As we move into the winter months, it can be tempting to snuggle up on the couch with a book or Netflix instead of doing our martial arts training. It’s extra tempting to skip a training session when we’re not feeling well, whether it’s physical or emotional. In this guest post, Steve Grogan, of Wing Chun Geek Inc., shares some tips for staying motivated when you want to stay home. If you would like to write a martial arts-related article for Little Black Belt, please review the submission guidelines for guest posts.

[Note: At the time of publication the United States is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, so please conduct your training with safety precautions in place, or in the privacy of your own home…and if you’re recovering from a major injury like me, check with your doctor or other healthcare providers before attempting your regular martial arts activities.]


People tend to think of martial artists as individuals who are tougher and more resilient than the average human being. This might be true (after all, it takes a certain level of inner strength to keep training while everyone else around you quits), but we can be just as susceptible to things that might tear us down.

However, I believe we should still train no matter what has us under the weather.


What do I mean when I say “under the weather?” Well, this is something that can come in various shapes and sizes. Not all of them will be physical ailments.

The following list is nowhere near complete, but here are some examples of what I mean:

  • Cold/the flu/some other physical illness
  • A debilitating headache
  • Insomnia the night before class
  • Romantic break-up
  • Loss of a close relative/pet/anyone or anything important to you

Notice that the last two have to do more with your mental and emotional well-being. That is because damage to these two areas can be just as awful as anything that can be done to your body. If you’ve ever been dumped, then you know what I mean: it’s enough to make you not want to get out of bed. Sure, you can manage if you have to go to work, but work is not optional whereas martial arts class is. (By that I mean you can’t pay your bills if you don’t go to work, but you will survive if you skip class.)

The items on this list can certainly break a martial artist’s spirits, but does that mean they should stay home and avoid training?

No, and I will explain why. However, first we have…


Before I get into my explanation, I want to say something about the first item on my list. 

I believe a martial artist should still train even when they are ill, UNLESS their instructor(s) are  germophobic. If their fear is intense enough, they might ban you from class, temporarily or maybe even for good!

If that is the case, then by all means stay home. Don’t cut your training off for good just because you were sick for a couple days. 


Allow me to answer this question by way of an example.

Let’s say you slept poorly last night because your romantic partner decided to dump you (via text no less) just as you were about to go to bed. You tried texting back, then calling, but you got no reply, and their phone went right to voicemail. There was nothing you could do other than accept it and go to bed.

Needless to say, sleep did not come easily. Even when it did, it didn’t last long because you were roused by your alarm less than an hour later. Once you cleared the cobwebs from your mind, you realized it wasn’t your alarm: it was your phone ringing.

You answer and find your boss on the other end of the line, calling to tell you not to bother coming to work today…or any OTHER day…because you’re fired. Just like with your brand new ex-partner, there is no room for discussion. It isn’t fair at all because you didn’t even know you were doing something egregious enough to be terminated, but fairness is not a factor in this situation. Once again, you have been robbed of the ability to do anything about what is happening to your life.

After your boss hangs up, you flop back on the bed, feeling crushed and hopeless. That is when you notice something else: you have developed a mild case of the sniffles. Less than an hour later, this has developed into a full-blown cold, and your head feels like it is in a vise.

Still, you are an adult with responsibilities. Since your schedule for the day is now open wide, you decide to go out and get some errands done. You know this might not be advisable because your head feels “fuzzy,” and it’s like you’re not even in your own body. However, you know these errands won’t get themselves done.

Sure enough, your drowsiness catches up with you. While you are making a left turn, you nearly drive head-on into an oncoming car. The sound of squealing brakes fill the air, followed by a slamming door and a loud, angry voice. You realize the driver of the other car is now approaching, and not only is he mad, but he is one GIANT alpha male.

What are you going to do to avoid a fight here? Are you going to get out of the car and ask him to hold off on being violent today because your partner dumped you, you slept like garbage, you got fired this morning, you developed a cold, AND you have a headache?

Do you think this ogre will care?

Probably not, and this is why I say we should train even if we don’t feel well. Real-world violence won’t wait for you to be in the best of health. Therefore, you need to know what it’s like if you have to employ your skills while you are in that condition.

(Yes, in this example you could have avoided the situation by not driving while you were drowsy. Don’t focus on the exact example. The potential for violence is everywhere. Instead of driving, it could have happened when you were standing in line at the grocery store!)


There is no reason your form has to suffer.

Sure, if you have an illness that is making you dizzy, then you should NOT try to perform a spinning back kick. However, unless that is the only technique in your style, there will be many other things you can still do.

To be fair, it is a legitimate concern to think that, if you train while you are under the weather, you might get sloppy. However, there are two caveats to that:

  1. Unless you are ill for a long, LONG time, you will not be in that condition long enough to develop any bad habits.
  2. While you are ill, all you have to do is adjust the intensity of your training accordingly.

What does that mean? Well, first you can perform techniques at half speed because going at full speed might make you burn through what little energy you have before class is done. Second, you can (and should) avoid anything intense like sparring. Third, you could avoid any acrobatic techniques.

One thing you should definitely do when you get to class is inform your head instructor about your situation. How much or how little detail you give them is up to you. (Also, if you would feel embarrassed about mentioning it in front of your classmates, you can always ask to speak privately to the teacher.) They should be willing to accommodate your limitations so that you can have a more productive class.

If nothing else, the fact that you showed up while under the weather will demonstrate how devoted you are to your training.

At the end of the day, that certainly isn’t a bad thing. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve Grogan has been practicing Wing Chun Kung Fu since January 1995. He is the founder of Geek Wing Chun, a website (with an accompanying YouTube channel) that provides free tips on how someone can create a training routine at home, should they be unable to make it to class. He is the author of The Lone Warrior, which collects some of his greatest tips in one neat little book, and the developer ofThe Lone Warrior App, which helps people keep track of their training (available for both iPhones and Androids).






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