One Day at a Time

posted Jun 22, 2009, 7:08 AM by Robert Collins II   [ updated Jun 22, 2009, 7:11 AM ]
I’m often asked how someone becomes skilled at the Martial Arts.  The answer is rather mundane and simple.  Just like “How do you eat an elephant”?  The answer is simple, “One bite at a time”.  So how do you become skilled?  Just take it one day, one class and one practice session at a time.
I often think of Master Kise’s typical response when asked how to do a particular technique or kata.  It’s invariably “practice”.  Most of you have heard him say, “more practice, more better”.  I would have to add that thoughtful practice is the key. We have to think about and analyze what we do and how we practice.
I know some of you will say “but I don’t have time to practice every day” or the always popular “but I don’t have a place to practice”.  To paraphrase Mark Twain, if you don’t want to do something you’ll find an excuse and if you do want to do something you’ll find a way. 
The time and place issue is real but there’s always a way to do what you really want to do.  The goal is important but so is the journey.  The end result of achieving a goal can be pretty hollow if you don’t enjoy the process of getting there.  Another way to look at it is that in order to have what you want to have you need to become the person you need to be.


Visualization is a very important tool for training when you don’t have the time and/or the place.  As Denis Waitley says, “when you are without, do within”.
Some of you are familiar with the Stanford University study on visualization that came out some years ago.  In that particular study, which was designed to support or deny the validity of visualization as a tool for growth, a group of students was divided into three smaller groups.  All the groups did a pre-test on free throw shooting.  The scores of each group were recorded and the participants were given instructions.  The first group was told to stay away from the gym for 30 days. The second group was told to practice free throw shooting in the gym for 30 minutes every day for the next 30 days.  The third group was told to stay away from the gym but to visualize shooting free throws perfectly for 30 minutes every day.
The post-test produced some expected and unexpected results.  As one would assume the non-practicing group declined in their free throw percentage and the practicing group improved significantly.  The surprise was that the visualization group improved by almost as much as the practice group.  That tells us a lot regarding our practice.  Once again, “when you are without, do within”.
I’m not suggesting that physical practice is unnecessary but I am suggesting that you can supplement your physical practice with visualization.  In your mind’s eye you can do any technique or kata perfectly.  That’s worth the effort and the result can be very rewarding because often the mind cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined with clarity and passion.
I’m not a numbers guy but I was thinking today that over the last 40 years I’ve trained at least an hour each day and conservatively 320 days a year.  That would put it at pretty close to 13,000 hours of practice time.  That doesn’t count class time as a student or instructor.  That in itself doesn’t make one a skilled practitioner but it does give one the opportunity to improve.  We need to put in the time and the effort with thought.
Want to get skilled?  Take it one day at a time and do the work.  That’s the path to “Black Belt Excellence”.