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10,000 Hours of Martial Arts

Posted by Strength & Speed on December 23, 2021 at 8:55 AM

According to journalist Malcolm Gladwell, it takes an average of 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery. Whether you are practicing for sports, music, Obstacle Course Racing or in this case, martial arts he believes this 10,000 hour rule applie.

Critics like to point out examples where people achieve mastery with less practice. However, looking into the theory you’ll notice it states “on average 10,000 hours of deliberate practice”. As an average there will be people who are both above and below that benchmark. Furthermore, if you are just going through the motions (like my sensei calls “traffic copping” ) and not trying to get better that doesn’t count towards the 10,000 hours.


Let’s look at how this applies to martial arts:

1. Even the basics need repetition: How many punches have you thrown in your lifetime? How many front kicks? How many side blade kicks? How many spinning back fists? The point is just because you know the movement, doesn’t make you a master of it. Practice needs to be done to the point not to where you can do it right, but until you can’t do it wrong. During a tournament or a street fight you won’t have time to think. Your body will operate off muscle memory so practice until you can’t do it wrong.


2. Improvement takes time, don’t get discouraged: If you are trying to earn your black belt in as short of a time as possible, remember to be patient and enjoy the journey of learning. Like we said in bullet point one, even the basics need repetition. If you tried to achieve the 10,000 hour rule in a year, you would have to practice more than 27 hours a day…as in…it is impossible. If you train for an hour a day, which seems like a reasonable amount, and never take rest days you’ll hit 10,000 hours in 27 years. Check back here later for how we can leverage mental training to reduce the 10,000 hour requirement. Even the highest degree black belt once started as a beginner. As you stay in a dojo you may find that the appearance of success is simply those that didn’t give up, so stick with it.


3. Improvement takes time and the longer your race the smaller the gains: The longer you do something the harder it becomes to see improvement. Whether you are lifting weights, running or practicing martial arts, you can often see beginners improving every time they step into the gym or dojo. Remember the 10,000 hour rule and bullet points one and two. You are improving, you may just not realize it. There is a reason that dojos have a sensei to guide your instruction. They are helping you along the path in an organized manner providing critique and improvement from an unbiased source.

As with any hobby, skill or job, practice is essential and lots of practice is required to achieve mastery. Work hard, but more importantly be consistent. You’ll find that consistency and time brings the success you are looking for, just remember to be patient.


Categories: Martial Arts