To drill, or not to drill?

aikido-362954_1920Early in my martial arts career, we would drill the same techniques repeatedly throughout the class. This might mean doing armbars for thirty minutes or having to rep fifty on each side before we could do anything else. At the time, I disliked this style of training because I became distracted or bored. Looking back, I should have relished the time and applied myself better.

William Durant, in summation of Aristotle’s Ethics, once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” For us as martial artists, we must drill a technique numerous times to make it second nature.

When you watch the most exceptional athletes in your art, whether it’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Karate, Boxing, etc., their technique can often seem perfectly timed and precisely placed. That intuition most likely comes from repetition and countless hours of drilling.

It is not enough for us to just know all of the required techniques in our art. Knowledge of a thing does not always equate to proper application. When I tested for Ikkyu (brown belt) in Judo, I knew all of the necessary techniques. But when it came time to display them against an opponent in competition, I was behind the curve.

We train so that we are prepared for when the need to use our techniques arise, whether in competition or self-defense. This makes repetition critical.

Always one to speak his mind, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter and teacher, Carlson Gracie, reportedly once said, “You know a thousand techniques and you suck at every one of them.” I never met him, but I have felt like he had me in mind when he said this a few times in my career.

In your training, make it a point not just to have a breadth of knowledge, but to have a depth of the techniques you study. It is better to be a master of a few things than to attempt to be decent at everything. As you train, the number of techniques you can perform well will grow naturally due to repetition.

Stay on the grind. Don’t get discouraged or frustrated. Drill, drill, drill. It will pay off for you in the long run.