Memorization, Precision, Smoothness

I’ve heard Master Harmon say this before, but he brought it up again in yesterday’s seminar, and it struck me deeper than it has in the past. I figure this is because there’s a growing harmony in the various aspects of my life, and it’s great when things flow and harmonize this way. Let me explain.

Master Harmon says that when you need to learn something (and in this case we’re talking martial skill), there are three stages: memorization, precision, smoothness.

First we must memorize. We learn a new skill, and the first thing we must do is commit that new skill to memory. If we don’t have it in memory, there’s not really any way we can progress with the skill. So this stage feels fairly self-explanatory and straightforward.

Second, we must strive for precision. We must work to make the skill/action/movements correct, accurate, true. This is perhaps a never-ending endeavor.

Third, we must strive for smoothness. We must work to allow our movements to flow, to be consistent and even, to be free of “bumps” or “harshness”. 

As I thought about it, I wondered why shouldn’t we first be smooth then precise? In a way, it seems more correct to progress that way. But as I thought about it, that doesn’t really work. If you are first smooth, then what are you making smooth? incorrect movements? That’s undesirable. What has to be realized is these 3 steps are a process, a cycle. For instance, in yesterday’s seminar we may have known the 18 motion dan bong form, but it was being corrected and thus we’re back to step one of having to memorize. Then we’ll work to be more precise, then more smooth. But as we do so, we may get our memory jogged and the cycle continues. Sometimes the cycle may just be between steps 2 and 3, but a cycle nonetheless.

What you’ll notice is lacking from this are speed and power. Why? Because they will come. We all want speed and power now, because there’s utility in that, there’s an immediate satisfaction in that, and heck, it’s just fun to hit things fast and hard. But do we really need to focus on that in our martial arts practice? No. Why? What happens when you’re in a pressure situation? You naturally speed up and apply more power. All you have to do is think to be this way, or just let your adrenaline flow, and you’ll have these things. They aren’t necessarily responses to which we must condition ourselves. But what happens when these things kick in? We lose fine motor skills, movements get jerky, and we’re likely going to lose our smoothness, our precision, and maybe even our memory! So if when the time comes we’re naturally going to have speed and power, do we really need to spend our limited training time focusing on them? No. What we need to spend our time on are the things that don’t come naturally, that we must condition ourselves to have: memorization, precision, smoothness. That way when the time comes, we’ve a better chance that we’ll continue to be smooth, precise, and won’t forget what needs to be done. This isn’t to say from time to time you shouldn’t work on power and speed (e.g. relaxation is an important factor in generating speed and power and you need to ensure you’re relaxing), but it doesn’t need to be a focus.

What’s serendipitous about this for me is how it applies to other areas of my life. Here, here, here, here. As the seminar progressed, I couldn’t help but think about things like “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” and other areas of my shooting where I’m trying to do these same things. I think someone is trying to direct my life to slow back down and return to fundamentals. 🙂  But think how “memorize, precise, smooth” and “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” blend together. There’s an implication that at the memorization and precision stages that you need to go slow. This makes sense. When you add in the speed, your accuracy, your precision goes down. Gotta be slow, work on the memorize and precision, then the smoothness. After the smoothness, then you’ll be able to move fast… that’s where the speed and power will eventually come through.

Many things for me to work on. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Memorization, Precision, Smoothness

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