Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Shortcut fallacy

We all know there are no shortcuts to becoming good in gaining any skill, especially if it also entails the aspect of making split-second decisions about which skill to use and how. And still, we see people incessantly seeking the way to "get there faster". What's up with that?

Well, it is a natural striving - wishing to achieve more results with less effort. As the mater of fact, that would be some kind of definition of  efficiency, right? So, what is the problem then? The problem is that, for some reason, the field of martial arts/combatives is plagued by the mystical notions of "secret techniques", various "super powers and supernatural abilities". They funny thing about those is not that they are essentially snake oil related product, but even more so that fact that those looking for something along those lines end up taking the longer and rather winding road, just to get nowhere in the end. Unless the point is exactly in taking the road, i.e. the quest itself. In that case, more power to them.

However, if you are searching for the efficiency, then you better set your sights on the best training methods, instead of any particular techniques and/or tools. We have seen time and time again that some schools end up having better performing students that others, even if using more or less the same tools and under similar circumstances (rules, belief systems etc). Moreover, I have seen how the same individual could change for better or for worse when going from one training methodology to another.

So, how do you know what is the right training approach for you? Well, it starts with defining as clear an understanding of what are you training for; how much are you ready to sacrifice; does your idea(l) fit your physical and psychological profile etc. I have already addressed some of those subjects in this blog, so go back and dig around a little.

Just understand on thing - once you embark on the chosen road, you still have to go over it in full...no shortcuts.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Take it slow

It isn’t really a novelty by any means that the need to do some training at real time speed and with increased pressure has becoming emphasized more and more over the past few years, in the martial art circles. As the matter of fact, yours truly had already written about it. Yet, in the Russian Martial Art circles, particularly various Systema styles and schools, this approach is relatively fresh, and some practitioners have even suddenly started dismissing the slow paced training altogether. Well, to fix something it does not simply suffice doing the opposite thing.

Of course there is a time and place for the slow training! When one tries to figure out which approach to training is better, it can only be done in relation to the function and the desired outcome of the training session(s). That said, let us make an important distinction here…

Just like many other activities that entail performance of a complex set of motor actions (not to mention the tactical aspect), the training process essentially boils down to two segments:
1.     Learning
2.     Practicing

The former category is impossible without the heavy engagement of the cognitive apparatus, i.e. the process is highly analytical, hence requiring time to be done properly. If at issue is a completely new skill, unrelated to the previously acquired ones, in this phase the practitioner may end up a training session without even breaking sweat, but feeling certain mental saturation instead. 

As we all know, learning a skill properly from the get go is important because the mistakes are much harder to correct if already “ingrained”, which only reiterates the necessity for the slow and methodical approach at the learning stage.

However, I feel it is very important to not dwell in the slow stage for too long. Namely, a number of people may enjoy staying there longer because it enables the sense of accomplishment to really sink in, but down the line it just delays the frustration that only seems to escalate once you try to things in the “real time” and under pressure – all of a sudden the skill you thought you had mastered seems inadequate again. It is only natural and requires simply practicing it now, under these new conditions, but no… Quite a lot of practitioners (and sadly, their coaches/instructors) will resort back to the slow practice, believing that it will somehow magically “translate” into performance under in different circumstances. I am sorry to break it to you, but it does not work that way.
Duke it out!
In the Filipino martial arts there is a saying that “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” but the later part is only true if actually done fast. The bottom line is, both slow and fast approaches have their place in training, ideally, in a way that would enable them to complement each other and thus improve the overall results.

Naturally, there is a process in bringing things up to speed, including the methods of reducing the number of factors to deal with in training, many kinds of drills, gradual increase in resistance and speed etc, and this is the time to sweat it out. Those, nevertheless, are not the subject of this post, and some have been touched upon already in this blog, some others will be in the future. Just make sure to keep the goal in mind while enjoying the process.