Repetition, the Mother of All Skill
Martial arts can be broken to down into a series of simple moves. So you can look at what look like complicated moves as a series of those simple moves added together in one fluid movement. Repetition is so important to make what initially might seem a complicated into something that is second nature to the student.
Whether you are talking about a strike, a kick or a throw, each individual movement it contains is taught, practiced and practiced again and again, until the body learns to perform each action without thinking about it.
When an action is repeated over and over again, the moves involved are indelibly imprinted onto the brain. This is referred to as muscle memory and the more the action is performed, the more permanent the moves become, which means you will be able to perform them quicker and more precisely with each passing day.
Speed of Movement
A move that is learnt to this degree almost becomes a reflex action. As the method is burnt into the neural pathways of the learner, it becomes not only automatic, but lightning fast. The lack of need to concentrate on the whys and wherefores of what your body is doing means that the movements can be made that much quicker than when the move is still being committed to memory.
As they say, practice makes perfect and that most certainly applies with martial arts.
Another important benefit of repetition is that is promotes good form, even at faster speeds. This economy of motion is achieved by teaching the muscles involved to move in the right position and at the correct angles. It begins with holding the right starting position and moving to the next with no wasted energy.
This is referred in some martial arts circles a ‘no mind’ movement, as it’s something that your body ‘just knows’ how to do.
Power is something that is also improved with constant repetition of the same actions. Often, some of the muscles used in a kata will not be ones that are used that often, so initially at least, you might not find the movement too easy. However, as the benefits of repetition kicks in, those muscles become stronger, giving you more power, as well as speed.
Principles of Martial Arts
Repetition also helps the martial arts student to really commit the fundamentals to memory. Things like body alignment, breathing and focus are all augmented and reinforced, each and every time you practice at your local martial arts class. In much the same way as routine imprinted on the brain, repetition takes care of the finer details.
The best in any sport or walk of life are as good as they are because they don’t have to think about the basics. This is the ultimate aim of repeating katas and other martial arts disciplines. It is designed to give you the tools to you need to increase your skill levels and advance to a higher belt or grade.
When you start learning martial arts, you might wonder “I’m performing this movement over and over again…why?” As we’ve learnt, it is for a very good reason.
Experienced martial artists make the movements they perform look like they’ve done them their entire lives and that, in essence is the point – to make it completely automatic and natural to the person doing it. Even the most experienced black belt students will learn their complicated moves in exactly the same way…repeat, repeat and repeat again.
So, get practising and before long you might be surprised yourself with just how far you’ve come.