Have you heard of Ben Hogan?
I suspect not, unless you follow golf and are familiar with mid-20th century golf records. I only learned about him in an article a colleague recently shared. Turns out, my husband, who never ceases to amaze me, knew who he was. But I digress . . .
Ben Hogan was an exceptional golfer and he got that way by constant practice. But not just regular repetition. He is actually credited with inventing practice. He precisely broke down each phase of the golf swing and fine-tuned his execution of each segment. He amassed nine championship records to become the 4th all-time record holder.
Today experts call his approach Deliberate Practice.
Deliberate Practice refers to a practice that is purposeful and systematic. While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, Deliberate Practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance. I now realize that it is something I use to maintain, and hopefully improve, my swimming ability.
Anything we repeat — whether a flip-turn in the pool, standing up from a chair, carrying the groceries, working at the computer, walking with poles, or simply walking — becomes habitual in its execution. It‘s just how our brain works, and it is totally necessary.
Habitual action, however, does not lead to improvement.
For that we need Deliberate Practice which requires commitment and focused attention.
“Deliberate practice always follows the same pattern: break the overall process down into parts, identify your weaknesses, test new strategies for each section, and then integrate your learning into the overall process.” The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice by James Clear
Awareness Through Movement Lessons and Deliberate Practice
They actually sound a lot alike.
— ATM classes often begin with a benchmark movement or assessment of some kind. Using sensory information, we may measure ease and comfort, smoothness and reversibility, perhaps the range or how much of ourselves is involved in the movement. We identify how we feel, how we “do” the movement, noting any sense of limitation or “stuckness.”
— We then explore aspects of the movement pattern. To the surprise of newer students, we may focus attention on a part of the body that doesn‘t even seem related to the action at hand! After introducing a variation or different strategy, we assess the effect on the benchmark movement. We may repeat this process several times.
— Learning is integrated in a variety of ways. Repeating and reassessing the benchmark, perhaps doing it in a different position. We stand and notice our breath or alignment. We shift weight. We walk, a whole-body integration that for the committed student of the Feldenkrais Method serves as an ongoing, ever-present feedback system.
Not for the faint of heart
While Deliberate Practice is an option for everyone, it’s not easy. It takes time, commitment and a willingness to invite and utilize feedback. It requires attention and learning. Having the support of fellow learners really helps. Personally, I would not be the swimmer I am today without Bea, my lane-mate over the past decade, who is as committed to improvement as I am. A coach or teacher to provide feedback and guidance is a big help too.
Want to try out Deliberate Practice?
ATM classes offer a template for the process which can then be applied to many areas of life. Consider joining a class, online or in person, and try out some Deliberate Practice. Click HERE to see current and upcoming themes.