We have all heard the phrase “practice makes perfect”, but if something is already good – why do we have to continue to go back and keep practicing the same things?
PERFORMING UNDER PRESSURE
Performance Choking: an unexplained sudden drop in performance for no physical reason.
We are often expected to perform under pressure in lots of areas of life and sometimes that pressure can have a negative effect on our skill level. For example, you may find that although you know you can perform a technique, form, or kata really well when asked to demonstrate in front of a group of people it can go wrong or we forget moves. This is known as ‘choking’, it is brought on through the stress of performing under pressure and can be a coach and competitor’s worst nightmare.
How are these 2 problems related? It’s all to do with the way we learn. To be the best we can be as martial artists, whether training for self-defense or for competition, we need all movements to be instinctive. This will ensure that that we can perform to the very best of our ability, despite being under pressure – whether that pressure comes from a crowd of spectators at a competition or the threat of an attacker. The key is to understand the learning process.
HOW WE LEARN NEW PHYSICAL SKILLS
There are 2 stages of learning, these are known Explicit and Implicit.
Explicit learning is the first stage of learning something new. It relates to how your mind processes further information when learning a task. You receive information and process it into the desired action. This action is controlled by the Prefrontal cortex in the brain. At this stage you need to focus and concentrate, putting a lot of thought into your actions. As you practice and develop through repetition the movement becomes automatic, this is the Implicit (second stage) of learning. The control for the action moves to another part of the brain called the Basal Ganglia. This part of the brain is responsible for habits that require no conscious thought (known as unconscious competence) and is a bit like working on auto-pilot, for example blinking or chewing. If you repeat the skill enough, it will become an intuitive and unconscious movement. You could be thinking about something entirely different and unrelated, or be surrounded by distractions yet still be able to perform the action to the best of your ability.
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