There is a common saying in Kung Fu that it takes 10,000 repetitions before you can perfect a technique. In the spirit of this, we occasionally do back-to-back classes for all students entitled “Night of One Thousand Kicks”. That’s literally 1,000 kicks in two hours. If that sounds difficult, you are right. I have the students each pick whatever kick they want to practice and we run a set of drills – ten sets of one hundred kicks – and get down to work on our quest for ‘perfection’.
That’s an awful lot of kicks. But repetition alone doesn’t get the job done. The equation isn’t that simple. These repetitions need to be mindful and need to be examined as they are performed. If I just stood there and threw a thousand front kicks and went home, I’d have a sore leg, but no further understanding of – or skill with – my front kicks.
Repetition is only one piece of the puzzle.
Another piece is conscious effort. Each kick needs to be thrown with intent, clean technique, and a desire to acquire the perfect skill. This is difficult. No matter what technique you try to apply, performing multiple rounds over multiple sets numbs the mind. It’s ‘boring’. Yet, my students love these sessions; they get excited at the prospect of throwing the same kick over and over. Are they crazy? Well, yes, many of them are! But that doesn’t explain why they approach the “Night of One Thousand Kicks” with such enthusiasm.
We apply a technique I like to call the Goldfish Mind to each kick. I ask the students to apply the urban legend of the goldfish’s memory to their practice. There is a belief that a goldfish has a very short memory; it can’t carry a thought from moment to moment if that thought lasts for more than a few seconds. The goldfish can’t get bored because every few moments is a new experience for them; the moment is entirely fresh and unique and is not affected by the past. There is no past!
We apply this idea of the Goldfish Mind to these drills. Every kick is new, unique, and exciting. It is an opportunity to throw a flawless kick and to revel in the joy of that moment. The technique is performed mindfully and with excellent form. When the kick is over, we choose to forget it and perform a beautiful, devastating, flawless kick again. And again. And again.
The Goldfish Mind allows us to truly commit to each repetition of the technique and not become bogged down by negativity. When you practice, don’t you find it difficult to get over repeated failures to perform challenging techniques? Or to remember complicated passages of a form? If you drill these challenging moments and focus only on the current moment, you won’t get caught up in the negative self-talk that can wear you down.
There’s a lesson in there somewhere.
Drill the movements, seek perfect technique, revel in the opportunity to train, and eventually you will gain the skill.
Enjoy your training! I’ll see you out there.