Get the most out of your training with these effective methods.
All of us want to be skilled at our arts. We want to move fast and be effective with our technique. Smooth, coordinated movement is a must for that to happen.
Regardless of your style or art, there are effective methods for developing coordination that you can incorporate in your practice sessions. Whether you are swinging a stick, slashing with a karambit or practicing a takedown, you can break down the movement and make refinements that will not only make you look better, but also perform better. To do this, you need to know the right movement, practice effectively, and analyze your progress and you make improvements.
Know the Right Movement
In order to develop the most coordinated movement, you need to know what the right movement is. Study the best example: your teacher, or a top performing student of the art. At first you will just watch. Take in the overall movement. Examine the body mechanics. Look at the footwork. Watch the movement of the shoulders and hips. Get a feel for how they work together. Watch several times and pay attention to smaller details. If possible, practice the movement, then go back and watch a demonstration of the movement again. Each time you will absorb more detail.
Develop a mental image of the perfect execution of the technique. As you better understand the movement, you will develop a mental image of the movement and how it should be done properly. This internal image will play in your head like a video anytime you want to practice. You will constantly compare your performance to that of the image in your mind. This image is critical to your practice, because it becomes your standard. It will be your benchmark as you try to match it every time you repeat the movement.66
To get better, that image must be crystal clear. Not only should you develop the visual image of the movement, but also the feel. With this more complete vision, you can develop proprioception, a sense of your position and balance within your movement. You will learn to recognize when you are doing it right by feel rather than just by seeing it. For striking and weapons work, you may even benefit from knowing the sound of the technique. This may include the sound as your stick as it whips through the air or impacts a target.
Start slow to perfect each detail. You must be able to pay attention to the details. With slow, deliberate movements, you can instruct your body just how it should move. If you always rush through your practice, you may not be able to see what you are doing right or wrong. After the movement become more smooth, speed up to test the movement and diagnose any problems, then slow down again and fix them.
Make adjustments with each repetition. Make an effort to improve every time you repeat the movement. Identify what would be the most significant improvement you could make and focus on that first. Repeat and correct the movement until you can perform the correction consistently. After that, move on to the next aspect that needs refinement. Focus on one thing at a time. It’s more efficient and it will be easier to make changes.
You are not done once you get the movement right. You are just getting started. If it took you 99 repetitions before you got the coordination right, then you now need to add more repetitions in order to burn it into muscle memory. You need to add more repetitions of the correct movement. Otherwise, if you quit at 100, then you have done it wrong 99 times and right only once. That is not a good ratio for success.
Analyze your Progress
Get feedback. In order to improve, you need to get feedback. Another set of eyes may help you identify something you have not noticed before. Get feedback from your instructor, senior students, or a training partner. Try to get feedback from someone who has more experience than you. Ask what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. Get specifics. You need actionable information and coaching.
Study yourself on video. Record yourself with video and study it to gauge your improvement and to look for other aspects you can improve. With most smartphones, you can quickly capture a video of yourself and watch it immediately. You can then make corrections during the same training session, instead of waiting until next time. Watching the video during your training session will help you allow you to make adjustments while the nuances of the movement are fresh in your mind. With some phones, you may even be able to watch yourself in slow motion. Watching in slow motion will allow you to analyze every detail.
Track your efforts and thoughts. Take notes in a journal. Note what you have improved and what you need to fix. Capture any feedback you get from others. Write down any technical details that you want to develop as you practice. Don’t leave out any details. The more you identify, the better that mental image you have of the technique will be. The process of tracking what you do and expressing your thoughts into words will help you examine the material better. It will force you to clarify your vision of the movement.
Coordination is a prerequisite to learning to apply your technique. You do not need to be perfect, but accelerating a sloppy movement in sparring or in application drills will not make it better. Get coordinated before you add intensity to your training. By applying the methods above you will master your technique in a very short time.