I'd like to start a series on this blog for those of you already training or getting ready to start your martial arts journey that addresses some of the most common mistakes with martial arts training. Today, let's discuss a mistake that is very easy to make as a white belt but can sneak up on the black belts too!
Incorrect Fundamental Technique
One of the things I hear all the time is "that seems so logical now that it has been pointed it out to me!" This is the way martial arts should be - logical. For the most part, the fundamental techniques of the martial arts are not composed of highly complicated movements or secrets. Remember that the arts were created out of necessity for application on a battlefield or on the street. It was essential for them to be composed of natural movements and simple techniques. These techniques must be reliable when the martial artist is under extreme duress and experiencing massive amounts of adrenaline.
Understanding these basic concepts is essential to successfully applying techniques. Therefore, one of the most common errors in performing techniques is focusing on the amount of power and speed applied to the technique rather than the fundamental details. My Dad (Bruce Corrigan) always emphasizes that speed should result from constant repetition of an effortlessly and flawlessly performed technique and should not be forced.
Now we understand that practicing incorrectly can be detrimental, but exactly how detrimental can it be? How long will it take to master the ability to execute the desired technique without thought or flaw? Let's imagine it like this:
Let's say it takes 300 steps to reach our goal of mastery. We've found that mastering a new technique is different for every individual, but we know for sure it will take hundreds of repetitions. Every time we practice the movement perfectly we take one step towards that goal. Every time we practice it incorrectly we either move nowhere OR worse, we move backwards. We've found that while a few hundred repetitions may be what it takes to master a technique, it could take thousands of repetitions to break and correct a bad habit. That is a HUGE difference.
So, we need to try our hardest not to create bad habits while training martial arts - or in anything for that matter. This is why when I speak to a new student at my academy (Progressive Martial Arts Academy in Oak Ridge, TN), I ask them whether they have trained martial arts before. The reason being that if they haven't trained previously, my job is usually much easier! If they have trained, it's possible it was with someone that taught them well and corrected their mistakes. However, if someone trained them incorrectly or didn't take the time to correct their mistakes, it will take thousands more repetitions to correctly re-learn even the most basic techniques like a fighting stance.
Long story short, practicing a technique slowly and perfectly will help you reach your goal of mastery much sooner than executing techniques hurriedly.
Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect!