How To Improve Your Technique

Written by on September 14, 2011

If you want to win more tournaments… spar with greater success …and take your martial arts skills to the next level…read on.  Because this month you’re going to discover how to improve your technique, no matter what level you’re at right now.  

Five Key Secrets

     I’m going to reveal five key secrets that, when you apply them, will make any of your martial arts skills much more powerful and help you get the very most out of what you’re learning.  Ready?  Here goes:

 Focus on the Basics

     I say this time and time again.  Focus on your fundamentals!  Out of all the techniques you learn, they are truly the most important.  Why?  The answer is simple: Your basic techniques (yes, even white belt moves!) are your foundation.  These moves form the base which all of your advanced techniques build upon.  Take a look at any top martial artist and I guarantee you’ll find someone who has drilled the basics so many times they’ve become second nature

     This is true in other sports as well.  Take basketball, for example.  Superstar Michael Jordan stunned fans with his physics-defying “air” on the basketball court.  His buzzer-beating three-point shots bordered on the unbelievable.  And his clutch wins shocked everybody – other teams included.  When you say the name “Michael Jordan”, you think “flash”.  But off the court, Michael Jordan was a very humble man who took the basics very seriously.  Here’s a quote from Michael Jordan himself:

“Fundamentals are the most crucial part of my game in the NBA. Everything I did, everything I achieved, can be traced back to the way I approached the fundamentals and how I applied them to my abilities. They really are the basic building blocks or principles that make everything work.  I don’t care what you’re doing or what you’re trying to accomplish — you can’t skip fundamentals if you want to be the best. The minute you get away from fundamentals, the bottom can fall out. You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly because the only thing that never changes will be your attention to them.

      “The fundamentals will never change. It comes down to a very simple saying: There is a right way and a wrong way to do things.  You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your fundamentals are wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way.  Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”

     Wise words from one of the all-time greats.  Drill your basics repeatedly.  Get them into your blood so they’re reflexive.  And even when you move onto more advanced techniques, go back and hone your basics.  For example, other players were astonished when they saw Michael Jordan practicing free throws by himself on the court after a big game.  Now that’s what I call a focus on fundamentals.

Specialize In the Moves Meant for You.

     Specialization is a big key to success at Karate for Kids.  This is true of self-defense situations as well as rank promotions and competitions.  While you must learn all the moves we teach (and you do learn a lot!), down the road you can start to specialize more.  This means you can choose your favorite moves from everything you’ve learned from us.  You will develop your own “signature style” – your own “bag of tricks”. 

     Let’s face it: There are some moves that are simply more effective for you – as an individual – to perform than others.  Some techniques feel more comfortable to you than others.  That’s natural.  If you feel your sidekick is more effective than your round kick, then the next time you compete, rely on your side kick to get the job done.

     The reason specializing helps your technique is simple: When you focus on a small set of “go-to” moves and techniques, you can perfect them much more easily than, say, thousands of  different techniques.  It’s the old “quality over quantity” idea.

    In the book The 80/20 Principle, author Richard Koch reveals a fascinating universal law he calls the “80/20 Principle”.  Scientifically proven time and time again, the law goes like this: In most cases, 80% of results come from only 20% of your efforts.  For example, 80% of a business’ sales come from 20% of its customers.  20% of people in the country own 80% of the wealth.  20% of intersections create 80% of traffic jams. And so on.  You see this principle everywhere in life.  I bet if you did a study of our tournaments, you’d find that 80% of tournament wins result from 20% of available techniques. 

     Test this for yourself.  The next time you’re at a tournament, take note of the winning techniques.  I bet the same “bread-and-butter” moves come up over and over. When you focus on a  small handful of very effective moves, you can master them more easily.

      Bruce Lee said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” 

Strive for Simplicity

     Oftentimes, the simplest moves are the best.  Why?  Because simple moves waste very little motion.  They also are natural and intuitive.  If you’re in a self-defense situation, you want to choose the technique that will eliminate the threat as quickly as possible…and with the greatest chance of success.  Your basic moves fall into this category.  When trying to choose between a flashy, complicated move and a solid, simple move – opt for the simple move… especially in a self-defense situation!

Attend Tournaments

      I mentioned tournaments a moment ago.  I believe it really is important to compete. Why? Is it to come home with trophies and medals?  Is it for the accolades?  No.  The main reason is to learn in a new way.  In a tournament, you get to test your skills against a new opponent you rarely spar or never sparred with before.   This is much closer to a real street confrontation because you don’t know what to expect.  Your opponent will throw new moves at you from angles you’ve never experienced before.  This gives you a chance to fine-tune your skills, discover what works best for you and improve your techniques in a big way. 

Teach Others

    The final (and possibly the most powerful) way to improve your own techniques is to teach others.  Trust me: if you really want to learn something well, try teaching it to somebody else.   And if you really want to see how well you really know something – try teaching it to somebody else. 

     Here’s why this works: First, you get to analyze your techniques in-depth.  You’ll really understand the mechanics of the move (the “kinetic chain”). Second, you get more repetition on that technique because you perform it more when teaching it to somebody else.  Finally, you get to see the most common mistakes people make when performing a technique.  You can then avoid these same mistakes, too.

     Teaching is a huge secret.  Look at all the great masters in our art.  Is it any wonder they’re all instructors, too?  Advancing to the level of mentor and teacher is a natural progression in martial arts.  When you teach, not only do you enrich another person’s life, but your own techniques improve dramatically.  It’s a win-win.  (By the way, we have a special leadership program for students who would like to move up to a leadership role and start teaching others.  See me for more information!)

Your Call to Action

     This month I want you to focus on perfecting your techniques using the five methods I just outlined.  Above all, focus on your fundamentals this month.  They’ll make everything more solid!

—Chief Master Babin


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