5 Rules To Stay Motivated In Your Training

Okay, it’s time to get real for a minute. As martial artists, we have all hit roadblocks and either fallen out of practicing for a while or, at the very least, considered giving up for one reason or another. Sometimes we feel like moving on. Sometimes we get scared because something happened, like a major injury. Sometimes we just need a little inspiration when we’ve hit a wall or have had some rough nights at practice or the gym.

Allow me to take a moment to impart some thoughts that I hope will help accomplish that for you because we as martial artists are something of a unique family, and it’s always sad to see a fellow practitioner fall out and give up. Here are some rules I think are good to keep in mind when you hit those rough patches.

Fair warning – I get more emotional as this article moves on. There’s some colorful language (not a lot, but be aware) as I get to the parts that mean the most to me. It’ll be okay, I promise. With that said, these are the things to remember:

1. Begin With the End In Mind

If you’ve ever heard of Stephen Covey, author of the famous 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, you may have heard this expression. It is helpful to determine what it is you want and how to get there and fully internalize it.

I don’t mean just seeing it in your head or even feeling it in your heart. I mean truly internalizing what your end result looks like and accepting that it’s already arrived. All you’re doing at this point is going through the motions that it takes to achieve those results. If you’ve convinced yourself that you are what you want to be, then the “doing” becomes automatic, like a continuation of what you’ve always done.

Does that mean it doesn’t become difficult to stay motivated, even though you’re just goning through the motions? Of course not! Things (and people) get in the way constantly! But that brings us to point number 2…

2. Prioritize What’s Truly Important

There always seem to be people and other distractions that keep us from achieving what is important to us, and that’ perfectly normal. It’s funny how we let things derail us when we’re having trouble becoming successful in the things we set out to do.

The sad part is that we as people care what others think about us. Okay, so that’s not totally fair; we should care to some extent. I mean, if we don’t care at all, then what is our incentive to improve things like how we serve others? If we don’t care at all, then we’ll need no reason to find a way to innovate and be successful. We have to care to some degree.

BUT we care about the wrong things, like what people think about our desire to better ourselves because it makes them feel bad. Waaaaaaaaahhh!!!!! Guess what? It doesn’t matter. If other people don’t like that you try harder than they do, that’s their problem, not yours.

The whiny social justice warriors who hate rich, successful people – the vast majority of whom tried to figure out what people need and how to provide it better than others and spent hours on end for years to get there – don’t want you to know that it’s just because they’re not willing to do the same. The fat ass who gripes about the hottie who counts her calories and spends 6-8 hours a week in the gym isn’t doing herself or anyone else any favors.

And the guy in your school who’s still only halfway through the ranks 4 years in hates your second degree black belt over the same period of time should be following YOUR example of busting it for hours on end and learning how to correct every mistake, not the other way around.

Instead of priorotizing how accepted you are, prioritize what’s truly important. Those people will be out of your life soon enough and it won’t matter anymore. But you’ll still be left with either a) your drive and effort to succeed or b) your dreams about what you gave up because you were too damn worried about the wrong things.

But what if I mess up and people laugh at me?! Well, that’s easy.

3. Laugh Along With Them. Failure Is An Opportunity To Learn and Improve.

My dad and I debate about this one, which is tough because my dad is one of the people I respect the most in the world, and my philosophies come directly from him. I dare say, though, that when the thought is framed the right way, he does certainly agree.


You know, while I’m at it, I’m going to shamelessly plug his book, Naked Thinking, because the right mindset is the cornerstone of success. And his book sums up all of the years of teaching he has given me, which has led me to be able to learn to speak 3 languages, play guitar in front of thousands, build a successful wealth management practice, publish an amazing website, and advance well ahead of my peers in 4 different martial arts.

Okay, so moving on… 🙂

We only debate over whether or not failure is a good thing. His thought is that if you can learn without failure along the way, then it’s better. Okay, so that’s hard to argue, especially when you consider that failure is often defined as giving up and not continuing on.

However, the reality is that we DO fail from time to time, and since that’s the case, we’d might as well use it to our advantage. I’m personally defining failure in a more single-incident sense, so for example, you attempt a jump-back spinning heel kick for the first time and land on your ass instead of hitting your target. That would be a failure for this argument.

Thing is, failure is how we know where we stand. Without failure in this sense, we get good, but we tend to rest on our laurels because we don’t know any better. We don’t try harder. One of the things dad always liked to say is that “man’s greatest obstacle to being truly great… is being very good”, and it’s 100% true.

One of the biggest problems with this mindset is that we think we’re better than we are, and our ego gets in the way. Then, when we DO eventually mess up, it makes us question whether we’re any good at all! We beat ourselves up, and often, we become depressed, which makes it harder to just get out there and keep doing what we know we should be doing. Sometimes it becomes just another excuse to give up altogether!

4. Stop Making Excuses and Finding Reasons Why You Can’t – THAT’S the Main Reason Why You Can’t

This one’s easy. Just kidding! We have a propensity to be lazy. We just do. My wife would probably tell you I don’t, but that’s BS. I constantly find excuses to get out of work. But you know what? Well, I’ll tell you what during the next (and last) point, so just keep reading.

There’s always something in the way. We don’t have time. We don’t have the energy (although if you would eat right and hit the fucking gym every once in a while, you’d have more energy). We have too much other stuff to do. Whatever.

BULLSHIT!!! Quit making excuses and make time instead. If you want it, you make it happen. Ever notice how when you are always broke but have to come up with rent before your roommate kicks you out, you seem to be able to come up with the money? Or even better – when you want to buy that thing you’ve had your eye on, you seem to be able to make it happen? Yeah, it’s all about priorities (see point #2).

So stop making excuses and just get off your ass and freaking do it.

5. Just DO It

What more can I say? In the end, it’s a choice of whether or not you do it. When times are tough, suck it up and just do it.

What if I look bad? Shut up and just do it.

What if people laugh at me? Shut up and just do it.

But I’m tired! Shut up and just do it.

But it’s HARD!!! Kiss my ass. Just do it.

But it hurts when I fall or get hit! Really? You’re a pansy. Just do it.

I don’t have time! Shut up and make the time. And then do it.

I don’t care what excuses you have, I’ve already covered that. If you want to be a successful martial artist, guitarist, financial advisor, singer, dancer, teacher, doctor, or anything else, shut the fuck up and just do it. As my good friend and ninjutsu teacher would say, you’ll have plenty of time to whine and cry about it when you’re dead. In the meantime, get moving. You have a lot of work to do, so go out there and just do it.


What are your thoughts?  Do you have any rules or reminders to stay motivated and keep pushing?  Please comment below!


I referenced a couple of books.  Here they are (if you click ’em, you can get ’em cheap):


I'm Steve D'Agostino, founder of Martial Arts Weapons and Training. Thanks for visiting and reading my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • Rose

    My son is going on 14 now and he has been learning martial arts since he was about 10. At first as a kid he hated it,,, his coach was tough,,, he had trained hard and he complained every time he went. But now as a teenager, he loves it,, and he is so glad we made him go as a kid. He is starting to learn the weapons except I won’t let him practice in the house as I have too many other little kids around.
    He is really good at self-motivating himself now and he’ll probably go more when he can afford the extra lessons.

    Do you think it’s important to get your qualifications in this fields…, like all the belts etc???

    • http://martialartsweaponstraining.com/ Steve D’Agostino

      That’s fantastic, Rose! I’m glad he’s found a way to keep himself motivated, even when his teacher has been tough. Sometimes that can be hard, but it makes us stronger (if he’s mean, that’s different, but in that case, I would try other schools before quitting martial arts altogether). I don’t blame you for not wanting him to practice his weapons training inside, either!

      As far as getting belts and qualifications in any given system, it’s up to the individual. I have practiced several different systems, and there was one in particular I had no real interest in continuing because it was all sport and not really practical in the real world. The kung fu school where I spent the most time didn’t even have a belt system. So belts in and of themselves are not what matters. What is learned and carried on is what is truly important.

  • Derek

    I love the post! I believe that these 5 rules are absolutely ESSENTIAL to conquer your goal with the right mindset. There will inevitably be hardships and obstacles along any journey, but remembering these tips will help the journey be way more effective and smooth.

    My favorite rules were “begin with the end in mind” and “stop making excuses and finding reasons why you can’t”. It is invaluable to visualize yourself having what you want and to live life as if you already succeeded.

    In addition, it is also vital to tell yourself that you can do it instead of giving yourself reasons why you can’t. It’s important to know that excuses contradict success completely.

    Awesome advice! Thanks a ton!

    • http://martialartsweaponstraining.com/ Steve D’Agostino

      Thanks, Derek! You know, while these rules aren’t new or my own creation, I (obviously) think you’re absolutely right. Hardships and obstacles WILL come, and whether or not you’re successful depends entirely on what you do in response.

      Failure is a state of mind, and while we can’t control what comes our way, we can totally control ourselves. Keep the right mindset, and you can do amazing things!

  • Jimmy

    This is exactly what I needed to stay on track. Sometimes I tend to lose momentum and stay off but this is a reign check off to stay on and I am glad I found your article.

    Prioritize what is truly important which is your second point is something every serious person should adopt in their day to day lives. This will help you get more things done and faster.

    Lovely piece Steve.

    • http://martialartsweaponstraining.com/ Steve D’Agostino

      Yep, honestly, I think I wrote this post for myself as much as anyone else! I get frustrated and fall victim to the same de-motivators as everyone else, and sometimes I feel like giving up, too.

      It’s funny how “haters” can bring us down when we start to become successful, but if we recognize that those people aren’t important when it comes to what we are trying to accomplish, we can focus on the things at hand and make awesome things happen.

      Thank you, Jimmy!

  • http://progressivecallisthenics.com Paul

    Hey Steve,
    This is a really great piece.
    You make five very good points that are true of any endeavour in life, I especially like the last one,
    Just do it.!
    I’m always guilty of just not taking action when that’s all that’s needed.
    I shall be referring back to this site in future .
    Good stuff.

    • http://martialartsweaponstraining.com/ Steve

      I’m really glad you liked the post, Paul. You’re right that most of us fall short of our goals simply because we don’t just take action. I thought this was an important point because even though this post was supposed to be about keeping motivated, sometimes we’re just not going to feel motivated and can’t going to change that, at least not in the moment. When that happens, we just have to power through and do it, anyway. Thanks for your comments!

  • http://susanmacneil.org Susan MacNeil

    I really enjoyed visiting your website. You, obviously, are very knowledgeable and passionate about this topic.
    I like the layout of your site. Your layout made it easy for me to move from one section to another and to gradually build up some knowledge into martial arts.
    The knives will be of great interest to my grandsons!!!
    I am going to share your site with them so they can get a feel for this form of exercise and mental training.
    (The knives will be my “lure”.)
    I commend you for being so involved with your children and teaching them about your passion.
    The fact that you reference your Dad’s work, just makes this site and you as a person so likeable!
    Thank you for sharing your talent, passion and knowledge.
    What age would you recommend a child should begin studying martial arts?

    • http://martialartsweaponstraining.com/ Steve

      Wow, such kind words! Tell you what – if you’re going to use the knives as a “lure” for your grandsons, I’ll post a video on some basic knife fighting techniques (might be someone else since I haven’t created one of my own to date). That’ll give them some good ideas for getting started. 🙂
      As far as age is concerned, it depends on the kid. My son started at 8, but we have a few kids at our school who are 6. Younger than that is kind of pushing it for most. I would say that as soon as they have shown an ability to follow direction and stay on task for maybe an hour to an hour and a half, they are ready to at least give it a shot.
      Thanks again for your comments, Susan. You’ve made my day!

  • marquis

    Truly an amazing article that I already bookmarked to read again. Literally 5 mins before finding your article I was just thinking about this upon reading your article the very first rule stuck out to me because my end goal is to become a better person and martial artist with each passing day and also, you saying that “if you convince yourself that you are what you want to be the doing becomes automatic” really moved me I will now be going to the gym tomorrow thanks to you look forward to reading more of your stuff.

  • Marquis

    Truly an amazing article that I already bookmarked to read again. Literally 5 mins before finding your article I was just thinking about this upon reading your article the very first rule stuck out to me because my end goal is to become a better person and martial artist with each passing day and also, you saying that “if you convince yourself that you are what you want to be the doing becomes automatic” really moved me I will now be going to the gym tomorrow thanks to you look forward to reading more of your stuff.

    • kungfuninja

      Awesome! It means so much that someone could me moved to, well, move by my words. 🙂
      I’m so glad that you enjoyed the post, and I hope you continue to work hard and be the best martial artist you can be!