Adopt an improving mindset – not content with remaining at an acceptable level
Train with high-level practitioners you trust
Spend time each day doing ‘deliberate practice’
Much of this article is inspired by the 2016 book Peak by the late Anders Ericsson, a researcher into peak performance.
1 – Adopt an ‘improving mindset’
Research has suggested that experience alone does not guarantee an improvement in performance. When doctors who had practiced for 20 years were compared with doctors who had only trained for 5 years, no improvement in performance was seen. In fact in some cases the more experienced doctors actually got worse. Instead what mattered was that the practitioner adopted a mindset that wanted to keep on improving. It is sometimes also called a growth mindset (see author Carol Dweck) or a craftsman mindset (see author Cal Newport).
2 – Train with high-level practitioners you trust
Be part of a community of high-level practitioners you trust and you will get:
An opportunity to engage in creative play
An outside feedback of your performance
An opportunity to be pushed slightly out of your comfort zone
3 – Spend time each day doing ‘deliberate practice’
The final concept needed for improvement is undistracted time alone engaged in what Anders Ericsson calls ‘deliberate practice’.
Similar to the three points above, the three main features of deliberate practice are:
A distraction-free environment
Feedback e.g. a mirror/filming yourself and reviewing the footage
Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone
Deliberate practice also gives you time alone to build on the mental representations you have acquired since the start of your martial arts training. Examples of mental representations are:
Seeing related moves in groups rather than each one in isolation – similar to a chess grandmaster
Training the form/pads/dummy so you can accurately visualise you executing each move
Imagining your opponent attacking as you perform the form – thereby strengthening your understanding of each application
Adopt an improving mindset and drive your progression by doing a small amount of solo deliberate practice each day, interspersed with training with high-level practitioners you trust.