Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Deliberate Practice

Over my years of training and coaching martial arts I've seen many training partners and students come and go. Some students improve a lot and others don't seem to make any progress. In martial arts and particularly BJJ there is a culture of 'Just train bro' just keep turning up to class and eventually you'll get the hang of it. In my experience this is not the case, turning up to class and going through the motions is not enough to guarantee improvement and this lack of improvement will lead to loss motivation and quitting.

The key to improvement is Deliberate Practice. This is the opposite to just turning up to class and mindlessly hitting pads or doing arm-locks. It means concentrating and being focused on what you are doing with the specific intention of improving your performance.
Here are some of the basic requirements of Deliberate Practice :

A - Goals.
Having a clear 'stretch' goal of what you are working towards - Its important that this goal is something that will be quite difficult for you to achieve because this will force you grow and improve. Eg. Win all my matches by submission at my next BJJ tournament. Its also a good idea to have 'mini-goals' for each practice session Eg. Today I want to use that Combination/ Technique / Guard Pass at least 5 times in Sparring.

B - Concentration and Effort.
Full Concentration and Effort: When you are training in the gym, you are fully concentrating on what you are doing and giving it your full effort. If you are having a chat with your training partner while hitting pads don't expect to see great results.

C - Feedback.
Immediate and Informative Feedback: This could be from either a coach or from a training partner or alternatively you can just figure out how to give yourself feedback. Eg. I tried that arm-lock but my sparring partner got out of it and passed my guard - therefore what did I do wrong and what do I need to fix before next time.

D - Repetition.
Repetition with Reflection and Refinement. Lots of Repetition but not Mindless Repetition. You need repetitions with Reflection ('did I do that properly or did I screw it up?') and Refinement ('This time I'll make sure I keep my elbow close to my hip')

Monday, 4 February 2019

The Four Stages of Learning Martial Arts

This is a very useful concept that doesn't just apply to learning martial arts but to learning any skill.

There are four stages of learning.

Stage 1 - Unconscious incompetence  
This is where you are screwing everything up but you don't yet realize you are screwing it up. For example, Dropping your hands when you punch, trying to bench press your way out of mount.

Often students will stay in this phase much longer than is necessary because of either
A - They are not being given feedback (either verbal feedback - 'Keep your hands up' or Physical Feedback - Getting your teeth knocked out because you didn't have your hands up).
B - They are having some success even though they are using terrible technique. For example, Your training partner taps to a submission even though it was incorrectly applied.

Stage 2 - Conscious Incompetence
This is where you start to learn and develop. Its at this stage that you start to be critical of your own technique and begin to figure out exactly what you are doing wrong and what you need to do to improve.
Examples include - 'Why am I getting kicked in the leg so much? Why can I not escape mount position? Maybe I'll pay more attention the next time coach shows us that technique'

Stage 3 - Conscious Competence 
At this stage, you know exactly how to perform the techniques properly and when to do them. You can figure out what you need to do and what to work on. However, you realize that there is also the possibility to lapse back into bad habits if you lose concentration.

Stage 4 - Unconscious Competence
This is the final stage of mastering any skill and this is a common trait with all great champions. They perform the skill perfectly without having to think about it.

Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.

Deliberate Practice

Over my years of training and coaching martial arts I've seen many training partners and students come and go. Some students improve a ...