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.
To choose a path is not an easy thing to do, and the path you choose may turn out to be different to what you had expected, in terms of both destination and journey.
People train in the martial arts for different reasons - fitness, hobby, competition, the social aspect, self-defence, confidence, stress release, etc. And those are all beautiful reasons. For some, however, it is more than that. It is a way of tapping into who you really are and finding your place in the world. Those people do not train in martial arts.
They live them.
Part of choosing your path is questioning the path, and continuously so. I think this is true for any path, but especially for people who choose art - any art – as their path in life. Art is something that people can judge based on opinion, and as such can be subject to harsh criticism, often without deep understanding of it. People connect with a song, an image, a movement. The description or emotion that is associated with that song, image or movement, for that person, depends on their point of view. It’s a good song or a pretty picture or a fascinating movement. It’s a bad song or an ugly picture or a boring movement.
Inevitably, if you persist on your path, you will end up teaching or mentoring others, or sharing your knowledge in some form. And when you teach art – again, any art – you will find that some people love what you teach, while others do not. Some agree with you, and some do not.
I believe a good teacher should question themselves more regularly and rigorously than any of their students. Questioning not only the knowledge that you share, but also the method of sharing that knowledge shows a deeper understanding of that knowledge and a desire to continue to perfect your art and yourself.
One of my mentors has a sign in his office, which reads:
‘To become great and rise above the average, daily practice and sharpening of skill must not only become habit but a part of life’. And one of my favourite phrases, which I have written about in great length before is:
‘The answer to any ‘what if’ question is ‘do something else’”.
Teaching becomes an integral part of the art itself, and as such daily practice and sharpening of skill are necessary if one is to become great at it.
Questioning your path and questioning the way you do things is not a sign of weakness but a natural part of walking the path and sharpening your skill. And searching for answers, asking for guidance where needed, learning from mistakes and finally committing to your chosen solution is a sign of strength and a willingness to walk the path when it becomes hard, rather than giving up when you face a problem.
So please allow me to part with an untraditional greeting:
Keep questioning yourself, and a happy journey.
Stay safe, stay tuned.
I have trained in martial arts for some time, and was a self-confessed fitness junkie for a very long time before I met Sensei Noah Greenstone - a true Jujutsu master and all-around martial arts expert of the highest level. Noah is a wise, kind and gentle Sensei (ok, sometimes not so gentle…) who always giggles as he twists us into pretzels and who has a Kiai that makes the walls shake. This is a blog about one of his favorite sayings, which has shaped my learning and that of all of his students.
Self-reflection has long been recognised as one of the critical components in self-development, critical thinking and goal setting in high achievers. From the samurai to boxing, BJJ and MMA champions, from entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 CEOs, reflecting on one’s actions is the fastest and most effective way to maximise your training. Want to know how to do this effectively