How to learn a new technique (or anything else)

One of the the biggest things you spend your time doing is learning new skills, right?

So, you really should be a master of how to “learn a skill”. Here’s a “formula” I’ve always taught my students on their first day of training.  I expect them to be able to repeat it back to me whenever I ask.

It’s a simple, but almost overlooked, formula that you should be able to repeat in your sleep. If you don’t know this, you’re probably wasting a lot of time in your training.  Here it is:

“The 3 Steps Needed to Learn a New Skill” 

They are:

1. Slow practice
2. Correct form
3. High repetition

SLOW PRACTICE (initially) because you need to go slow enough to recognize the “negative feedback” you receive while learning the skill, and adjust to it. If you practice too fast to begin with, you’ll make mistakes that you won’t notice, and therefore won’t fix them as quickly as you should.

CORRECT FORM because each time you perform a repetition, you are teaching your nervous system to perform that exact movement. Each time you do it wrong… you are teaching your nervous system to do it wrong. You want CORRECT FORM when you do repetitions (that’s why you do slow repetitions initially… to make sure you’re doing it right).

HIGH REPETITION because that’s what conditions your nervous system to be efficient, firing only the muscles it needs to, and not the ones it doesn’t.

A great analogy for doing repetitions is to see them as “rolling a marble through the dirt”.  The first several times you roll that marble, it goes all over the place, changing every time.

But, after you’re rolled it enough times, it starts to wear a groove in the dirt, and gets more and more consistent until it eventually rolls the exact same way every time.

It’s the same with learning a physical skill. At first, the movement is “all over the place”. But after enough repetitions, the movement becomes more and more consistent until it goes the exact same way every time with no additional effort.

An analogy for all this is a mouse trying to find it’s way through a maze to eat the cheese at the end. The first several times through, it continually runs into the dead ends (receiving negative feedback). But, it keeps adjusting to it and adjusts to it and keeps repeating that process until it makes no more errors. It has finally mastered the skill & can do it perfectly every time (see the video below to get the basic idea).

I learned that simple formula over 40 years ago from a jaw-droppingly talented fighter and have applied it to everything I’ve ever learned, and I’ve taught it to every student I’ve ever had.

I recommend you memorize it and apply it everytime you learn a new skill.

Keep training!

Bob