Friday, October 9, 2015

The Rep Wall

Every movement has a repetition wall. This is the threshold where movements no longer require directed thought in order to be performed. This is not to be confused with skill, application or practicality. It just means you don't have to walk yourself through the steps of the movement.

A good analogy is touch typing that method of typing that you most likely learned in a typing class in school. The home row and all that good stuff. At first one must use focused mental energy to hit the right keys without looking, but after diligent practice and almost by magic you start looking less and less at the keyboard and just start thinking words and they appear on the screen. It is the same way with kata though there are more moving parts and a lot more for your attention.

There is no hard and fast rule for how many reps this will actually take. It could take very little time or it could take a great deal of time. It takes as long as it takes for those neural pathways to develop. One should not dwell on performing a certain amount of repetitions, but rather they should focus on the correctness of each movement. In this case correctness is not aesthetics or keeping style purity, but rather making sure to move according to the principles of power generation, optimal skeletal structure and the correct angles of attack. It's more important that you produce the correct neural pathways than trying to develop bad ones as quickly as possible.

It's important that one crosses this threshold before diving too deep into application. This is especially true for those that are reverse engineering their own kata. Crossing this line frees up the brain to start analyzing the movements to see what they're telling them. To go back to the typing analogy, it's very hard to write a short story if you're always hunting and pecking. You might forget what you were going to write before you get a chance to write it. Without this one cannot begin to experiment. Experimentation allows one to start abusing the system to find the weak points and thereby find the strong points. Remember the confirmation bias. We must try and prove it wrong or at least find the weak points.

To make things easier, one can only work on crossing the rep wall for one kata instead of trying to cross this line with all of their kata. It's much easier to reach if you keep the number of movements small.

Doing this is the first step in transcending kata.