Scientific Training

Everyone knows that getting better at a skill requires practice, but what people may not know is that not all practice is equal.  Sure, in martial arts, some drills are just more useful than others (I’d love to read about what people’s favorite drills are…just as a side note), but what I’m talking about is what happens in your mind.

Let’s suppose that you practice a good drill for years and years.  You will get better.  You will improve.  The question that you should ask though is, “could I have gotten to this skill level faster?”. For the majority of people, I would say that the answer is “yes”, and I can say that because I know that most people aren’t taking a hardcore analytical approach to their training.  And yes, I’m talking about forming a hypothesis, TESTING it, analyzing the results, and then adjusting your hypothesis until you get the desired outcome.

That’s right…the scientific method applies to martial arts training.  (by the way, this really works for any skill, not just martial arts.)

As in any good experiment, you want to control for as many variables as possible, keeping all but one (ideally) the same so you can see the different outcomes and attribute those differences to the thing you changed.  When learning a new throw, perhaps you want to test how much you should bend your knees, how straight to keep your back, when the ideal time to execute the move is, etc.  Change each of those things up, one at a time, so you can see the results.  Also, repeat the test with a different training partner to make sure your conclusions will generalize to opponents of different shapes and sizes.  Running this kind of test is easy when you practice one move for many repetitions (you are getting your reps in…right?).

At the beginning, the changes will be dramatic until you get the fundamentals of the move down.  As you increase your mastery of a technique, the changes will be much finer and probably take longer to realize as you squeeze the remaining bit of effectiveness-juice out of the technique.

This approach applies to both offense AND defense.  When sparring, I recommend trying to remember what move worked best for you offensively and defensively.  Also, track what moves your opponents did to you that worked well both offensively and defensively.  Heck, keep a journal with this information so you can track it over time and help others later who find themselves on the same path.

Keep in mind, this approach requires that you have a degree of self awareness (how your body is positioned, how much strength you put into moving, balance, etc.), which is something that any martial art should cultivate in you anyway.  However, having a beginner do this might be a bit overwhelming for them.  It all depends on the inpidual.  But this level of critical analysis is something that all martial artists with a strong desire to improve should do at some point.

Taking a scientific approach to training will enable you to make intelligent decisions towards improving rather than just waiting until you “get it”.

Leave a Reply