Martial life

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martial arts cramming - how not to prepare for an exam



Just like the arrival of bugs after a long winter announces spring time, scores of people voluntarily practicing their katas and basic techniques after classes, inevitably announces a belt examination or competition is around the corner.
Isn't it strange that seemingly lazy students all of the sudden become training fanatics ?
photo is courtesy of arizaNur

Any other day, most people would eagerly wait for the end of class to go quench their thirst and rest their bodies. But for these two weeks, people actually crave for more training, some even training on their own, at home.

Every University teacher advocate that students read the recommended but optional material. They will preach about the virtues of steadily studiying the course material every night, so to better assimilate the contents. Student commities even hands out pamphlet to newcomers about the merit of creating a study schedule in order to uniformely study throughout the whole semester.

But how many students actually do recommended readings, how many even try to keep up to date with the material presented in class? From experience, those who actually study every night regardless of exam dates are the exceptions. Most students have the good will, especially in the beginning of the semester, but will give up the hard work, procrastinate and have cramming study sessions right before exams.

Engineering student preparing (or rather sleeping) for an exam
Photograph taken by Zymba Vong

This studying method helped obtain more than decent grades but once the examination over, the studied material would get forgottten as fast as they were learned. Of course,  broad theoretical basis are usually remembered while details like mathematical equations are quickly forgotten.

Could this low retention rate due to cramming be observed with Martial art?  That sure would explain the low quality - according to my standards -  of stances and techniques demonstrated by many experienced black belts.

For most of us, learning is a process in which repetition plays a key role. In Academic classes, you may get away from repetition if you are able to digest and understand key concepts the first time presented to you and if you have a good enough memory to store the information for later use.

" Just memorize everything and you'll be fine in the real world..."
Photograph is courtesy of B. Grigaliūnaitė Lt

The same cannot be said about martial arts training.

The main reason is that the key to martial arts mastery does not lie in conscious intellectual strength. Instead, it relies on specific motor skill assimilation, resulting in the practitioner being able to pull off perfectly executed moves without consciously thinking about it.

Although it may seem easier or at least, more natural for some, the fact that repetition is the key factor to movement - in all its subtle details - is to correctly repeat the movement over and over, until it can be executed without concious effort.

"Knowing how to hit is one thing, being able to hit is another! You keep practicing, grasshopper!"
photo taken from Katatonic / wikimedia commons

This concept is no secret and knowing that, one has to wonder why people put extra effort only when faced with a upcoming challenge? I guess it is human nature to lack discipline and procrastinate when they are in the absence of a clear, immediate goal to achieve combined with a consequence for failure.

Just as I was preached by senior students and teachers about the benefits of continuous slow and steady learning as opposed to cramming, i shall conclude by sermoning my readers or the importance of giving a little extra effort after (and between) each training.

Slow and steady wins the race but in the case of martial arts, you may want to be not too literal...
picture taken from Donarreiskoffer / wikimedia commons

Those who practice, outside of class hours, need not worry about competitions or examinations as they are prepared and ready for action. In fact, they are always ready for action, not just for martial arts events but also for the unpredictable  surprises life bring us. Statistically, chances you will never need to use your skills to protect your own life, but if it ever happens - and it does happen - you will be glad you were ready.


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Last Updated on Thursday, 24 June 2010 11:09  

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