Thursday, July 22, 2010

Let’s Try That Again!

(I wrote this for the Triangle Martial Arts instructor newsletter! If you are not a martial arts instructor, don't give away our secrets, okay? *giggle*)
As martial artists, how many times have we thrown that same punch? Practiced that same lock?  In judo, during uchikomi, we would fit our throws over and over. And over. The same seoinage, the same ouchi-gari. Hundreds of times. Again. Again. After awhile, learning became irrelevant; my toes and hips and fingers just knew the techniques. And now, those repetitions give me the gift of nonthinking. 

Whether in competition or real life, there is rarely time to think a technique out. It’s either there or it isn’t. A student may know a technique’s history, the concepts behind it, or even how it differs between schools, but until said student can perform that move stone cold, with no hesitation, it really isn’t mastered.

Sometimes I avoid repetition. I don’t want to be boring.  I worry about students’ reduced attention spans. I see Karate Kids and Airbenders and wish I could, within a well-spliced training montage, unlock a student’s inner warrior (complete with dragon tattoo, ki fireballs, and dim mak). Next to magic amulets and secret regimens, plain old hard work seems so...plain.

But “let’s try that again” is one of the most underrated instructions in the dojo. Rather than boredom, repetition fosters concentration and confidence. Students are reassured that they won’t fall behind if they don’t get it right the first time. Or the tenth. 

Sure, students love new techniques.  But what they can learn tomorrow must be balanced with what they can master today. Seeing yet another armbar is interesting, but reviewing a simple hip throw can be a better motivator. Through repetition, students experience techniques not as mere concepts, but as ongoing empowerment for their entire bodies. We help them to a deeper self assurance--and that will make them hunger for more!

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