Be open minded
Try new styles. As you learn a martial art, you get glimpses into specific situations and how you can react. Today, most every martial art has branched of into its own specialty. Taekwondo specializes in kicks, Karate in strikes, Kenjutsu in swords, Jodo in Jo, judo in throws, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu in grappling. If you limit yourself to a single style you’re left trying to change every situation to fit your specialty. It makes sense, but it’s unrealistic to think that you’ll always be able to do so. The specialization and dedication to the arts is fantastic and to be respected, but overspecialization creates holes. Those holes reduce your essential ability to react to any situation.
Take the Samurai for instance. They trained in empty hand arts that branched to judo, jujutsu, aikijutsu, aikido, karate, and more. From there they would learn as may weapon arts as possible. Archery, swordsmanship, naginata, sickle and chain, and anything they might potentially face. There is so much more to this but I think you get the point.
If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong
If you’re not enjoying yourself, you’re not doing it right. I don’t mean that everyday needs to be rainbows and butterflies, but if you don’t like what you’re doing, why are you doing it? You should be able to push yourself each day, and after practice, be happy you went.
You should feel safe within your dojo. It is not only an training space, but a sanctuary of sorts, where master and student get together to perfect their art and the outside world should not be the main thing on the mind. Everyone is free to have their own opinions, and some harsh truths are needed. If you are scared to train, talk to your sensei. If you don’t have trust in your sensei, how are you supposed to train whole-heartedly and trust what they say to be correct. There are often multiple dojos of the same styles. More famous styles like Karate and Taekwondo have hundreds of thousands of dojos. There are times to stay where you are and times to explore new options. I always recommend being as straightforward as possible.
Your style will not be exactly the same as your sensei, nor should it. You are different people, have different bodies, and different life experiences. Work hard and be who you are. The best part of training with others is getting to know the real them.
This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but if you can do this, you’ll be well on your way to improving. More thoughts to come.