Martial Arts • Fighting Science • 4 • Yin ☯ Yang of Technique vs. Instinct

As discussed in last week’s post, combat training is about learning new degrees of freedom – adding new maneuvers or techniques that have never been tried before. But how to learn a new move well enough that it becomes natural or instinctive? Enter the 100-1000-10000 rule:
  • Mechanics If you do a technique 100 times you will understand its mechanics. Your brain will comprehend how to do it correctly, and why the movement is valuable.
  • Natural When you do a technique 1000 times it will become natural. This threshold is passed when the movement feels right in sparring. The movement becomes part of your combat portfolio.
  • Instinctive Once you do a maneuver 10000 times then it enters your subconscious. The movement can now be executed without thinking about it.

The 100-1000-10000 rule is fundamental to combat sports
and applies to the highest levels of professional fighting.

It’s important to clarify that these movements must be done correctly for it to successfully traverse the 100-1000-10000 evolution. Counting doesn’t begin until the technique is done correctly. Doing a maneuver incorrectly leads to bad habits that are hard to break.

If fighting requires surprise and spontaneity, why practice repetition? A fighter needs repetition in order for a new technique to enter the subconscious. Once that is achieved a fighter no longer needs to think of the technique because it’s apart of them. It’s as close to “instinctive behavior” as possibly achievable.

Instinctive maneuvers are the end-game because the moment a fighter “thinks” of performing an attack, defense, or anything in between – then telegraphing occurs and time is lost. An experienced fighter can exploit this delay. Reactionary measures in times of stress, emotion and chaos are worsened, if not completely lost. Practicing a move mitigates this weakness because the “thinking” component is removed from the fighting equation and the movement becomes instant.

Techniques are abandoned in the midst of chaos
and requires confidence and experience
to regain composure.

Repetition is a challenge for students, and especially taxing on millennials. In a one hour session, even 50 reps challenge the patience of students. Reaching 1000 requires grit, endurance, and resources that fall amongst the most dedicated. Striving for 10000 is reserved for the elite among us.

To finish off, it’s worth mentioning that the 100-1000-10000 rule can be easily applied to other disciplines – e.g. dancing, learning a musical instrument, software development to name a few examples, and can be a representation of time (100-1000-10000 hours) with the same effect.

About the Author

Gabriel Dusil has been a practitioner of Martial Arts for over twenty years. Originally he trained in the traditional style of Shotokan Karate. Gabriel has also trained under Sensei Martin “Sonic” Langley in the United Kingdom and currently trains with Karel Ferus in Prague at the Ferus Fitness Fight Club, fffc.cz. More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.

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