Today I wanted to write about what is arguably the most important reason for practice.
Think back to your very first class. What was your reaction to the first thrust or cut that you received. Having taught what must be hundreds of novices I have a pretty good idea of what those initial reactions are: cringing, shying away, and a lame attempt, if any, at parrying.
Now think about the last time you were in class. What’s more, think back to the last time you did full-speed combat. What was your reaction to an attack then?
I like to think that our reptile brains – coloured by culture, etc – have a set of responses to any stimuli. Our response to an attack is some sort of curl up into a ball/protect the head. As responses go I can’t say it’s a bad one, but, when we have a sword in our hand, and, what’s more, we know how to use it, we can react better.
Practice has replaced our set of responses.
Think about when you’ve had to face an opponent who uses a style different to what you’ve practiced against. Silently raise your hand if your response was ever to be caught completely befuddled. Some of the confusion is figuring out how to apply what you know but another part is simply not having developed your response set.
For those of you learning new things (eg. blue cords studying voids) to really become adept with them you have to practice them, over and over. Part of practice is developing muscle memory to do the action but then comes practicing responses to our opponent’s actions. Those of you who have tried to void, but haven’t practiced sufficiently, know what I’m talking about.
So, practice. Develop knew reflexes re-train your reptile brain, and use all these fancy techniques with ease and grace and at the appropriate times.