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  • Kyle Fincham

Deliberate Practice

"The arts of Zen are not intended for utilitarian purposes, or for purely aesthetic enjoyment, but are meant to train the mind, indeed, to bring it into contact with the ultimate reality."

-D.T. Suzuki


I've become a bit of a broken record in class. I find myself regularly bringing up the idea of deliberate practice. It is vital to a successful movement practice, and frankly any practice or skill development, as it appears to be the X factor in skill acquisition. Angela Duckworth talks about this in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Deliberate practice requires you to work in a focussed and effortful manner without teacher supervision, and often alone. The problem is, and as Duckworth points out, it is "...significantly more effortful, and significantly less enjoyable..." However, the juice is worth the squeeze.


In a previous post I suggested the film In Search of Greatness. Wayne Gretzky, Pelé, and Jerry Rice speak about deliberate practice (though not using those words) during their formative years. Gretzky talks about watching Hockey Night in Canada while drawing lines on a page following the puck around the ice to learn where it landed most often. Pelé discusses organizing pick-up games of soccer in cement alley ways. And, Rice shares a story about tossing the football to himself while lying in bed in the dark. None of them were instructed to do these drills by a coach or teacher.


The teacher's job is to provide a road map and feedback. It is the students job to get in the car and learn how to drive. However, I don't mean to objectively drive; gas pedal, steering wheel, turn, break, park, speed limit, etc. I mean learn how you drive, how you play chess, how you play soccer, and how you do Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Learn how you move. Explore the subjective. Acquire creativity and problem solving skills. Develop effortlessness, wu wei. Allow the game/skill/practice to become an extension of you, and you and extension of it, so that the it is you and you are it.

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