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  • Forfatterens bildeCoach Whillock

10,000 kicks once, or 1 kick 10,000 times?

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Is a very well known quote by arguably the most famous martial artist to ever live, Bruce Lee, but I am unsure which one of these men I would fear most.

I will start by saying that I will be rather nitpicky in this essay but it does serve a purpose other than being difficult for the sake of being difficult, and it can help your students, or you if you are the student.

I am going to base this essay on the roundkick to the body, on the assumption that throwing a "textbook" kick, identicial in its appearance, 10,000 times, is superior to throwing a roundkick to the body in 10,000 different ways.

One strong argument for a "copy paste" bodykick would be that the athlete would know so much about this kick that in competition they would be able to throw it at the perfect time, every time. Another may be that the movement economy of this kick after so many attempts in practice would make the kick so "cheap" to throw, that it costs them no energy, and could be delivered with efficient, economical and devastating precision.

All of these have been arguments I myself have come up with for justifying endless repitions on the bag and on the pads.

There's an old proverb that says "a man never stands in the same river twice", partly because the river is never the same, but also because the man is never the same either.

"How does this relate to learning muaythai?" might be on your mind so let me dive into it quickly.

Muay Thai is a sport that adapts and changes to a massive degree, not only from year to year, but from event to event, from gym to gym, and from person to person. Even when considering the changes from one person to the next, that same practicioner may change their style several times over the course of their career, they may gain weight, they may lose weight, they may grow, pickup style changing injuries, or even change their personalities or age in a way that effects their ability or will to perform as they once did.

Could the same kick even be the same kick? Is there actually as much weight on having a "copy paste" kick as i once thought?

If you follow the career of any fighter with a lot of fights, and you watched every single one of those fighters, the only time you will see them fight the same person twice, is if they fight the same person twice, but even as i have mentioned before, are they really the same person the second time?

It is likely none of these opponents will be the exact same height, but if they were, are their limb lengths the same? Are their ryhthms the same? are their levels of fitness the same? are their fight styles the same? All of these opponents will advance, retreat, take angles, set up their shots and deliver their shots and move in sometimes ever so slightly, but ever different ways.

No TWO kicks in performance will ever truly be the same.

Now what are the implications of this to training, and how can we, or our students, train in a way that allows our kicks to be the most effective in training, and what is the harm of endless repetition with emphasis on identical technqiue?

I am certain you have seen someone, maybe it's you, who has "perfect" technique on the pads and bag, they do not spar so often, and when they do they do not land those techniques. Endless rounds gone to waste.

Now i am also certain you have seen the person at your gym with sloppier technique, who does not seem to put as much stock as the technicians on volume of padwork, and seems to spar more than he hits pads. Somehow, that guy lands these albeit sloppier kicks as and when he chooses, much to your dismay.

"How am i getting landed on so much by this guy when he doesnt work as hard as me?!"

Work as hard on what?

Student One, has been solving one problem, with one solution, the same solution, to the same problem, the problem of technique, and the problem of making the kick land on the pads in the same way. Once the first clean kick lands, problem solved, theres no problems left to solve.

Student Two, although he has sloppier technique, the majority of this guy's work has been solving countless problems, different partners, different energy levels, different styles, different bodies, different times, different ways. This student is not a master technician, he is a master problem solver, he has 10,000 kicks, for 10,000 occasions, and unfortunately, you only have one.

Why is this important?

There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom, pieces of knowledge are tools, wisdom is the correct application of those tools in order to solve a problem.

"All the gear, no idea" is not a phrase we want to be applicable to us.

Is what i am saying here striking a chord? Do you have perfect technique on pads but cant land shots in sparring or during fights, or do your students display this issue? Then it is highly likely their is an imbalance in your training.

I am NOT saying only spar, I am NOT saying do no repetition, it is more nuanced than that.

It is crucial for us as martial artists to carefully balance out training the individual movements of a technique against immersing ourselves into a problematic environment with that tool to solve it.

So, nitpicking done, I believe that 10,000 different bodykicks thrown once makes for a much more troublesome opponent than 1 bodykick thrown 10,000 times, and I have been tailoring my students training accordingly.

Do you need more help translating your techniques over to performance? Do you feel like you cant quite figure out how to drill to make it happen, or that there is a training imbalance? Just message me via instagram, chat or email and we can speak personally.

Coach Whillock

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