Last month I spoke about how knowing a variety of martial arts skills can be beneficial to your practice (part one). Today I’d like to play devil’s advocate and argue the contrary.
So why are more skills a bad thing?
Well it comes down to one simple word, “practice”. If you’re constantly chasing the next skill you stop practicing the skills you’ve got; and practice is what makes someone an expert. As Master Chang often says, “knowing is not enough”.
Research by K Anders Ericcson estimated that expertise is developed from 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. Through deliberate training we develop muscle memory, automaticity and change sluggish and unreliable movement patterns into fast automatic actions. There’s no fast track to muscle memory, just many hours of constant repetition. What’s also useful to realise is those circuits need to keep firing it we want them to continue to function properly. To repeat a quote from a previous blog: ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’.
Three essential ingredients of deliberate practice are: intrinsic motivation, concentration and challenge. When you concentrate, you notice the errors you’re making and can make changes. If your movement is wrong it should bother you – but if you aren’t concentrating you don’t even realise. Through the struggle, through the mistakes, we re-programme ourselves and we repeat, repeat, repeat. That process will only happen if we made our own internal decision to do so; and, if we are able to get satisfaction from the learning process not simply the outcome.
Learning and development aren’t static – they are in a constant state of creating. Simply put: what we practice, is what we become. This is why daily practice is so important and why learning more and more skills actually takes us further and further from being the expert practitioner we aspire to be.
Next month I’ll conclude this look at skills with some thoughts on why focusing on more or less skills actually misses the point (part three).