This week is St. Vrain’s Spring Break and I invite you to take a break from your martial arts training as well.

What? Heresy, you say! No, I’m serious. We all need a break from even the BEST DISCIPLINES, martial arts included. Of course who would want to be away from the positive influences in your life? After all, if you stop working don’t you backslide? Ever onward and upward as they say.

That sounds good in theory, but in practice it doesn’t play out. We need to put work aside periodically for 5 simple, profound reasons.

First, after awhile we waste time. We lose focus on achievement and become less and less efficient and ineffective in our labors. Practicing is like sloshing through mud, mentally we hit what economists call “diminishing marginal returns”– less return for more effort.

Second, we need a fresh perspective. New experiences and different inputs mesh with our experiences in ways we would never achieve without taking a break. Now, if you just plop in front of the TV for your break you probably won’t get any sort of valuable perspective at all. Shutting off your brain completely isn’t “active recovery” of the sort that I’m talking about. An active lifestyle is what I mean. Keep your body and brain alive with new, unusual challenges and they will help you when you return.

Third, we need to recharge our batteries. When we get emotionally run down, everything gets harder. When daily stresses overwhelm our systems nothing seems to work anymore. See point #1. After a break we return eager for action and primed for accomplishment. We need what’s called “activation energy” to experience flow, or optimal experience. Changing things up with new places and new adventures helps restore this mental energy.

Fourth, is the “reminiscence effect.” When you take a break from training you lose all the small details and retain only the “big picture.” The good news here is that many of the small mistakes you make tend to fall away as well. When you return you may be surprised to find learning easier and be better than before. Trust me, this happened to me with my martial arts training several times. I didn’t know what was going on until I came across the reminiscence effect.

Fifth, there is more to life than training. My martial arts teacher told me that while I was in a fit of obsession with training. Boy, did I need that. Achieving Black Belt and Life Mastery is a LONG process and committing to the path helps us take necessary breaks and still return to the path. Breaks make it easier for us to commit and re-commit to our long-term goals. No one makes it to the top of the highest mountain without regular breaks. Just make sure you weave them into a long-term vision or else breaks will mean stopping altogether.

This is why we have to FORCE ourselves to take a momentary rest before we suffer from “karoshi” the Japanese word for dying from overwork. They have so many people dying from overwork they had to create a word for it.