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Reaching the Peak: Advice from Our Authors

March 30, 2010

This time of year, people may up their training levels for a myriad of reasons, from sculpting that bathing suit body in time for summer to preparing for an upcoming fight. But what do you do when you begin to feel that you’ve hit a wall in your training sessions? We asked a few of our authors to weigh in on a pretty common challenge that many martial artists face at some point in their training: the plateau. How do you move past a fitness and/or training plateau? What causes plateaus? Starting today and continuing each week in April, one of our authors will offer insights and advice to help readers not only push through plateaus, but recognize what can be learned from the experience.

Mary Stein, author of The Gift of Danger: Lessons from Aikido says:

“Plateaus, flat and dry as they seem, are an unavoidable and even essential part of the  learning process, in the same way that prairies are important to the earth. It can be  helpful to realize that. Knowing that they play a necessary role casts a different light on the  times when we seem to be spinning our wheels out in the flatland.

My push to get beyond the plateau, to make “progress,” may be revealed as part of the problem,  causing  an underlying physical-emotional tension that shows up in my training. Here I have been thinking I have to go “up,” or “forward,” when to my amazement the most useful thing I can do is to return to the basics, the primary and vital truths of my training.  As I practice aikido, that return brings me back to the importance of watching over my posture. Is my head riding on top of my spine? Are my shoulders relaxed? Is my chest open, expanded? Am I breathing normally? Am I centered in the pelvic area? It is so simple, but coming back to that can make a real difference.”


Mary Stein holds a black belt in Aikido and has taught and studied the art for 25 years. She is an associate editor at Far West Editions in San Francisco, and her poems and articles have appeared in various journals. She lives in San Francisco, CA.

The Gift of Danger is both a striking story of personal growth and a potent argument for aikido as a model for human behavior. We follow the author as she stands, tentative but determined, on the razor’s edge between knowing and not knowing, judgment and impartiality—the only place where real growth can occur.

How do you push through plateaus? Share your personal experiences in our comments section of this post, and you could win a set of free books from Blue Snake Books!

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