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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Paying For Your Mistakes

 By Al Peasland


Sir Winston Churchill said
"All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from them"
Alfred Adler said
"When you first learn to swim, you make mistakes. So what do you do? You continue to learn to swim and you continue to make mistakes. When you've made all of the mistakes you possibly can without drowning - then you can swim"
I wanted to share these two quotes because they sum up everything I believe in with regards training and learning. In martial arts we seem to make the most progress forwards when we make mistakes. Usually, we are aware of our mistake instantly, when our opponent hits us, or applies a hold that forces us to tap-out and submit.
We get immediate feedback for any mistake we make, which is why I always consider it to be feedback and not failure. If we treat our martial arts as a lab test, the moment we get feedback for any action, we are blessed with an opportunity to analyse those results, ascertain why we got the results we did and then consider an alternative course of action for next time.
When we are training in a high paced environment such as sparring, we often carry out this process in the blink of an eye, learning very quickly what works and what doesn't against the opponent in front of us.
It's a classic irony that we often learn less from our successes than from our mistakes as we are usually too busy celebrating to go back to the lab and analyse how we managed to win; but this is something we too should always do if we are to learn and grow rather than simply win.
The pivotal factor in this whole process however, is that we have to be allowed to make those mistakes without paying too high a price.
For example, if I am sparring at full force, without any restriction in the power both my opponent I and are using, then the punishment I will receive for making a mistake may be too high a price for me to pay. I will be massively reluctant to take any chances or experiment with my techniques as I know, any mistake will cost me dearly, and usually in pain.
So, instead, I will opt for the safe techniques. Those that I've tried and tested many times and sometimes, I opt for no techniques at all, rather to simply defend and reduce the damage I receive from my opponent.
Therefore, we need to be allowed to make mistakes and in a sparring scenario, this is why we reduce the force and power of the spar. We turn the percentage down so that we can experiment, try new things and take risks in order to gain precious feedback that we can then evaluate. Without this experimentation we will not grow, our repertoire will remain constant and we will become frozen in our skillset.
So, we need to understand when we are making mistakes. We need to gather feedback, whether that be from an instructor showing us how we could move differently in order to improve our technique, or whether it be a partner who lets us know with a measured knock on the head or safely applied finish on the floor.
The moment we make it live and increase the intensity of our feedback, is the moment we go into our shell and stop trying new things.
Consider the Karate Instructor who walks up and down the line of students, kicking any that are not in a perfectly correct stance; or the school teacher who wraps you over the knuckles with a ruler whenever you answer a question wrong.
How keen are you to experiment and make mistakes in these environments?
My final thought is this.
When you stop paying too high a price for your mistakes, you can start to afford to make a few more.
And when mistakes become more affordable, you stop seeing them as failures and treat them only as feedback. The result is, you stop beating yourself up about them, you stop getting frustrated because of them and you start experimenting more.
Stay Safe and Have Fun
(c) Copyright - Al Peasland. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Al Peasland is a Personal Safety Consultant and one of the UK's leading Self Defence Instructors.
Focusing on the latest techniques and concepts, Al's Company, Complete Self Protection, provides a fun and efficient way of learning effective skills that can better equip you to protect yourself and your loved ones.
You can visit his website at
Please feel free to contact Al Peasland via his website.
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1 comment:

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