Many of us make mistakes in training/practicing martial arts outside of class. When I was starting out I made an all too common error of collecting every drill, form, and exercise my teacher gave me. By the end of 1.5 years I had 2 pages of itemized material to train every time I practiced outside of class (which was quite frequently).

After a while my practice time went from 30 minutes to 2+ hours. I didn't always have 2 hours in a row so I had to start dividing up sessions during my day and training some things on my lunch break at work, others after work, and more when I left college class at night before going to bed. What I didn't know at the time was, that certain drills are meant to give you a skill, and once you have that skill, you leave the drill behind, or it becomes cumbersome or even counter productive to other training.

For example - if I have an intermediate student and they are still practicing Level 1 footwork and not working on Level 2 footwork then they will constantly be at a disadvantage when fighting their peers in the same level. So in essence they are holding themselves back by not directing their efforts in the appropriate place and spending more time on practicing their newest and least proficient skill.

I am a strong advocate for the saying, "practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect." This can seem perplexing as how is one to practice something perfectly when they first learn it? That is a misinterpretation of this quote. Perfect practice means effective practice that focuses on the target, and hits the material needing practice at that time; not jumping all over the map or practicing material from 2 years ago that is not currently relevant to your training and skill advancement. It does not mean that one should have mastery over something before they decide to practice it; otherwise how would we get anywhere?

It will take you on average 10,000 repetition before you are really good at something, in this case maybe throwing a punch, blocking, or moving. The longer you put off those reps the longer it will take for you to master these skills and the more delayed the evolution of your abilities.

Many people have jobs, school, and families, finding practice time outside of class can be rather difficult. That is why it is crucial that the material you do practice is 'focused', 'effective', and 'enjoyable'. To do this you can follow some simple guidelines
  1. Take suggestions you were given in class from the instructor, coach, or a peer and train fixes. If you lack the knowledge on how to fix that quirk then you should speak to your instructor and perhaps they can give you a drill you don't know about to fix the problem.
  2. Current material - take the current material being taught and focus on practicing that. Isolate and annihilate the current defects in your training instead of skipping around like a new puppy sniffing every tree you can find and getting lost in the smells.
  3. Beware the Rat - rats are innovative and cunning, but they collect things, and if you collect drills, forms, etc., make sure you are cycling your practice appropriately so you are not ineffective.  Rather instead, fix things and move on to the next task at hand when appropriate.
  4. Boredom - Likely you have more than one thing that needs to be fixed, so in order to prevent boredom in practice (making you not want to practice at all) mix up your practice routine with multiple drills for the same task, as well as incorporating one or two other skills you know you are weak on.
These are some tips to make your practice mean more to you in the long and short term. Practice does not have to be a chore, but if you make it boring, monotonous, or cumbersome, then you'll be all the less interested in taking part in it.

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