What is Muscle Memory?
When you perform a series of movements over and over again, the muscles in your body begin to perform these movements smoother and faster. They start to do these movements without conscious instructions from your brain. The muscles can retain that “memory” for quite a long time. Learning how to pedal a bicycle is a great example of muscle memory. Thinking about pedaling slows the process down. The legs remember how to pedal so the brain can attend to other tasks like avoiding cars.
To capitalize on muscle memory, Kempo uses reaction conditioning. When you receive an attack movement, like a punch or kick, you perform a set movement. This is an optimal reaction, something your body will remember without need of the brain. You react. You react quickly without having to analyze the situation and other things that would slow down your protective defense.
Drills train the body to react to a particular stimulus in a defined manner. Some drills are simple blocking reflexes while others can be complex body movements and distance gauging. Regardless, they serve to disassociate the need for the brain’s instructions to perform a Kempo technique. The brain needs to think tactically in a confrontation. It doesn’t have time to remember the best defenses against a straight punch or a hook if it changes midstream.
Drills engage muscle memory and skill acquisition developing the ability to do without thinking, the Mushin principle. You’ll often read about Mushin – No Mind. This is one aspect of that concept, reacting without your mind. Not thoughtless actions like a street fighter or raging bull but a trained reaction to assault.
Condition the mind to allow the body to just “do”. Drills also get the brain familiar to the stimuli of an attack. Unless you are familiar with aggressive stimuli then you may freeze. In drills, you begin to get comfortable with close aggressive actions. You know longer have the “flight or fight” instinct kicking in. You have control over what you do.
Drills are used in sports, dance, academic schools, police training and the military. It’s a great method of learning. You have to prepare for success. Preparation is the key. Therefore, drills are the keys to success.