The Five C’s to Reaching your Full Potential as a Martial Artist







Your goal as a martial artist should be to become the best you are capable of becoming. Why would you want to settle for something less than your best?  The martial arts provide tools to get you on the right path to excellence, but most of what happens on your path has to do with YOU.  Your instructor(s) play a vital role on your journey, but you must put in your work as well. This is where the five C’s come in.  It is your duty and responsibility to do what needs to be done to become the best martial artist you can be. In order for that to happen you must have and maintain all five of these:



Are you committed to your training?  Just showing up to class twice per week does not mean you are committed.  You could just be going through the motions. There is a saying that goes, “don’t mistake activity for achievement.” Just because you are being active doesn’t mean you are achieving anything.  You must be completely focused and need to set short term and long term goals for yourself and practice daily.  Don’t fool yourself. Have high expectations for yourself, work hard and enjoy the payoff. If you aren’t committed you won’t become the black belt you could become. By commitment I mean practice each day by working on becoming better than you were yesterday. While doing that stay knowledge and skill focused, not belt focused. Also, be sure to read to get more mentally skilled when you are not becoming physically skilled. This includes books, magazines, or internet.  The more you read, the more knowledgeable you become. Also, show your instructor that you are committed by asking questions. The smartest people in the world are the one’s who asked the most questions. If you are fully committed you will NEVER GIVE UP no matter how difficult things become. Also, be sure to invest in private lessons with your instructor to get the most out of your training.



This is another important principle that must be applied to continue to progress.  You have to be consistent with your training. If you are not training on a regular basis (every week) you will not get the results you could be getting if you were consistent.  When I say consistent, I mean in a positive way. You could be consistently not working hard enough, or consistently doing things incorrectly ingraining bad habits. That is where your instructor comes in. The instructor should be teaching you how to do things correctly and then you can consistently practice correctly. Stay consistent by disciplining yourself to show up to classes every week and training at home as well.



You have to have a teachable spirit, a humble attitude, and an open mind.  In other words, you have to be teachable. Instructors love eager students who are always looking to improve themselves, take criticisms well, show respect and discipline, and focus on being the best students they can be.  Too often students tend to get a little too comfortable and think they know more than they do, or think they are better than they really are, or even think they know more than their instructor. Do not fall into that ego trap in your training. If you do, you will never become the martial artist you are capable of. Stay humble, and never disrespect your teachers. Also, stay focused on you. Do not focus on pointing out other student’s flaws. You have plenty of your own you could be working on, so focus your energy on that. It is your journey, so what your fellow classmates are doing has nothing to do with your progress. Remember that knowledge and skill override belt rank.



When training with a partner it is important to exercise control so that you don’t hurt anybody. Some martial arts styles don’t practice much contact and are more form (kata) oriented, while others require some contact sparring and contact partner drills. American Kenpo is a physical system of martial arts, which is what I teach. We do what are called technique lines and other physical partner drills where you have to make contact with your partner. That is totally fine, but you must use control. You will hit with some force, but you will not injure the person. Anybody can hit as hard as they can, but only good martial artists can go full speed without using full power. No matter what style of martial arts you practice always maintain proper control.  You must also have self-control, controlling your emotions and handling life’s struggles in a mature manner.



You must try to get yourself in the best physical and mental shape as possible.  The better shape you are in the better your health will be.  Health and fitness are the number one priority in your martial arts training. If you are not taking care of yourself, what is the point in learning self-defense? You are already kicking your own butt so you don’t need to worry about anybody else kicking it.  Work to get in the best shape you can by trying your absolute best during fitness/cardio and muscular endurance drills during your classes. Don’t slack off. Push yourself every class. You should also be training on your own and doing roadwork (jogging, sprinting, shadowboxing, hitting heavybags, etc.).


If you have these five C’s you are on the right path to excellence. If you do not have all of these, I suggest working on them.  The journey of a martial artist is a journey of self-discovery and mastery.  Work hard and reap the wonderful benefits along the way. There will be roadblocks throughout your path, but you can and will get through them. Never give up. It’s okay to fail. It’s not okay to quit. Some of life’s best lessons are through failure. They are stepping stones to success. Enjoy your journey.


About the Author:

Michael Miller is an international self-defense, personal protection, and anti-bullying expert who holds a 5th degree black belt in American Kenpo – a modern reality based street system of combat. He is the co-founder of the “Stomp the Bullying” program, where he takes an active approach to teaching children and parents all about bullying, how not to be a bully, how not to become a target, how to handle bullying situations, and more. The program is becoming world recognized with celebrity endorsements from actors Martin Kove (Sensei John Kreese in the Karate Kid Series) and Sean Kanan (Karate’s bad boy Mike Barnes in the Karate Kid III). Miller runs a full-time martial arts school in Bradford, Pa (Miller’s Kenpo Karate Dojo) and teaches American Kenpo, boxing, kickboxing, Joe Lewis Fighting Systems, Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu, and Modern Arnis. He is also a writer who has been featured in Inside Kung-fu and Black Belt magazines several times as an authority in his field and is the author of the Legends of Kenpo biography series. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pittsburgh in writing with a minor in sociology. He can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 814-368-3725.