4 Tips For Breaking Bad Habits Before They Break You

I’m not talking about smoking, nail biting, overeating, or any other common bad habit in life. I’m talking about the bad habits that have formed in our technique or our training practices.

Image by Charles & Clint

We fight like we train, so everything we do under the pressure of a real fight becomes an automatic reaction. Your automatic response to an attack will be exactly what you have practiced the most in reaction to that stimulus. If you practiced the best possible response perfectly, you have nothing to worry about. But if you practiced something that is ineffective, wrong, or just different than your ideal response, you now have a habit to break.

Breaking habits that we have created through training can be similar to breaking other habits we develop in life, but there are some key differences.

 1. You need to practice the correct method 2 or 3 times the number of reps you have practiced incorrectly.

Every bad repetition you have ever done will count against you. The longer you have been practicing the incorrect technique, the harder it will be to fix it. If you truly want to break a habit and replace it with a new one, you need to practice this new skill 2 or 3 times as much as you have practiced what you are trying to replace.

This is a daunting task and will require a significant commitment. If you have been practicing something long enough, you should determine if the habit is even worth trying to replace. If your habit is something you can live with, it might be easier to avoid change all together.

But don’t shy away from breaking a bad habit just because it is old. Doing something wrong for a long time doesn’t mean you have been practicing it every day. I’ve heard this excuse numerous times teaching people to shoot rifles. Holding a rifle a certain way for twenty years doesn’t mean you practiced it that way every day for those twenty years. Suck it up and make the change because you are wrong, and the habit is correctable.

On the other hand, the skills I am practicing in my dry fire routine will probably become permanent over the next 20 years of daily practice. I must make sure I am constantly course correcting so I don’t make a habit of the wrong thing.

 2. Consistency is key

The more consistent you are in your practice, the easier the change will be. Inconsistency has two problems. First, it will make reprogramming your habits take longer. Second, it can result in confusion. Your body automatically responds how it has been trained to. Having more than one response trained and “at the ready” can lead to confusion as to which to do when a situation demands an immediate reaction. Merging two reactions in one is never a good thing.

 3. Make it conscious

 In order to do something consistently correctly, we need to make it a conscious effort. This breaks the automatic process by which our body normally reacts. By actively thinking about what we are doing, we can change it. Without consciously attempting to make this change, we will instead end up falling back into our old habit, preventing the correction we are trying to make.

 4. Start slow

Part of making something conscious is to start slow. Slow down your repetitions so you can control every aspect of the movement. You want to make every little detail of what you are doing perfect. Anything less than perfect will create more bad habits that will need to be broken. Practice in itself does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Practice only makes permanent. Get every rep right.

Breaking habits is a difficult proposition. If it was easy, hardly anyone would smoke, people wouldn’t overeat, and everyone’s draw stroke would be perfect. Habits can form very easily, but they are exponentially harder to break as time goes on. The best way to break a bad habit is to avoid creating it in the first place. Failing that, take the above advice and keep going. Forming new habits is just a matter of time.

Have you formed any habits in training you are trying to break?

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