The article below was published in the Fall 2010 issue of "The Way", the official newsletter of World Yoshukai Karate Kobudo Organization. In fact, it was the first article I'd published in "The Way". It is also a part of the new student package in my dojo. Students (myself included...) sometimes lose sight on what practice is really for and what it really is; some students search for a "magic pill". I guess that's fine, karate (and life) is a journey...if you want to stink it up along the way, keep searching for that pill. ;-)
The same holds true for those with fitness endeavors, but there is only one magic pill for both...hard work. Work hard and work at it (whatever "it" happens to be) and you will progress just fine. Placing emphasis on improvement will pay off. Enjoy...
Practice =! Perfect
For the non-IT/math crowd, that reads “Practice does not equal perfect”.
…that’s right, I said it; practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. It takes more than practice to improve. It takes perfect practice. Believe it or not, most of us do not know how to practice! It’s true!! Before we discuss how to perfect our practice, let’s discuss what perfect practice is not.
As we advance in rank, our perception of acceptable practice tends to shift. As white belts & 10th kyus, students practice the bare basics: yoi, yame, rei, kicks, blocks & punches. This is perfectly OK for a 10th kyu because, generally, this is all the material they know. As a 4th kyu green belt, students tend to feel that practice constitutes an entire kata. This line of thinking is not incorrect, however, consider the past 2 years of karate training; does Nijusichi no kata receive any attention now that katas like Seisan & Shiohai are your focus? How about your basics? What do you do when you do not have the room to practice Seisan? Do you plod through a kata, repetition after repetition, doing it the exact same way every single time?
This is where practice is not perfect.In my opinion, perfect practice is an act of improvement, not repetition. Performing a kata or a technique without the intent to do something better will not lead to overall improvement. Here are a few tips that you can use to help with practicing at home.
1). Basics, basics, basics: A punch is a punch and a kick is a kick; that never changes. There may be a small nuance to a technique when it is executed within a kata, but on the whole, it’s still a punch or a kick (or a block). Don’t neglect these techniques and don’t rely solely on the repetitions from class; reinforce them in your practice at home.
This applies to weapons as well. Work strike-catch sequences with nunchakus, the punch-strike-block with sai and cross or down strikes with the bo.
As your basics improve and you integrate them back into their kata, your karate improves. Don’t forget your stances!
2). Break it down: With kata, for example, break out one area of the kata and work on it, as if it were a drill. Each time you do it, focus on improving one aspect of the “drill”; as you progress, address anther aspect. Soon you will have made strides on one area of the kata and can address another. When you put the whole kata together, make sure you don’t lose the previously achieved progress. Can’t remember a kata? Practice what you know; the effect is the same.
Those are good reps!
3). Don’t neglect the old stuff: Remember, your karate builds on itself; if you perform older material well, new material will benefit. Remember, a stance is a stance, a block is…
4). Find parallels…no matter how odd: This one is a favorite of mine. A few years back, I ran into a fellow student coming out of a store. He was learning Zenshin Kotai and I’d recently tested on that kata; he told me he was having problems with the ippon ashidachi, and complimented me on mine. I thanked him and gave my simple everyday exercise for improving that stance: “I put my socks and shoes on in ippon ashidachi”. He laughed, but he also tried it. He came back to me and said “You know what, it works…”
Ever just sit on the couch watching TV holding a weapon? Try it. You’ll begin to feel more comfortable with that weapon. You might even find yourself wanting to practice…
5). Just do it: One misconception about practice is that it has to be long periods of time. If you aren’t currently practicing, 10 minutes a day is an improvement. Prioritize your practice time, addressing problem areas or new material first. Again, don’t neglect the older material!
So there you have it: 5 tips to integrate into your practice routine. Remember, the intent of practice should be to improve, not to repeat for the sake of repetition. Seek improvement and pay attention to the finer points of your practice topic. The next time someone tells you that practice makes perfect, politely remind them that it does not; perfect practice makes perfect.