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Wednesday, January 23, 2013


This is a concept that kickboxing and PDR coach Tom Campbell introduced to me years ago. This is me thinking about it and trying to organize it.

The Timeline-in-Training is a measure of how much time you have to devote to training, and how long you have to meet your goals. There are macro and micro versions of this.

The Macro Timelines

Short-term/Immediate Need

A short-term timeline is one in which you have very little time to meet your goals. As an example, I had a student who wanted self-defense training before going to do some medical work in Haiti. She was leaving for that work in three weeks. That means if I had a perfect method of self-defense that took four weeks to learn, she was out of luck.

This kind of timeline most commonly applies to self-defense training or professional development.

Medium-term/Closed Time

This is probably the least common timeline. It is one in which you have a longer, but finite span of time in which to accomplish your goal. The most obvious example of this is competition. There is only so long you can compete in a combat sport before your body will simply cease being able to handle the rigors of competition. Some combat sports are more forgiving than others, but very few of them will allow you to be competitive into old age (some weapons-based systems are the exception here).

The other way this kind of timeline usually occurs is with college students or other people who might need to change geography regularly. If you know that in two years, you’re going to have to move to a different part of the country, whatever training your receive either has to have accomplished it’s goals in those two years, or be transferable.

Some fitness goals may fall here, but ultimately, training for fitness is usually an Open Timeline.

Long-term/Open Time

This is the timeline that many people think of when they think of martial arts training. This is the timeline that never ends—the goal is to keep training for as long as you can. It is most appropriate for personal development goals and fitness, but self-defense and professional development may fall here as well.

In an open timeline, the journey becomes more important than the destination. The training becomes a purpose into itself, rather than a means to an end. It’s a very noble way to train, but it’s sometimes terribly inefficient.


Timeline-in-training applies on a smaller level as well.

Thinking in terms of days, months, and years is important, but you need to think about hours in the week too. How much time can you devote each week to work on your craft? How much are you willing to devote?

To return to the example above: the med student that came to train with me before she went to Haiti had three weeks—but she only had one hour a week to train. That’s three hours of training. If she had eight hours a day to train for three weeks, that would have given me a lot more leeway in terms of time to develop a skill set. Three weeks of training can be nothing at all, or an eternity.

Rory Miller, the author of Facing Violence and Force Decisions, offers this breakdown:

If time in training matters (and sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't- 100 hours doing bullshit does not outweigh 1 hour doing something worthwhile.) I'm not sure the argument would hold. A regular MA (not a fanatic like all of you probably are) goes to two classes a week and, from the ones I've checked out over the last two years, the classes last for 90 minutes.

ASIDE- There will be a lot of generalizations in here. For everything I bring up, from training hours to how systems develop to what is put in or left out of a system, I am aware of exceptions. So, if you feel compelled to point out how whatever I said doesn't apply to you, just be aware that you are writing it to feel special, not to enlighten me.

It used to be two hours, when I was a pup.  So, assuming no missing but no extra work either, this mythical average martial artist gets 156 hours of training a year. My BCT ran eight weeks. For six days a week we would get up at 0400 and, if we were lucky, hit the racks at 2200. Was all that time training? Damn near. You could argue that PT (Physical Training) are not skills, but I think the conditioning time from a martial arts class would be a bigger percentage. Meals? You learned how to eat quick... but for arguments sake, we'll take the 45 minutes to an hour a day that we were allowed for eating out of the equation.

So, a MA gets about 156 hours of training a year. A recruit gets damn close to 816 hours of training in eight weeks. Even if my times are generous. (Marines get more.)

(Chiron Training Blog:

Having a conscious understanding of this idea, and of how much time you can and will devote to your training can make your training much more efficient. It lets you plan and direct yourself.

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