Martial arts forms training allows you to discover your optimal body mechanics for each technique. The first step necessary for gaining all these wonderful benefits and skills is memorization – remembering the movements from beginning to end. How to remember martial arts forms? The following suggestions are for you.
Step 1 The most basic method of setting the movements in your mind and body is practicing the form over and over. But how many times is enough? Martial arts masters recommend a minimum of 300 repetitions for basic memorization to as many as 10,000 repetitions for mastery. While repetition is the key to skill, thoughtless repetition is not, which leads to my next suggestions.
Step 2 Disrupt your muscle memory. Muscle memory is important for developing swift and smooth transitions between movements without “thinking about” what comes next. This type of memory is nearly unconscious. It is also the most unreliable. Any disruption of the normal sequence will throw you off track. To break your dependence on muscle memory alone, practice the form in pieces, any way except beginning to end.
Suppose you are working on a form with 24 movements. Divide it into six groups of four movements each. Practice the first four movements a certain number of times – say ten. Then practice the next set of four, ten times. Continue this procedure until you have gone through the entire form ten times. Next session use the same six groups and the same procedure, but this time, do the last group first, then the fifth group, and so on, working backwards from the end to the beginning.
Step 3 An even more challenging method is to work backwards from the end of the form to the beginning. Using the same 24-movement form again to illustrate, begin at movement 23, and then perform the last movement. Now start again, but this time at movement 22, followed by movements 23 and 24. Continue this procedure until you have started your form with every technique. Your last repetition will be the entire form from beginning to end.
Step 4 Another way to fix the movements firmly in your mind is to engage as many senses as possible. Write numbers down the side of the paper from one to twenty-four. Write the name of every technique, in sequence, next to the numbers. Say the words aloud as you write them. Continue until you have written and said every movement in the form. Using this pencil and paper method of form memorization, you have completely removed muscle memory and involved the senses of hearing, sight and touch. You can also create alternate pathways for memory by saying the names of the techniques aloud as you physically practice your form
Step 5 To take this idea one step further, combine the pencil-and-paper method with the starting-at-every-point method described above. After you have written or typed out the numbered movements, cut them into individual pieces and place them in a small box. Simply draw a slip of paper from the box and begin at the movement indicated. Do the form from there to the end. Now draw another paper from the box and repeat the process. When you are finished, you will have begun at every point in the form.
Step 6 Memorization of a form is the important first step to mastery. Applying these suggestions regularly in your practice will help you with that first step.
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