As I indicated yesterday, I started a fast to help bring back a resurgence of my commitments. As I consequence, I started thinking about improving my technique. If I am going to be keeping a commitment everyday of my life, then it seems that rather then just going though the motions, I should be getting the most out of each effort. I concluded that comes from adequate form, or better stated technique.
I started searching for people that have studied this topic, if at all. It seemed like most of my searches were coming back with references to martial arts, specifically karate. I thought that was interesting, after some more searches I came across this sensei named Stanley Pranin. He just passed away recently, but his claim to fame was the cataloging and historical tracking of one particular branch of karate, called Aikido.
I will not dive into a history lesson on this, but suffice to say that Aikido was born out of post WW2 Japan. Men coming back from the war, reengaging in martial arts practice. Clearly, Japan was in a different circumstance at this time. Cultural attitudes were making a major shift and it is no surprise that this impacted some of the more traditional martial arts forms in Japan. There are many who follow this particular tradition, but Mr. Pranin was prolific in creating content, videos, instructional books and maintaining an online archive of the art form.
One of his videos, which I came to via the google search, was his introduction to a concept in Aikido on zones. I will not be able to explain that, it is just a way to organize defensive positions based on zones of attack from an opponent, at least I think that is what it is about. In this video he made a really compelling point which is why I am writing this blog on that topic. He said that the largest mistake that any student makes is trying to overcompensate bad form with strength. Strength is important, but not near as important as proper, well executed technique.
He counsels that a person should focus, practice, repeat the proper techniques so that when the time comes and you are called upon to use your strength, that the flow of your strength will have a proper channel and the full force of your effort will move through you and into your opponent. So what does this have to do with personal improvement and keeping commitments? IN a word, everything.
Maintaining proper technique allows you to truly receive the benefit from the incremental build up of consistent, daily, habits. When the habits are done correctly, they are most effective. They then compile over time and pretty soon you are amazed at the results this accumulation effect has on you. What is better 100 pushups with bad form, or 1 pushup done with the correct technique. Well, we can debate that. Lots of factors to consider. Are the 100 pushups leading to injury? However, there is one point that the 100 pushups in a day cannot contend with. If you incrementally add the numbers of pushups you do, with correct form, then one day when you are doing 100 pushups eveyday with perfect form then you will absolutely know the answer. Form precedes Strength.
You can extend this to everything in life. You should absolutely practice the technique of something until it becomes so second nature that you just execute easily. If you are a golf player, you know this intimately well. Gold requires muscle memory more then almost any other support. If you practice a bad swing, then you will not improve. You will be erratic and inconsistent. If you practice the correct technique, then there will come a time when you swing with confidence and strength and suddenly you game of golf will dramatically improve.
So, if you are trying to improve – take a close look at your technique. Increasing the weight on your tricep extensions only works if you are maintaining isolation on the muscle. If suddenly you are using your back, shoulder and abs to perform the tricep extension, then you are not gaining the benefit as much as you would be if you maintained the technique. There are many examples, and this lesson taught by one of the followers of Aikido has reminded me of how important a focus on technique in the early stages of habit formation is.