Muscle Memory – or, drills for learning

So at Kung Fu today, Randy got to talking with one of the other dads. Alright, THE other dad. That dad coaches kids soccer. Randy teaches dancing to adults.

In Kung Fu, they sometimes (half the time?) practice things by standing in a formation (to give each kid enough space) and just doing them over and over and over and over. Today it was kick punch drills. Kick punch punch. Kick punch punch. When you kick, you’re punching with the opposite hand, then punching two more times. Sounds easy, but when you’re six (or 8, as the other kids are), it’s kind of hard to get that right every time.

The other dad was saying that he didn’t think that drills were the way to go. With the soccer kids, he finds something that they excel at, praise that, then work on developing other skills.  Not just rote drills.

Fine.

However, when you’re trying to get something into your physical memory – your muscle memory – the way to do that is just by doing it over and over and over and over. Typing, for example – you get better by doing it over and over and over. Driving a stick shift. You get better when you do it over and over and over.

The Kung Fu moves (at least THOSE Kung Fu moves) aren’t a skill that needs to be developed, like sewing or playing the violin. They are movements that need to be remembered without a lot of thinking in between. The only way to learn that is just by doing it over and over and over. No amount of praising is going to get those actions into your muscles.

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