Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

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You have been told since your youth that “practice makes perfect.” What you have been told is wrong. In reality practice only makes permanent. Or maybe more accurately practice makes less forgettable. On the other hand, perfect practice does make perfect (or closer to perfect at least). The real difference is that a deliberate effort to practice every repetition correctly will make it easier to perform correct repetitions. But practice crappy technique and you’ll only achieve “perfection” at crappy technique.

Annie Murphy Paul wrote a great article on this myth of ‘Practice Makes Perfect’. She points out how you must be deliberate in your practice, or you shouldn’t bother practicing at all. If you are not deliberate, you end up working only on your strengths. Good practice will involve self-evaluation and a targeting of those things you perform poorly to bring them up to snuff.

The best pianists, they determined, addressed their mistakes immediately. They identified the precise location and source of each error, then rehearsed that part again and again until it was corrected. Only then would the best students proceed to the rest of the piece. “It was not the case that the top-ranked pianists made fewer errors at the beginning of their practice sessions than did the other pianists,” Duke notes. “But, when errors occurred, the top-ranked pianists seemed much better able to correct them in ways that precluded their recurrence.”

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This little tidbit about pianists can be directly applied to almost anything. Especially combatives training. When we find weaknesses in what we are doing, we should put a little extra effort into trying to address those weaknesses. It reminds me very much of the old adage about the beginner training until he gets it right, and the expert training until he doesn’t get it wrong.

I have been applying the same theory in my own training. My reloads have been slow and unwieldy, so I have been putting a lot of time and effort into streamlining them. What I have found is that when I make a major mistake, slowing down and really focusing on the correct way to do what I screwed up is a good way to help get over the speed bump and hopefully prevent the mistake from coming back.

To me, deliberate practice comes down to a focus issue. Some people practice a lot. They might spend hours every day practicing, but without laser sharp focus on what you are doing in order to make every rep perfect, you are doing two things. First, you are building a very well practiced bad habit. Every bad rep you practice is one more rep to fight against when you need to go back and break your bad habit. The other thing you are doing is wasting time.

Twenty minutes of deliberate practice is worth far more than twenty hours of halfhearted crap practice.

The take away message from all of this is that shorter, more focused training sessions are probably more ideal than long, aimless ones. Have a plan when you practice, and make the session short enough that you can focus on every rep.

Do you practice deliberately?

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