How Do You Practice?

How Do You Practice?

How Do You Practice?

I recently had an epiphany of sorts.  By epiphany I mean I was reminded again of something I knew but had either forgotten, tucked away, or simply just taken for granted.  I was having a conversation with a student and friend.  Someone with whom I respect tremendously and routinely get into deep subject matter. 

We had gotten on the subject of practice; specifically we were discussing a very motivated student who had expressed some aggressive goals.  As we bantered back and forth the general agreement was the importance of having a plan; a sound, structured approach programmed toward the student’s goals and not haphazardly going about training.

We’ve all heard the mantra “Practice Makes Perfect.”  It’s said with good intention but unfortunately it’s also incredibly flawed.  The reality is Practice Makes Permanent and only Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.  A subtle distinction but critical for long term development.  Sloppy, inconsistent practice produces sloppy, inconsistent habits.  Garbage In = Garbage Out.

Goal setting is an exercise I highly encourage everyone to do.  Specifically, short term, detailed goals that can build toward more encompassing, long term goals.  The type of practice you engage is critical to achieving those goals.

Practice can take on many forms depending on the goal of the practice….and that is the key. Every practice should have a specific goal, even sparring.  Part of being able to practice perfectly is being in the moment; being aware of what you are doing and why.  Thinking about what you are doing takes you out of the fray and into the present moment.  Instead of just fighting to beat a training partner or mindlessly going through the motions when drilling the goal is to be aware of what’s happening and mindful of what you’re doing.

This is especially true in sparring. Too many times I see students get so caught up in trying to win they forget even the most basic of fundamentals.  The most damaging part is the student walks away with the impression of “winning” the session and validating what was done as good or even correct.  Makes sense.  After all, the student did win right? 

SIDE NOTE  Is it possible to “win” every sparring match and not get better?  Absolutely!  Why?  Because all you did was focus on the outcome and paid zero attention on what you were doing to get there nor did you likely do any reflection afterward.  I see it all the time, student A taps out student B while exercising crappy technique the entire time.  How?  Student A was simply bigger, faster, and stronger.  Student B may have had an off day.  Student A was 21 years old, full of piss and vinegar, going full throttle while Student B was in his mid-40s, nursing an injury, and moving at a more measured rate.   Got the W…didn’t get better.

A couple of things to keep in mind in order to practice properly:

  1. It’s a marathon not a sprint.  Try not to focus on winning every time you train.  Developing any skill not only takes time but requires challenges and setbacks to ensure growth.
  2. Self-Awareness.  The sexy term today is “Mindfulness” but at the end of the day take some time to look within.  Understand what you felt physically, mentally and emotionally during practice. Were you panicked, confused, overwhelmed?  What was your response?  Being aware of those moments helps you better deal with them the next time they occur and make necessary changes.

Let us not forget about the pure enjoyment of the activity.  Becoming hyper focused on an end goal often leads us to ignore holistic benefit of the actually enjoying the process.  Every day on the mat should be a good day.  Stepping on the mat says you have the health and well-being to be able to participate in an incredible activity with your friends.  It’s a chance to put the world away for an hour and work on becoming a better version of yourself.  There are a lot worse ways to spend an hour of your day! 

We tend to get caught up in the hustle of everyday life that we forget to live.  We don’t enjoy the moments.   Too often we are smothered by our own personal dramas and become blind to all the good in our lives.  Goals in life are good but not at the sacrifice of experiencing the moment.  Be present.  Be in the moment.  Enjoy the process.

Everyday Is Training Day – Reap What You Sow