Posted by on September 9, 2019

Thin slicing. “the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behaviour based on very narrow slices of experience.” Malcolm Gladwell

Over the summer, during one of our classes, one of our pre-teen students looked at me, eyes wide and smiling.
I can see the punches coming so much faster now!
I know. I said, nodding. Practice.

Of course, “practice” doesn’t sufficiently explain why he could now read punches so quickly. Without realizing it, he was referring to what some call thin slicing (see definition above). Malcolm Gladwell offers many examples of this phenomenonin his fascinating book, Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking.

Perhaps the most relevant is that of tennis expert Vic Braden. Braden, as Gladwell points out, can identify with astounding accuracy, a double fault before a player’s racket hits the ball. Similarly, a player like Bianca Andreescu, who recently defeated Serena Williams to win the U.S. Open, has developed the ability to read where serves and returns are going to be placed. Without this ability, winning the U.S. Open or any professional match would not be possible.

Interestingly, Braden and Andreescu cannot explain how they know this. According to to Gladwell, this is because thin slicing is an unconscious process beyond the reach of conscious awareness and explanation. It is developed through practice.

Whether it is learning to defend and counter strikes or returning a serve or volley, with practice you can develop a greater ability to identify what is coming.

In future blogs we will explore how to develop your ability to identify and anticipate particular attacks.

Be safe!

*For a more general overview of thin slicing and self-defense read our previous blog on this topic at:

Image by Sofie Zbořilová from Pixabay


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