Training is at least 50% mental and 50% physical. If you’re truly down-and-out sick, then just let yourself be sick. No sense resisting the sleep you need and prolonging the pain. But if you’re just out with the sniffles, or you have an injury that prevents you from physically training, then here are some things you can do to keep your rhythm going and train the mental side.
Read a Historical Text
If you’re not a die hard reader, you can approach this like you do drilling. Set a daily objective, it can be as simple as one page per day. Many historical texts are fairly dense and there can be a lot to get out of a single page. Some fight books have one or more martial plays on a page. Study a play and try to come to some new or strengthened understanding of the mechanics or context. I like rewriting what I’ve read in my own words in my training journal. I also use a PDF reader for some texts and put electronic sticky notes on the pages with my thoughts.
Read a Modern Text
There are tons of great books that can help you be a better martial artist, from modern books on swordsmanship to books in other fields. Here are a few I recommend:
- Swordplay guides by Guy Windsor and Christian Tobler, both excellent authors and interpreters of historical works.
- Starting Strength - Mark Rippetoe
- The Four Hour Body - Tim Ferris
- Mindset - Carol Dweck
- Way of the Peaceful Warrior - Dan Millman
- Understanding Physical Conditioning - Luis Preto
A solid training program combines both physical and mental training. When you’re sick or injured it is a good time to focus on the mental side. You might be surprised at how much you can maintain or even improve a skill through visualization alone. This article includes some of the research in this area as well as a guide for getting started. I know of at least one student who memorized large portions of Fiore’s dagger plays and Capoferro’s single rapier plays largely through visualization.
Whether it’s educational videos like on DTV or videos of people fencing, there is a lot you can gain from engaging through the visual and auditory senses. You can combine this type of watching with visualized training—i.e., do the drills in your head—or as an opportunity to deepen your theoretical understanding of the art.
Beyond all of these methods, I also recommend using physical downtime to be creative. Whether that’s starting your own book project, drawing sketches, or simply writing out your thoughts on swordplay training, theory, or strategy. Setbacks are often opportunities if you’re open to them.