I’ve always had a fascination with the martial arts. Maybe it was growing up watching characters like Storm Shadow on G.I. Joe and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but whatever it is, I have found myself drawn to the mindset and discipline they use to turn normal people into something special.

Last week I started reading a book called Living the Martial Way by Forrest Morgan and in it he does a great job of breaking down the common principles and practices that all martial arts have used to help develop “warriors”.

It reminds me a lot of the book Natural Born Heroes in how it reminds us that society used to depend on the mental and physical health of its citizens and had systematic ways to create “warriors” and “heroes”.

In other words, while some warriors and heroes are born most are created by their own will and determination.Musha_Shugyo

And this leads us to a concept that the Japanese refer to as shugyo. It translates to “austere training” or “determined training that fosters enlightenment” and it usually signifies something that pushes you past your normal comfort zone and helps you discover new limits in your training.

Think about the scenes from the martial arts movies where the master is taking the student through a workout or experience that pushes them to the point of breaking so they can see their own true potential.

These grueling sessions forged bodies and minds that wouldn’t quit.

However, as important as shugyo is in the martial arts, they also knew that they needed to balance it with a lot of “normal” training. No one was trying to complete shugyo every day and a lot of boring basics went in to build the foundation needed to complete those harder training sessions.

So while the shugyo training sessions get the montages in the movies, it is the hours of easy to moderate training on the basics that allows true shugyo in the first place. Finding the right balance is the ultimate goal of a martial artist’s training program.

And while we may not be martial artists, I know that we can get a lot from applying this mindset to our mountain bike riding and training as well.

While hard training sessions that push us to the limit help us find new limits, using them too much will actually start to shrink those limits.

In other words, going out and hammering as hard as you can every time you ride isn’t “training”. Neither is trying to hammer yourself every time you train in the gym.

The bulk of your training should be made up of easy to moderate training sessions that focus on the basics. In fact, I’d say that as much as 80-90% of your training should be in that zone.

Only a small amount of your time should be spent trying to use shugyo to help you find new mental and physical limits.

That’s why I recommend in the Ultimate MTB Workout Program that you cycle the intensity of each ride and training week. You can’t train at 100% all of the time and trying to do so will only get you burned out and hurt.

So don’t fall for the mindset that is so prevalent in today’s training culture. While they pursue false shugyo in hope that it will be a shortcut to their goals, focus on the basics that are the real path to success and use shugyo sparingly.

And be sure to check out the Living the Martial Way if you’re looking for a new book to read, it has a lot of great insights from that you can apply to your training and everyday life as well.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

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