How do you maximise your ability?
This isn’t about training hours, training intensity, supplementary mobility or strength training, diet or sleep.
Paying attention to those will have a huge impact.
It’s not the size of the toolbox.
Most people realise that collecting tools does not necessarily make you an able, efficient or skilful tool user. A small number of tools can do the majority of jobs. You do need more than just a hammer otherwise everything will get treated like a nail.
It’s not about having high quality reliable tools.
Actually it is, but that’s not what I’m thinking about right now. Those are the type of tools you should aim to have and be proficient in using.
It’s about having tools that work together.
To stretch the analogy a little further, there are disadvantages in having one brand of cordless drill, jigsaw and other tools if the only charger and battery you own is incompatible.
The analogy only stretches so far. When it comes to combative techniques, they are all designed with human beings in mind (allegedly). But it is the case that some tactics fit together and feed into each other as redundancies in failure cascade and some don’t. It is also the case that if you have too many responses to the same stimuli (too many tools), as opposed to a limited number of tools that can handle multiple stimuli, then your reaction time will suffer as the brain has too many options from which to choose – unless of course your response is predetermined, but that then begs the question why you trained so many other options in the first place.
The answer to that question is simple. You need exposure to a number of options to discover which is the best ‘go to’ fit for you. If you intend to teach you need to understand those options so you can offer your students the same choices. But when you train yourself? When you train you should focus the majority of your time on the things that are the best fit for you. This is not to limit your repertoire: it’s to increase your effectiveness and your skill level.
“A skill is the learned ability to bring about pre-determined results with maximum certainty; often with the minimum outlay of time or energy or both.”
Barbara Knapp, 1963
As a result you do need to apply analysis and selection or pruning when it comes to how you build your personal training repertoire (or your syllabus). This does not mean that you shouldn’t cross train and expand your horizons to the ideas of different instructors or different arts, far from it because that often provides invaluable insights into movements you already train – allowing you to use a single tool for more than one purpose. It does not mean that grappling is one thing, striking another, and never the two shall meet. It does mean that you should think critically about what you are seeing, learning or drilling, and make an informed decision as to whether it should be rejected, added to your repertoire, or replace something else in your repertoire.
Bolt-on elements added as an afterthought are not going to work as well as stripping something down and rebuilding to incorporate the new element – if it is compatible. If it isn’t compatible then it most likely won’t work in an unpredictable environment because you can’t integrate it with everything else. You may go to a martial arts seminar and find nothing compatible, but if you’ve had a fun day of exercise and exposure to new ideas that have made you see your own practice in a new light, then I would not regard that as a loss. While many karate instructors on the international seminar circuit might appear to be teaching drills, we are usually just using the drills to teach principles – so it does not matter if you ‘don’t do that kata’, there will be something for you to take away if you take the time to analyse it.
This is not a suggestion that you should embark on a ruthless purge of your repertoire. It is a suggestion that you should think about how and why you are doing everything that you are currently doing, whether the movements fit together (in multiple ways), and whether you should make any changes. There’s nothing wrong with occasionally doing something ‘for fun’ if you are aware that it is simply that (and has no practical combative use or combat sports use whatsoever). But your core training repertoire should have integrity.