavy training can stress the mind and body to the point of injury, illness, or mental exhaustion. This, in turn, can result in long layoffs, setbacks in training, and ultimately depression and their dropping out of training.

Symptoms of overtraining may be physical fatigue, mental fatigue, recurring muscle strains, weight loss, increase in blood pressure, frustration, depression, or a marked lack of progress despite constant, hard training. If instructors or the students themselves do not recognize these as symptoms of overtraining, the students will often think they are not training enough and will increase their training to reverse the symptoms, which increases the deleterious effects.

Two things instructors can do to avoid overtraining burnout in students are:
  • Teaching them how to recognize and to avoid the problem.
  • Teaching them patience and the idea that training is a lifelong pursuit.

To help students avoid overtraining, instructors should teach them to allow time for both physical and mental rebuilding between workouts. Teach them to read their bodies so that they can effectively vary their training intensity, duration, and frequency to meet the other demands of life.

To help them mentally, instructors should teach them how to find other interests to occupy their minds and allow them to rest. This other interest may involve some other aspect of the martial arts that do not involve training, such as research and writing about the martial arts.

Training is a means to an end, but an end that can never be attained; training is a lifetime endeavor. Attaining a black belt is not the end, attaining a ninth-degree black belt is not the end. The end comes when we die and stop training.

What is a normal training level for a 20-year-old may be overtraining for a 50-year-old? Students must learn to pace themselves for a lifetime of training.

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