I dislike the concept of listicles, as readers may know, but I ran across a nice blog post called 8 Things Top Practicers Do Differently. It's a brief summary of some research done in 2009. The principles translate (as they so often do) to martial arts practice as well.
You can read the post, ("No! I'm too busy! Just tell me what it says!"), but here's my takeaway ("Thanks!").
A group of piano students were set a brief excerpt of music, given the same amount of time to practice it and had to come back the next day to play it. Their performances were evaluated for correctness (right notes, right rhythm) and quality (tone, character, expressiveness).
Practice Strategies of the Winners
Since most people can only remember three things, here is a distillation of a distillation of the winning strategies:
- Whenever you practice, practice with focus and attentiveness. As we say in Kokikai Aikido, with "mind and body coordinated." If you are not focused, you're wasting your time. Listen, feel your body, relax, notice.
- Use that focus to help you practice correctly whenever possible. Every time you practice incorrectly, you reinforce what's incorrect. When you are aware and attentive, you'll notice when you're incorrect right away, and you can focus on the details needed to correct yourself.
- Slow down. This is the most important thing you can do! Slowing down allows you to focus and to practice correctly. Remember that anything worth practicing involves coordinating complex motor movements. Once you slow down it's much easier to identify the exact source of difficulty, and to repeat just the movements you need to get it right. After you get it right, it's much easier to speed up.
Read More About Slow Practice
Here's another lovely blog post about practicing slowly in the martial arts and in music.
Photo credit: Republic of Korea KOREA.NET - Official page of the Republic of Korea (photo has been cropped and image enhanced)