It is not easy to be a martial art student and live far away from your instructor. This much I know from personal experience. Beyond that I am not sure I am qualified to offer advice to others on this subject. I will share what I have found to be helpful, and perhaps I will also end up giving some advice that I will find helpful.
1. Keep Practicing
It seems simple and obvious, but this is also one thing I struggle with. Yes, doing the same things over and over, even without someone around to look at what you are doing and critique you, is still better than not doing it at all. For me this ties in to a time management issue (see Master Pearson’s blog post on this subject here. If you can set a time to practice every day, or every other day, or if you have to work around a varying schedule, make sure to fit in some practice- even if it can’t be a big chunk of time. I am most successful at this if I just start moving as soon as I think of it, rather than stopping to think about if this is a good time for it or not.
2. Practice Forms
This is what forms were created for- the one person forms, at least. To give a student practice perfecting his/ her moves without the benefit of a partner. I find it really amazing the wealth of information about technique that can be continually gleaned from every form that I practice. Make sure you know what it is each technique is designed to do so that you can practice it to the best of your ability, and really visualize carrying out each move on an opponent (or crash test dummy. Thanks to Ms. Quandt for that image).
3. Find people to work with
If there are other students in your area you can practice with, that is optimal. Some things really don’t work as well practiced on your own, throws and joint locks for example. If there aren’t other students from your martial art school in your area, you may have friends who happen to take other martial arts who would be happy to work with you. Or you may have friends who are interested, that you could show a few things, like breakfalls and joint locks, and then have someone to work with.
4. Long Distance Information/ Write things down
If your school has a manual, this can be a great help. Similarly a website can be an important tool, if your art has information online. I believe that one of the strengths of Shin Ho Kwan is the amount of information made available, both in manuals as well as on the website. Writing down what you learn when you are able to go to classes with your instructors can also be helpful later, in addition to or in lieu of a manual. It may seem at the time that you will remember all the new moves you are learning, but it can be quite a different story trying to remember them all a week or two later, after you have gone back to your life- as- usual. At least this has been my experience.
5. Go to classes as much as possible
This may also seem obvious, but it can become easy, when you are entrenched in your life in your home environment to think that it is too hard to make the trip to take a class. There have been times in my life when I would drive two hours (each way) to go to a one hour class. I distinctly remember thinking to myself, as I started driving, “what are you doing? Are you crazy? Is this really worth doing?” But every time, when I got to go to that class and learn new things and work on my art, I would know that it really was worthwhile.
6. Look for opportunities to practice
There may be drills and routines that you can duplicate in your own setting, in your own way. Some things don’t need a lot of props. Tae kwon do students can always find opportunities to try kicking things (this reminds me of Master Shaffer’s post, Top 10 Ways You Know You’re a Martial Artist. Roll on the ground in the park. People may think you’re cool, or just crazy, or you may find yourself a new person to work with!
In other words- Keep Practicing!