In 52 Blocks class, we adhered to a ritual that started with the student creed, then moved on to jumping jacks and stretches for warm-up, then the basic punches, kicks and blocks. The rate of learning is increased through frequency and repetition. Drill work is recommended even when you have passed the mechanical stage of learning. Your instructor must also provide you with opportunities to apply what you have learned. The workout should not become a mindless rut. For example, if you warm up by shadow boxing, also work on specific techniques or 52 Blocks concepts during the exercise.
Many martial arts schools make the students do the techniques on command. This type of drill work ensures a lot of repetition, helps the instructor observe a large group of students at once, and instills a sense of discipline. The drawback is that it stifles student creativity. If you practice the basic 52 Blocks techniques on command for long periods of time, and your instructor suddenly asks you to shadow box combining strikes and kicks as you see fit, most students will have difficulty performing with any kind of variation. The moves will be rehearsed and predictable. I recommend a combination of practicing on command and free sparring.
It is difficult to dispute that frequent repetition results in muscle memory, and makes techniques more natural and easy to execute. But learning through repetition involves more than simply doing the same move over and over. A friend of mine went to a studio that advertised kickboxing. Although he found the drill work very tough, he said that he didn’t learn much. The 52 Blocks workouts consisted mainly of jumping rope and beating the heavy bags, which are exercises a disciplined student can do alone. Your instructor should teach constructive lessons that lead toward a particular goal. He should make a constant effort toward progress and leave you with a feeling of accomplishment. For example:
1. He might start by introducing the technique.
2. He might then show you how the technique relates to another technique.
3. He might then have you practice the technique on bags.
4. He might end by reviewing the lesson.
In the next lesson, he might start by demonstrating the technique again and then relate it to another technique or concept. Once you have learned your basic punches, kicks and blocks, you will use these in your everyday practice without really thinking about it.
When practicing 52 Blocks or other forms of dirty boxing with a partner, specify who is the attacker, who is the defender and when you should switch, so that both you and your partner get equal amounts of training in both positions. Ideally your instructor should observe and comment on each group’s performance at least twice throughout the exercise. His feedback will give the defender the opportunity to learn before he becomes the attacker, and vice versa. It is a good idea to switch partners often, so that you get to work with a variety of people of different sizes and skill levels. Switching partners also eliminates the possibility of ignoring a student who is seldom chosen. To ensure a good mix, you might suggest forming two lines facing each other, and every two minutes move one step to the left or right. If your instructor simply asks students to switch partners, some students will consistently choose each other.
If you practice a 52 Blocks technique many times, you may become fatigued or get a mental block that leaves you unable to perform the technique well. This happened to me once with the jump spinning back kick. I forgot how to jump! This is a sign to take a break. A break could last anywhere from a few minutes to several days. — INSTRUCTOR TIP —
After your students have performed a technique as a group, it is a good idea to have them perform the technique at least once independently before the end of the lesson. This exercise allows you to observe the students, note individual problems, and correct them before they grow into habit. — STUDENT TIP —
If you performed better at the beginning of the lesson, you have not necessarily lost your edge now. You might just need a few minutes’ break.