Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Drilling's no fun ? Read this !

As Bruce Lee famously said "I fear not the man who practised ten thousand punches once, but the man who practised one punch ten thousand times" : drilling works. Any serious, competitive sport, be it combative or not, can be broken down into basic movements, which can be independently drilled into muscle memory by repetition. This translates into a cleaner application of technique. Similarly, GSP's impressive take-downs can only be the result of an extensive drilling program (or luck, if you're delusional). Superstar world champion Andre Galvao even wrote a whole book brilliantly called just that : "Drill to win".

On the other hand, let's be honest: drilling is no fun. Repeating the same movement hundreds, maybe thousands of times, feels more like real work, instead of play. The recreational athlete might prefer to mow his lawn rather than practice his hundredth knee slice pass of the day. The question here is not whether drills are beneficial, but rather how can we, as recreational athletes, best approach drilling ?

The short answer : use your brain ! The longer answer, I believe, is threefold :

  • Proper "body-type adjusted" application
  • Responses to mistakes
  • Counters to counters (to counters ... )

We have all seen the "vanilla" version of the knee slide pass; you know, the way it's traditionally shown in class. While technically sound, we will rarely apply it without adjustments, simply because we have natural attributes we can take advantage of. A person with less strength, but longer limbs, will have a different approach than me, even if we've learned the technique at the same time. The key here, is your partner. By offering a very light resistance, you get a chance to see just how much you have to adjust your angles, grips and speed.

Secondly, as you repeat over and over, your partner might try to stuff some of your attempts. Depending on who you're drilling with, some of these counters will in fact be mistakes. By "defending" your technique, they might open up the pass on the opposite side, or expose an obvious armlock. In a few minutes, you will get more chances at capitalizing on wrong reactions than you would otherwise get in months of live rolling !

Finally, if your partner is of a high enough level, he will offer valid counters to the technique. Maybe a simple hand placement, or a grip you didn't calculate, suddenly forces you to switch to the "alternative" attack, hoping to get ahead of your opponent. If you didn't know this second (or third) attack in the sequence, then this is your time to think, and find a counter to his counter !

In conclusion, I highly recommend intelligent drilling, since it is both more beneficial than soulless repetition, but also a heck of a lot more fun.