Thursday, February 23, 2012

10,000 Hours to Mastery

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book (that I have yet to read... -_-) called "Outliers: The Story of Success" that shares a very interesting idea: with 10,000 hours of practice, it is possible to become an expert at something. He goes on to expound examples of prominent figures in different areas who achieved greatness and explained just how much time they put into their work. Obviously, some of this depends of genetic predisposition and social upbringing, but those merely serve as potential head starts for people's abilities. It's quite an interesting idea. Just so you have an idea of how much time that is, that is 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, for 5 years. That's a lot of time.

When applied to the concept of martial arts, we find some truth to ideas of the weak beating the strong or, as Rock Lee puts it, that "with hard work, even a dropout can defeat a genius." That doesn't necessarily mean that 10,000 hours of mindless practice will get you anywhere. You need mindful practice. You need to make adjustments to form and correct yourself when you make mistakes (e.g.- getting hit while sparring). But, just because you put the time in, doesn't mean you'll be unbeatable. You can be limited by your strength or speed or even your style. If you haven't trained to deal with a particular scenario, it might well be impossible for you to handle it, should you be confronted with it. However, training all aspects of your art and focusing on quick-thinking will definitely be helpful to your adaptation to new situations.

Anyway-- The point is this! If you're upset because you aren't good at something, go practice!  Work individual techniques, shadowbox, spar, grapple, hit various bags and mitts, and improve your conditioning. If you put the time in and allow yourself the necessary time to recover, you will get better and that's all there is to it!

But it wouldn't be Real Anime Training if we didn't try to take it a step further. We can see various anime characters each logging the necessary time for mastery. Even fictional characters (well, most of them) know that you can't just automatically become an expert at something. If they are going to accomplish something quickly, they tend to "cheat" the system a little. For example:

  • The Room of Spirit and Time (The Hyperbolic Time Chamber) in Dragonball Z shrinks a year into a day, allowing the people inside to walk in normal one day and walk out badass the next, as long as they put in the time. 
  • Naruto used kagebunshin to divide the amount of time it took him to master certain skills and develop new techniques. (Side note: This was brilliant, but so cheap and broken.)
  • Ichigo stayed in the little world between Soul Society and the Real World before fighting Aizen so his dad could teach him the final Getsuga Tenshou.
It's not really fair. At some point, your body is not going to be able to train. You can only put in so many hours in a day without overtraining or injuring yourself. There has to be a way to cheat the system. Especially if you're going to school or working or anything else. How can you put more time into it?  I think a good answer for this question actually comes from Grappler Baki. 

Hanma Baki utilizes immense, immense powers of imagination to practice fighting against all manner of martial artists and creatures. In a sense, this is just really detail shadowboxing, but what we're after is the concept, not necessarily the exact method (although I urge you to really use good imagery while shadowboxing).  Actually, studies have shown that imagining an activity with as much detail as possible (that means, as much sensory data as you can manage: the feel of your muscles, skin and what not; the smell of the air; the color of the sky; etc) actually trains the brain to do those activities. Your brain doesn't realize that what you're imagining isn't real and the same parts of the brain that light up when you actually do those motions light up when you imagine doing them.  So, when our body is too damn tired to train anymore, or when we are recovering for a day or so, you can still log the time in your mind. 4 hours of week of this, 50 weeks out of the year, shaves 25 weeks off the 5 years it would take to get to 10,000 hours at 40 hours a week. This is a way, you can do a little bit more. You can practice to your heart's content or until you pass out into a coma of sleep and probably continue to dream about training!

10,000 hours to become an expert. How many hours have you put in? 

That's all for today, guys! Until next time, good luck and train hard!
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