Mastering any physical skill takes practice. Practicing is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement that helps us perform with more ease, speed, and confidence.
Here’s a little bit of science to understand what happens when we practice things. You can skip this paragraph if you want to go straight to getting the most out of your practice time.
Our brain has two types of neural tissues. Gray matter, which processes information directing signals and sensory stimuli to nerve cells, and white matter, which is made of fatty tissues and nerve matters.
For our body to move, the information needs to travel from the grey matter down the spinal cord, to a chain of nerve fibers called axons in our muscles. The axons in the white matter are wrapped with a substance called myelin. This substance changes when you practice: it’s like black electric tape on electrical cables. It prevents energy loss from electrical signals that the brain uses, moving them more effectively along neural pathways.
When you repeat a physical motion, it increases the layers of myelin that insulates the axon. The more layer, the greater the insolation around the axon. This forms a sort of super highway for information that connects your brain to your muscles.
Muscles don’t have what is commonly referred to as muscle memory. It’s rather the increase of the myelin layers forming a better insolation that creates a faster and more efficient neural pathway that gives the impression of the muscle memory phenomenon.
Enough science for now.
Mastery isn’t simply about the hours you put into practice, but also the quality and effectiveness of your practice.
To be effective, practice must be consistent, intensely focused, and must target content or weaknesses that lies at the edge of your current abilities.
Here’s how to get the most out of your practice time.
- Focus on the task at end. Reduce all potential distractions like TV, computer and cell phone notifications.
- Start slowly. You will build your coordination through correct or incorrect repetition. Try to gradually increase the speed of the correct repetitions.
- Repeat frequently with a few breaks in between. You’ll be better off dividing your time for effective practice into many daily practice sessions of limited duration.
- Once you have established a physical motion, you can reinforce it with vivid visualization. Practice by imagining your craft with as much detail as possible.
Enjoy becoming a master!