“Repetition is the mother of skill.” – Guro Dan Inosanto via Guro Travis Downing
In addition to self-preservation, many of us practice martial arts for the purpose of self-perfection. We constantly strive to be better, to be faster or stronger, to develop sensitivity or desensitize to conflict. We train to be more fluid, to be more aware and to cultivate a vigilance that not only would protect ourselves and our families, but lead to a better standard of living.
Many martial artists however, are not professional fighters or soldiers. For some, it is a hobby practiced in our free time. For others, it is a routine or exercise and for a few it is a way of life. We may not have the structure of training built into our schedules, into our daily routines or into our work days. In that case, the skill development in these arts is our responsibility to feed and maintain. And while we may attend class once, or twice or three times a week it is imperative to train outside of class, on our own or with others.
Ron Balicki of Guro Dan Inosanto’s JKD & Kali family once talked about how he had an instructor that would make him perform 105 (or something similar) repetitions of a form. This instructor’s rationale was that for most martial artists, they attend class maybe twice a week. If they practice their own form or kata only once each class, and consistently attend class for 52 weeks a year, then in a year’s time they would have only practiced that form 104 times. The 105 was to beat a year’s worth of practice in one sitting. Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje of Pekiti Tersia Kali has also said, it is not the number of years but the number of hours you have trained.
It is in our daily routines, and our formed practices that we develop the skills that we want to see. Guro Rick Faye of the Minnesota Kali Group and senior instructor under Guro Dan has stressed the importance of practicing something every day, that it is what we do everyday that makes a difference far more than once a year, once a month or even once a week training. And Tuhon Rafael Kayanan, one of our Master Instructors in the Sayoc Kali system but speaking as an artist once wrote that inspiration comes from our daily creative habits.
They don’t have to be massive, epic workouts at 0400. They can be the practicing of a form, a few minutes of shadowboxing, or integrated into our exercise routines. But they should be specific. The best way to get good at doing something is to do it. While I try to run and lift weights and get my conditioning in, I realized a few years ago that I was putting far more time into running than training, and if I wanted to get better at martial arts then I should start putting more time into martial arts. In exercise physiology this is called specificity. It means that while cardiovascular endurance and resistance training is critical, it is equally important to spend time performing the specific skills and movements you are trying to improve. While professional football players still do their tire runs, sprints and squats, they also scrimmage and play a lot of football. They don’t necessarily throw 30 lb footballs either, so if you are doing stickwork remember that you don’t need to use massive sticks to get better at moving your weapon. You should train heavy weapons to get better at using heavy weapons.
Be specific in your training, and be consistent. See you in class.
“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” – Muhammad Ali