Muscle Memory
By: Rainald Knutsson

The subject of this ale inspired rambling is: Muscle memory training for Stick Jocks or Practise makes perfect.

When we have a bad day (get killed all the time) at fighter practice we often say that we didn't concentrate enough. The problem may actually be that we concentrated too much, or concentrated on the wrong thing -- throwing a certain shot , rather than hitting our target.

Several respected fighters I've met have described a training technique to me they call obtaining "muscle memory". The concept of muscle memory training is a relatively new area of sports and music training. I have seen the concept used for baseball, basketball and golf programs; and heard mention of it being used for wind and string instrument training. Muscle memory is the ability of the muscles of the body to perform identical, repetitive movements or strokes, thus programming or imprinting upon the subconscious mind this ideal stroking pattern. This can be recalled automatically from memory. Another name for the training technique is "kinesthetic memory" referring to the memory of the muscles for the movements they have made, based on a sense of relationship and sequence of relationships of muscle, joint, bones, tendons, etc.

Regardless of what you call it the basic theory remains the same: that it takes a certain amount of time for the body to learn a simple motion—much longer than most of you would imagine. Several sports authorities recommend you practice a single specific motion (leg shot, wrap shot,.....) for at least three to four weeks (if practicing regularly). Several of the fighters mentioned earlier recommend several thousand repetitions of each motion before it becomes learned by the muscles. If you do any less, you run the risk of not learning the motion, or you may only partially learn it, depending on how often and over how long of a time span you practice.

For definition purposes, say learning the motion occurs when a conscious effort to put the body in a particular position, or to move it in a certain way, is transformed from a conscious action to an automatic action, requiring no thought. In other words you see an opening in your opponent's defense and wham!, in goes your wrap shot, before you even think about it.

Does any of this make sense? OK, how about an example we can all relate to?...... have you ever noticed how you can get into your car at night and put the key right in the ignition, yet not even see the key hole? Try driving someone else's car and you will see that you have not developed the same "Muscle Memory".

When you practice at the pell or do slow-work with a friend you develop muscle memory or reflexes. These reflexes are what you draw from when you are fighting. When you are fighting, you do not have enough time to think about all of the physical mechanics involved. While practicing, you must be careful not to build undesirable reflexes. Practicing while tired (mentally or physically) can lead to bad habits or reflexes being learned. You might start to get sloppy or neglect to complete a follow through. Unlearning a bad habit takes much longer than learning a good habit.


How you practice is how you will fight. When you are tired or distracted -- DO NOT PRACTICE. Do not make your practice session a bad experience by forcing yourself to practice. Never practice past when you feel physically comfortable. Know when to stop! Remember, keep it fun.

Rainald Knutsson