Tuesday, September 13, 2016

On Practice


Practice is important. It is something which we hear and something which we are told again and again. This post is going to examine some of the details with regard to practice, how it is performed and why it is performed. Many will just skip over this one, but I suggest that you do not, as practice really is that important.

1. Importance
Everyone needs to practice. It does not matter if you are the newest swordsman or the most aged practitioner. Skills decay if you do not use them and thus practice is important. This also means that you should also practice everything. When you do not use a skill, it will decay and will not be as sharp the next time you try to use it.

2. Regularity
A post has already done a blog on this one, so why are we back here again? Simply because it relates to the subject at hand. More to the point it is important. You should practice every day, an hour is best, 30 minutes if it is all you can squeeze in. It does not have to be anything complex merely using some footwork and making some attacks will do.

3. Muscle Memory
There is a thing called "muscle memory". When you practice something enough, you will get to a stage where you can do the action without thinking about it, naturally this is a great advantage in any form of swordplay. It takes about 500 repetitions of an action to put it into your muscle memory, but you must practice it accurately. Any mistake you make in the action will also be practiced into muscle memory as well and it will take 50,000 repetitions to remove a mistake from muscle memory, so it is best to do it right the first time.

4. What to Practice
In a word everything. This being said some elements need more focus than others. Foundation elements should always be practiced more than peripheral elements because they form the basis of the peripheral elements. There is little point in practicing a counter-disengage if you cannot do a disengage, or practicing a punta riversa if you cannot do footwork properly. Things which are new will always require a little more attention when they are fresh because they are new, but this does not mean you should ever neglect your foundation elements.

5. How to Practice
Most importantly, with a sharp focus on practicing and what you are practicing. We are often distracted by what is fun or what is more engaging. If we are engaging in bouting with the purpose of working on a particular technique then both swordsmen need to work on that technique and not get distracted by other things. Likewise during drills we need to focus on what the drill is about and what each person's job is, if both do not do their jobs the drill will not be effective. Even when practicing alone the same focus is required. Pick a technique and work on that until you have completed practicing it and not before.

6. When to Practice
Practice should be like sleep for military-types in field, whenever you can. You may not have access to an opponent, but there are still skills you can practice. You may not have access to a sword, but there are still skills you can practice. You may be stuck on a plane or a bus, but there are still things you can practice. If you are serious about your practice, there is always something that you can be practicing at almost anytime, anywhere that you are. Naturally, you will get some odd looks, but at least you are getting practice in.

There have been six headings which have been presented with regard to practice and statements made with regard to each of them. Each is as important as the one before it and the one after, they are in no particular order really. If you hit a spot where you are having problems, go to your instructor or teacher and ask them how best to practice a particular skill or even set of skills. Better yet, I would advise you to sit down with them and work out a training program. This way you will always have a goal to work toward. For some the motivation is internal for others it needs to be external, most of all find your own and practice, it is the way to be a better swordsman.