My space is small. I get it. 660 odd square feet isn't much of a training area. In that area there are 6 wooden columns holding up the handmade wooden ceiling beams from 1910. So less than 660 square feet, really. Oh, and no mats on the floor. Just badly-painted hardwood.
Is that a complaint? Not really. I started training in a space just about the same size, only with a concrete floor. Hard and cold. I trained Jeet Kune Do, Filipino Kali, and Muay Thai in that room. We were even barefoot most of the time. Oh and let's not forget KFM, Keysi Fighting Method, which was outside on the pavement. Better bring your knee pads. Training done intelligently will still let you move with intensity but also take care of yourself and your partner. Like pads in football, it didn't make the game safer...it only let the player rely on pads for their safety and throw caution to the wind. They still get hurt and they still retire young.
So what do I like about our small space? Well, it keeps class size small. I know, probably not the most business-savvy statement. I should want packed out classes, but I don't. The smaller class allows me to instruct much closer, focusing on my students' particular hurdles, needs, and questions. If I have a large class and one student is struggling, should I hold a class of 30 back while we wait on him or her to get it? Should I leave the one student behind because everyone else gets it? The answer to both is no. Not in a classroom setting. Everyone is there to learn. Everyone is paying to be there. So what do you do then? For me the answer is smaller class sizes. In a room of ten or less, now we can have a meaningful discussion. Every class is like a mini private group lesson.
What about the columns? Do they interfere? Not in the least. Look at FMA instructors in the Philippines. They train in shorts and flip flops in the street or in the backyard. KFM trains in elevators and boardrooms and cars. Fights take place in the real world, and the real world is full of stuff. A fully stocked school is a luxury, but not a necessity. You train with what you have. The only thing that all the trimmings offer is that people are more inclined to think a person is competent. But we all know that that's not always the case.
Why train small? It's the attention to detail. Martial Arts is a study of inches. When you're up close and personal you have to be spot on. When you're surrounded by columns you have to be aware of your movements. When the floor is hard you have to engage the ground with intelligence. Training in my small space makes me a better martial artist.
Sifu David Mitchell
Horizon Training Center
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