Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Karate Programming: The Wiring

Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.

This is something I heard in the Marine Corps, and I think it brings up an important difference when it comes to how we build neurological pathways in our brain. This is how we learn most anything, but it applies to karate as well.

The more we practice something the more neural pathways we build in our brain for that activity. Our brain has a property called plasticity where it can adapt itself and literally change it's structure to make certain activities more efficient. The more we perform a movement the more efficient our brain becomes in interpreting and initiating the movement. Walking is a good example.

We may forget this at times, but walking is a learned skill. Children learn how to walk through trial and error until they can get the timing and weight shift correct to walk without falling. The more the children walk the stronger those neural pathways for walking become until they become almost unconscious movement. If we are in good health, we usually don't have to think about putting one foot in front of the other and we use our body's ability to sense position to guide our movements instead of sight. It is the cumulative affect of those successful steps that lead to those neural pathways being strong. If the unsuccessful attempts outweigh or are even with the successful attempts than the neural pathways remain weak.

Karate practice must be the same way. Deliberate, consistent and with intent over and over again until the principles of those movements build strong neural pathways. The more movements the longer this takes, the more inconsistent the techniques the more those pathways become diluted.

In karate, we use structure to defeat strength. Proper bone alignment and posture leads to good structure, which must be perfect every time. We want to obliterate our enemy with a strike, not break our hand or wrist. Each movement must conform to proper mechanics and structure. Practice must be conducted carefully to only build pathways for the most efficient and most useful movements and techniques and weed out all those that are sub optimal or redundant.

The next step is conditioning those movements through operant conditioning to hard wire the correct circumstances where each movement can be used. We've perfected the movement now we need to give it a job to do.