This week I tried something I’ve never done before. Prompted by a friend I registered for a Krav Maga class in Itaewon. In case you haven’t heard about Krav Maga, it’s a self-defense technique originally developed by the Israeli army to be used in combat. It’s now gaining traction worldwide and is being praised for its simple and intuitive approach.
We started with a light cardio warm-up followed by pairing up and taking turns at dealing blows and blocking them. For a beginner, this was actually quite challenging. It’s been two days and I’m still hurting in my shoulders, to say nothing of my underarms that seem quite bruised from repeatedly practicing how to block an attacker by blocking his wrist with mine.
The instructor told us that as newbies, we would naturally miss some of the hits, and we would probably experience slight bruising afterward. “But we’re building muscle memory”, he added. This expression instantly had me thinking about language learning. For the three years that I’ve been studying Korean, I’ve also dedicated a substantial amount of time to learn how to learn. I usually follow a set of simple rules:
- Study regularly (to me that means every day)
- Practice speaking (even to yourself)
- Build vocabulary
In Krav Maga, we were advised to do something quite similar:
- Train regularly
- Develop muscle memory
- Build stamina
I instantly noticed the connection. Whether you’re learning martial arts or a language, you need to commit yourself to regular practice. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself constantly starting from scratch.
It also goes for both disciplines that muscle memory is crucial. If you’re attacked, you have no time to think about how to block the attack. Your defense should be a reflex, and reflexes are only developed through practice. The same goes for speaking a foreign language. You have to practice the pronunciation and tell yourself that your muscles in your face need to adjust to the new words and sounds. With time, it will become just as natural as speaking your native language.
Finally, you need to build stamina. In combat, this means being able to fight to the point where you’re the last man standing. In language learning, you’re only able to keep talking for a long time if you build your vocabulary. Building stamina in both situations may seem repetitive and tedious, but this is truly the discipline that will make you stronger.
So no matter if you’re practicing Krav Maga or learning Korean, you’ll eventually make mistakes and you will get bruised. Just dust it off, move on and continue to grow in body and mind! – Fighting!! 화이팅!