I have a movie you must see, if you haven’t yet.
It’s called Jiro: Dreams of Sushi. And it’s amazing.
If you like sushi (I happen to love it), this film will make you hungry.
If you like personal development and the thought of dedicating your life to doing what you love, this film will inspire you.
The principle this documentary promotes is kaizen, or improvement. Constant, never-ending improvement. Dedicating one’s life to his art, to become the best in the world at what he does, and still continually striving to better himself, to reach that unattainable perfection.
I wrote a chapter on this principle in The Martial Artist’s Mindset (see below). I’ll write a full book about it soon.
Here’s a sad truth: the first time, you won’t be good. In fact, chances are that whatever you’re trying to do, be it a calculus problem or a sales negotiation or a rear roundhouse kick, you won’t do it well the first dozen, the first hundred, or even the first thousand times you try.
So why bother?
Because if you’re going to climb a ladder, you have to start on the ground.
Western companies that want to emulate Japanese business models follow a principle called kaizen. The word kaizen literally translates as ‘good change’, and may be applied to any improvement, large or small, one-time or ongoing, in any field. Businesses today, though, use it to refer to a managerial philosophy of constant improvement in quality, efficiency, and other such matrices.
The idea is this: continually making small improvements to a process will eventually yield huge results to the bottom line.
What does this mean for your training?
We’ve all heard the idiom, “Practice makes perfect.” It’s been drilled into most of us from a young age, and most of us probably believe it, in one form or another. And it is a useful statement. There’s only one problem: it’s not true.
Repetition is a necessary ingredient to success – but not just any kind of repetition. If you practice something the wrong way a thousand times, all you’ve done is make it a thousand times more likely that you’ll do it wrong again. Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.
There’s the rub. How do you get to perfect if you don’t start there?
It’s not enough just to practice. Simply repeating an action by rote will never get you to your goal. Instead you must practice with an end in mind. That is, you must go into every practice session with something to focus on and improve.
Do you want to make your martial arts game 100% better? You can. But it won’t happen overnight, and it won’t magically arise from making the same mistakes over and over again in the hope that they’ll someday go away.
The only way to improve is to practice improvement.
You won’t get 100% better in a single training session, or even a dozen of them. That may frustrate you. The lack of a noticeable difference in skills or attributes from one practice to the next may make you despair of ever accomplishing your goal.
Frustration is okay; we all feel it at times. The important thing is not to give up because of it.
Don’t expect to be perfect overnight. Instead, focus on becoming just 1% better in every practice session.
If you did that, how much better would you get in a year?
Practicing twice a week, getting 1% better each time – would, in simple formula, amount to a 104% improvement in one year.
But the actual results would be far greater than that, because your improvements compound. That is, if you get 1% better this practice, and 1% better than the new, improved you the next practice, and 1% better than that guy the practice after that – by the fifth practice you aren’t 5% better, you’re 5.1% better.
From there, your progress accelerates:
By the tenth practice, you’re 10.4% better.
By practice # 35 – four months along – you’ve improved 42%.
By your 52nd training session, half way through the year, you’re already 68% better than you were when you began.
At your seventieth practice, two-thirds of the way through the year, you’re already a 100% better martial artist than you were on day one.
Now if, for four more months, you continue to improve by just 1% each and every class, by the end of the year you will be 281% better than you were when you started the kaizen process.
281% stronger. 281% faster. 281% better stamina. 281% better timing. 281% more skilled.
All in one year. By improving just 1% at a time.
Sound impossible? It’s not. I’ve seen dozens of people walk through our gym doors one day overweight, slow, weak, uncoordinated – and I’ve seen those same people showing off six-packs, cleaning up grappling competitions, and winning cage fights, in less than a year.
Granted, it’s not easy… but nothing worthwhile ever is. And it is definitely worthwhile.
All it takes is dedication, commitment to practice, and an unwavering focus on constant and never-ending improvement.
Train hard and fight easy, my friends.
– Luke Morris