" Practice Does Not Make Perfect, Perfect Practice Makes Perfect"
Being the avid football fan I am of the hometown Superbowl Champion New York Football Giants (has a nice ring to it), I like to watch any and all things football- regular season or off-season. You don't need to be a football fan to know who Vince Lombardi is, the impact he had on football and the impact he still has on popular culture today. Vince was know for being a perfectionist and demanded excellence from his players at all times- on the practice field as well as on game day. I heard this quote recently while watching a Vince Lombardi biography and it has applicability to many things, karate training included.
Let me first start by saying that I am not suggesting that karateka should not practice unless everything is perfect in their environment. I am a firm believer that you are always better served training at the dojo than sitting on the couch at home. We all have days when we feel like we can set the world on fire and other days where is seems like a struggle to get to the end of the day. Some days where everything clicks and other days where it doesn't. Some days where we have abundant energy and some days where we drag ourselves into and out of work, home, the dojo etc. That's life.
It also stands to reason that one can not attain "perfection" without making errors along the way. Everything we do is new for all of us at some point. In the dojo, you will rarely (if ever) see someone perform a move "perfectly" for the first time they ever perform it. That is the point of repetition right? Doing 10,000 punches or kicks so that the 10,001st time is better than the 10,000th? That is the point of having an instructor to teach you right? To show you how to perform moves correctly. Isn't that what you pay them for?
Yes and no. As the old saying goes, "repetition is the mother of learning" so yes, the more you practice a technique the more it will be ingrained in your mind and muscle memory to perform it in the future without thought. This repetition serves to build a foundation of skill through repeated practice. However performing 10,000 punches or kicks incorrectly makes your 10,001st worse not better. Bad habits are easy to develop and hard to change, especially if you have had them for a prolonged period of time. And yes, you do hopefully pay for quality instruction at a good martial arts school, and your instructor should be showing you the correct and incorrect ways to perform these movements and sequences of techniques.
More than anything though, I believe what Vince Lombardi was saying was that winning is a mindset first and foremost. He demanded the best out of each practice and each drill from his players. Don't just save your best for game day because you become what you practice. And as much as Lombardi demanded this excellence from his players, he also ensured he surrounded himself with players who were either predisposed to this mindset or learned it quickly.
To carry this thought forward to your karate training, we have to ask ourselves series of brutally honest questions. Do you consistently provide your utmost effort when training? Do you put a little extra "zip" into your punch or kick when your Sensei is training? Do you save your "A-game" for tournaments or belt examinations? Do you ease up on the difficulty of a move (like holding a low stance) when no one is watching? Do you hold the goal of being the very best you can be at performing a move or do you hold the goal of being good enough?
Like all things with life, the journey we travel is a personal one. Therefore, the journey is defined by you and you alone. An instructor can only help you so far no matter how good they are at instructing. It is still up to the individual to relentlessly pursue the goal of being the best they can be. Any no matter what anyone says, a good instructor can not motivate the learner. Yes........it is not the job of your Sensei (or coach or boss or parents etc. outside of the dojo context) to motivate you. It is their role to to create a motivating learning environment in which people (in this case karateka) can perform at high levels of excellence and be taught though quality instruction. It is ultimately up to the learner to be self-motivated and push themselves in the pursuit of excellence.
No one is perfect. I am not saying a life is not worth living unless you give 100% to everything you do 24 hours a day. That is not realistic nor is it a happy way to live your life. What I am saying (and what I believe Lombardi was saying) was that whatever you commit to doing, do it to the very best of your ability at all times. If you are committed to karate, be the best you can be at it every time you train. Don't let external factors be your motivator, have an internal drive to be better than you were the day before.
So the next time you performing your kihon, kata or kumite...don't look over your shoulder...look in the mirror.
Since 1988, Way Of Life Shotokan Karate has been committed to teaching traditional karate and values for a modern world. Under the leadership of Norman Smith Sensei, Way Of Life Shotokan Karate instructs hundreds of students at our various locations from beginner to advanced levels of all ages that come from across the New York City metro area. Our unique way of combining martial arts training, etiquette and philosophy with the modern concepts of fitness, self-defense and competition is unparalleled. We ensure your training is vigorous, while maintaining a safe and fun learning environment that encourages students to reach their fullest potential.
Way Of Life Shotokan Karate Do martial arts school is now officially open at 501 East Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck NY, 10543 serving the local Westchester County communities of New Rochelle, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Harrison, Rye, Port Chester, Mount Vernon, Scarsdale, White Plains and Yonkers as well as the Bronx and NYC metro area.