Performance Overrides Precision!

Most people are taught confidence in doing something specific, that only through learning specific skills will they become competent. Learn why here!
If you've been exploring my article series here Working the Top of the Pyramid you know that the pinnacle of training regards Mental/Emotional development. These mental/emotional skills give one the flexibility to adapt to shock, surprise and error ... and separate the skillful from the masterful.

Since I intend to take you from skill expertise to personal mastery, I focus upon the cultivation of natural, idiosyncratic responses, rather than upon the rehearsed execution of techniques. So, what does this mean?

Well, when you feel confident, everything goes smoothly, right? But what about when you are surprised, when you make a mistake, when the unexpected happens? In the flurry of deciding what to do, you have difficulty doing anything at all.

Most people are taught confidence IN doing something specific, that only through learning specific skills will they become competent. This dependency upon specific techniques for confidence adversely affects your performance and ... survival. I'll explain why.

Performance Overrides Precision

Who do you know who operates smoothly in a static environment when everything goes perfectly, but as soon as one thing goes wrong, they get caught in a domino effect of mistake after mistake?

I see this frequently with people who when asked to perform a Body-Flow Kinetic Chain or a Clubbell? Combination Routine in front of an audience, experience performance anxiety. The same is true of competitors in Olympic Clubbell? Sport.

Imagine you were that person facing a fully resistant opponent in martial arts and having that happen: you spasm, freak and seize-up.

Who do you know, on the other hand, who can't stand rehearsing rote skills in a classroom setting, but as soon as you put them into a challenging environment where they are able to be creative, they shine like no crisis exists? Some people have the mental attitude and emotional control to adapt, or at least attempt to adapt, to any new challenge coming their way.

I often take under-motivated students and ask them to demonstrate in front of the group in order to give them the opportunity to work on the Mental/Emotional Skills capstoning the Three Dimensional Performance Pyramid.

Click To Enlarge The 3D Performance Pyramid!

Now imagine what it would be like if you were that person engaging a hostile opponent: you would flow as smooth as silk.

Amazing, isn't it - the contrast? That contrasting style is CROSS-disciplinary: not in any one approach to physical culture or any style of martial art. Typically, individuals with confidence gained through exposure to many different situations permit them to relax and reveal their natural capabilities.

People assume that exposure to many different situations requires special "techniques" for each environment. However, in truth, if you expose yourself to various types of challenges, allowing yourself to improvise, your confidence will be much greater because of the experience you've gained, rather than the skills you keep in your pocket.

I've described this in other articles as understanding the difference between specific technique and form (the applied integration of breathing, movement and structure.)

Response Versus Reaction

Cross-training is not mandatory if you find a response-based approach to physical culture and martial art. If you cannot, cross-training obviously helps, for the more one incrementally progresses through various levels and types of stressors, the greater your Fear-Reactivity diminishes. What's Fear-Reactivity?

Well, just think of it as that which you have to remove in order to have confidence. You see, confidence is not something you gain. You have it right now. It's just covered by habits - patterns of tension which send your nervous system signals that you are not prepared for a situation.

If that information was not sent to your nervous system, then what would you have? Confidence to handle the situation, right? The greater Fear-Reactivity diminishes, the more you feel comfortable taking risks, trusting your innate capabilities and improvising. In other words, the less your Fear-Reactivity, the greater your performance.

Unfortunately, most education in martial art for instance focuses exclusively on a two-fold approach:

  • Technique Rehearsal (the memorization of rote technique)
  • Symmetrical Drills (going live, rolling, sparring, etc.)

This approach fails to use Incremental Progression and completely depends upon techniques for increasing confidence levels (rather than the removal of Fear-Reactivity). In this case, the few students who do well in the live drills do so not because of the instructor's approach, but in spite of it. Do you harbor intense anxiety about your 'technique' in sparring for fear that you are not 'good enough?' If you must rely upon technique for confidence, then if your technique is not good, then you lack confidence.

Have you noticed that the more rules present in symmetrical drills, the more that the rote techniques can be reproduced? Think of how pretty Olympic Tae Kwon Do is compared to how ugly is the UFC. As you move to less and less restrictions, as you increase the potential for surprise, shock and error (so-called "combat multipliers"), you increase stress. Stress directly competes with the precision of your 'techniques.'

Stylistic experts often argue here, "we can use our techniques with great precision under stress. Look at at the grace of professional athletes." Can you imagine trying to serve a tennis ball effectively if the opponent popped off rounds at you with a paintball gun (or jumped the net and shot at you with a real one)? How graceful would even a professional's serve be?

Good luck with that serve!

Graceful skill repetition depends a structure of rules. The less rules you have, the poorer the precision of your techniques.

In other words, if your precision depends upon ideal conditions, then what happens when you encounter surprise, shock and error? What occurs has no resemblance to the rote techniques of the static classroom. You adapt, improvise and innovate. You spontaneously create a technique which fits the situation best to your ability to perform at that time.

It's not about who teaches the best technique. It's not that you're technique is deficient.

It's TECHNIQUE itself which is problematic.

Depending upon rote technique for confidence requires placing trust in an intangible "concept" hoping that it will somehow bring competency. How long until you learn the technique and have access to it under stress? Do you perform the technique like the master taught you, or are you supposed to guess how to create that "variation that fits you" he keeps mentioning when it doesn't work for you.

How many times have you heard (or asked) the question, "What style has better techniques? Which style is the best?" You hear this in martial art, in fitness, in strength and conditioning, in sports, in just about every human endeavor there is.

How many times have we seen the "gifted" who practice diligently, train hard, listen attentively, and then during dynamic drills, explore, improvise, innovate? What if you could be that person ... again, like you were as a child?

Instead people succumb to the reaction-based "technique" approach to education, an approach which embeds fear-reactivity, inhibits natural talent and eradicates confidence. Avoid systematically conditioning yourself through failure to "achieve the technique" into believing you are incompetent because you cannot perform the skill as the instructor.

This is where response-based education plays such an important role. We define deliberate exposure to error, shock and surprise as success! I discuss this exhaustively in Flow-Fighting? Incrementally more challenging drills, progressively increasing in sophistication, intensity and unpredictability, provides constant positive feedback. If the you feel lost, confused, or frustrated, just turn back the increments so that they are more gradually calibrated, so that you condition yourself with success.

You Need To Flow To Know

My approach brings people as incrementally as necessary but as rapidly as possible through drills which facilitate improvisational responses. Crafted this way, you disclose your innate talents. Then, I facilitate and augment those natural capabilities. There must be proper form, which is context-free in function, but context-sensitive in application. However, this is far from rote technique.

What has been the greatest success of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, for instance? What has it brought to the table that very few in this country concentrated upon? Was it superior techniques? Why all of a sudden do so many people concentrating upon wrestling as a martial art? What has never been discarded by wrestling styles (such as Sambo, BJJ, Judo and Catch-as-Catch Can)?

No Holds Barred!

Flow-oriented drills.

Not all who coach wrestling are wise. I'm not suggesting that. And with the rapid proliferation of submission grappling, the quality diminished, (and recently we have seen the focus change to emphasize "technique.") Master grapplers never emphasize this nonsense. What was the key to their success? What gave their students such immense fulfillment? What I call Biomechanical Exercise.

There must be the movement palette upon which skills blossom. The student must be acquainted with the movement potential of the game, so structure must be in place ... familiarity. Hence, the Grapplers Toolbox? became an integral component to so many thousands of superb grapplers around the world.

I tire of hearing the "rediscovered, ancient technique used to kill with a touch" or the "recently declassified specops technique." Great marketing, but despicable ethics! For what does this do? It turns you into technique-junkies, looking for the next fix, and as soon as they see it on video, it goes in the closet. You become collectors rather than creators.

If you train at home, then you need solo-drills; if alone, partner drills; if available those that specifically focus upon amplifying Flow-State Performance Spiral?. When you place your confidence back upon your own innate capabilities, and not some external concept like a technique, your fear-reactivity diminishes rapidly, and you reclaim your ability to negotiate any crisis without hesitation. No longer worry, "I don't know what to do!" Rely upon your own sensibilities, your own creativity.

Permit competency to come from WITHIN you, through game-like, response-producing drills - at home, at class or at a seminar. To my students abroad, practice where you should be practicing, where the real "work" is done - at-home.

Here coaches, your job becomes EASY. When a student asks you about a particular mechanical propensity, share with him the particulars. Or better yet, and this is most optimal, teach him how to be self-taught! Tell him, "you don't need me for this." Share with him about how the body functions and dysfunctions in that situation. Help him reclaim his deserved confidence by not letting him believe he must come to you for validation.

Tell him to go. Go play. Go do the work. Go explore. You are your own authority. This is the greatest service you could do ... and so many coaches are terrified to do it. Don't wonder, "am I no longer needed?" You are always needed, just not for validating his autonomy. You are not needed to think for them. You are needed to keep providing the reinforcement and environment conducive to maintaining independence.

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