Krav Maga instructors are always looking to help students improve while striving to improve their own skills. Over the years, we have seen instructors and students who steadily improve, becoming very proficient. We have also seen those who improve at a slower rate or even regress. Why the different results? There are many studies that address the general question of performance and why some excel and others do not.
One of these studies is Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performance from Everybody Else by journalist Geoff Colvin. Colvin, it should be noted, doesn’t dismiss talent but argues that its role in excellent performance has been exaggerated. At the crux of his study is the concept of “deliberate practice.”
Here are the basic elements of deliberate practice.
Practice is designed to improve performance.
This involves working with someone who can see things in your performance that you cannot. Think of a yoga instructor adjusting your pose or a personal trainer correcting you squats or lunges. Everyone needs a coach to improve. This past summer Megan Berkman pointed out that I wasn’t rotating my base foot when I perform knee strikes. I didn’t know! Now, when I practice I rotate and ask people I train with to point out if I don’t. Instructors need to improve too!
It can often be repeated
Knee strikes, for example, can be repeated over and over again. They must, however, be repeated properly. Later, these knees can be blended into combinations and techniques such as choke releases. Basketball’s Michael Jordan practiced his jump shot thousands upon thousands of times. How many serves have Serena and Venus Williams performed over the years? The same applies to musicians, chess players…
Feedback on Results is Consistently Available
You might think you are performing correctly then a teacher says, “Nu-uh.” It is difficult to gauge our performance while we are performing. You need someone to point out your mistakes and show you how to improve. Jean-Paul Jauffret, like Megan, sees everything, has pointed out my bad habits. I welcome it. Ego schmeego! If you want to improve, work with someone who gives you the feedback to improve.
It’s Highly Mentally Challenging
As Colvin writes, “Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration.”(70) Defending against various strikes, escaping chokes from all directions etc.. It all requires intense focus and concentration or the techniques simply don’t work. It stretches our physical, mental, and emotional abilities. So if you are tired after a Krav Maga class – “You are welcome!
It Isn’t Much Fun. (sometimes it is).
Michael Jordan’s jump shots, Venus and Serena Williams serving tennis ball after tennis ball, Margaret Atwood reading and editing her work, correcting and adding and subtracting… Not every moment is fun. All of them had to work on aspects of their craft they were not especially good at. Some Krav Maga practitioners might love punching but feel uncomfortable kicking – or vice versa. It’s not fun, but work on everything, especially what needs improvement.
Deliberate practice is a topic that is being increasingly explored and written about. The elements can be applied to business, the arts, fitness, sports, and yes, Krav Maga.
Here is bibliographic information for Colvin’s book.
Colvin, Geoff, Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. London: Penguin Books Ltd, 2008.