Conscious Effort, Instinctive Response

“Cognitive Secret: It takes long-term, conscious effort to hone a skill before the brain assigns it to the cognitive unconscious.” –Wired for Story by Lisa Cron

Wired for Story was a book I read recently (Little-known fact about Sempai Yudanjanim C: she is an aspiring writer). It focuses on the relationship between brain science and writing stories based on brain science.

I found those words in one of the chapters, and was struck by how much it applies to martial arts training, not just writing.

If I may, let me re-frame the idea in martialartsspeak:

Martial Arts Advice: Do every move correctly AND with full mental presence (focus) at all times. Repeatedly, for a very long time.

This is the path to building your instinctual response. Under the pressure of a street attack, the specific technique itself matters less than how fast you react and how effectively you execute it. Hence the years of conscious repetition.

Various masters and instructors of mine have cited anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 as the number of times a move must be practiced correctly in order to become an instinctual response. But perhaps the actual number is less important than making sure you always practice with deliberate effort, rather than just “going through the motions.”

Any way you slice it, dedication, repetition, and mindfulness are crucial to taking your training to the next level. Train harder, but also train smarter.

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