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The Secret To Becoming Successful In Martial Arts

How To Achieve Greatness

By Leon Gordon on 20.02.2020 04:29 pm


First of all, you’ve got to start! There’s no point in viewing from the side lines or thinking, “I want to do that” or “That looks cool. Why can’t I get involved?”. Get involved! The two most commonly asked questions are, “can I get a black belt?” and “how long will it take?”. To answer those questions, in reality, not everyone can obtain a black belt. It takes consistency, determination and willingness to learn and many people quit before they achieve the belt that they desire, whether that’s black or brown or even just an intermediate coloured belt. So, the first key to becoming successful is to start and keep going!

The key thing with anything in life, as well as karate, is you never stop learning. Even if you feel you’ve achieved greatness at a certain level you can always be taught something or learn something new or even polish up on techniques within your martial arts or expertise. Don’t try to jump ahead and speed through. This can mean you lose the focus on the skills and techniques needed to truly be great. So, although you are progressing quickly you will really be holding yourself back. Imagine a piece of rope, you’re pulling the rope one way because you’re trying to elevate yourself, but due to your lack of understanding it’s holding you back and you become lost in the translation.

In martial arts there tends to be a grading system and a certain order which we follow like ranks. In order to achieve success I do believe you need to follow all aspects of your particular martial art. It’s not all about fighting, kicking and punching, strangling, arm locks, leg locks etc. Some martial arts have forms, some martial arts have basic foundations for each ranking grade which you need to learn as it is a stepping stone for what is to come in the future providing you want to obtain what we are calling greatness here.

I started martial arts at 10 but it took me six years before I finally realized I needed to explore other aspects of my martial arts in order for me to grow as a person and as a martial artist. I was all about the fighting until I was made to practice and understand forms. Once I actually understood the forms for what they are and how they operate it aided my fighting which in turn actually allowed me to move more gracefully.

Apart from karate, I have widened my knowledge in the different types of martial arts. I have trained in judo for 10 years and fought for the Great Britain judo team for 4 years. I am also a 2-time world champion in karate, having also fought at competitions around the world representing Great Britain. These experiences have provided me with a well-rounded understanding of different martial arts, so I know first-hand what it takes to become successful.

There are other key areas in which I believe as a martial artist you would strive for greatness.

Stretching, flexibility and core stability

They all in turn aid one another as well and I believe using bodyweight exercises are most effective to achieve this.

Strength and conditioning

This area allows you to take blows and knocks without sustaining massive injuries and teaches your body how to absorb and deflect attacks as and when you need.

Speed and agility

If you have agility you are able to avoid and evade hazardous situations, combined with speed this allows you to manipulate a situation to best suit you.


An exercise can be done by two people; one with good technique and one with no technique. It is the same exercise but will only really be effective for one of them.

General fitness

It’s all well and good having all of the above but if your general fitness is below average this means you will not have the endurance to last.

This is only a glimpse into my mind and the way I think but it gives you an idea of what is needed to become successful in martial arts. For instance, when I focus and hone in on something I need to do this over and over again until it feels natural to me. Once it feels natural to me I then can turn and create this into my own, so I feel comfortable. Once I feel comfortable this means I can then execute said technique with precision. The one thing I would say that keeps you nimble and on your toes is something called adrenaline which never goes even at the top level. You can be calm, relaxed and confident and still feel this adrenaline. As soon as you become too relaxed though and lose this adrenaline your concentration levels drop and your focus is shifted. This leaves you vulnerable.

For competitions you need to prepare well in advance. Preparation doesn’t start on the day in the arena, it starts from your training inside your respected training facility right up until the day of your competition. Once you get to your venue your training still does not stop. This is where you need to be vigilant and attentive as those two things are what might just give you the edge over the other competitors. By knowing where you’re competing throughout the day, how many people are in your group, who’s in your group, equipment needed, judges and referees, rulings, you are already ahead of 90% of competitors on the day.

By Leon Gordon

3-Time Karate World Champion

Leon Gordon

Leon Gordon

3-Time Karate World Champion & Qualified PT

Leon Gordon is 3-time world karate champion and team member of the Great Britain karate team. He is also a former member of the GB judo team. Leon combines his passion for fitness and sports in his role as a personal trainer and has over 15 years experience.





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