It is often said that in order to master a skill, it has to be performed 10,000 times. Some say 5,000 and some say up to 30,000. Some say 10,000 hours, some say more and some say less. Overall, there is much disagreement amongst experts (and non-experts...) about this.
Let us examine some of the factors that may play a part in mastering a skill.
A saying everyone knows is 'practice makes perfect'.
I am very fond of a saying by one of my great teachers, Mannie de Matos, who corrects by saying:
'Practice doesn't make perfect – practice makes permanent; perfect practice makes perfect'. I wholeheartedly agree.
Most dedicated martial artists will spend countless hours repeating a particular move or technique in order to perfect it; but as mentioned above, this makes permanent – not perfect. In the case where the repetitions are not perfect, the 10,000-repetition rule can go out the window.
If you spend 10,000 repetitions training an incorrect move, can you still be considered a master of that particular skill? Possibly. But is that outcome worth the time spent? Probably not. This means that in order for our repetitions to 'count' or be productive, we have to have another key ingredient – focus.
When observing martial artists who are at a higher level, there is a common thread in the process of learning a new skill:
1. They spend a lot of time getting the first few repetitions right, even if it means they do less of them in a given timeframe.
2. They perform repetitions slowly, paying attention to every minute detail and step in the sequence of actions to execute the move, be it a single punch or a complex kata.
3. They try different ways of learning to retain the skill – watching the demonstration, having the technique done on them, doing the technique in the air, doing it on equipment, doing it on a training partner (and with various degrees of resistance), asking questions about it, trying to explain it someone else, doing it with their eyes closed, etc. After the session is finished, they will often write their thoughts, or read something about the topic. This combination allows for a more complete, deep and multidimensional understanding of every facet of the technique and, once again, is often done at the expense of doing more repetitions in the same time frame.
4. Once the first repetitions are perfected at a low speed, then speed is increased. That being said, even when speed is increased, focus remains.
This may appear very trivial. But the key here is not the speed of the repetition; it is the focus that must be maintained throughout.
This is one of the most frustrating things for many martial artists, particularly when first starting out. It can get boring, and often turns into 'going through the motions', literally and figuratively.
To overcome this, persistence and variation will help.
Try and focus for one more repetitions today; two more tomorrow, and so on. Try and change your routine to include different variations or applications of the technique.
And a final tip from my experience – try and do the 'boring stuff' at the start of your workout, because at the end of it you will be too tired to focus and will probably leave it until the next time...
To summarise, practice does not make perfect – practice makes permanent; perfect practice makes perfect.
If you want help in improving your learning (not just your skills), please contact me :)
Stay tunes, stay safe.