BJJ Waiter X

The Three Phases of Technical Skill Development

When it comes to learning techniques and developing skill most people massively overestimate what they can achieve in 5 weeks and massively underestimate what they can achieve in 5 years. This largely comes from a misconception of what it is to be skilful, a lack of patience with the process and fundamentally failing to know what that process should be.
First, we should understand the difference between techniques and skills:
Techniques are specific, explicit and discrete.
Skills are general, implicit and open.
Techniques are not skills but you can become more skilful in the application of your technique. For example, an armbar from closed guard is a technique; Performing armbars from guard is a skill.
Gaining proficiency in a technique can take anywhere up to eight weeks but becoming skilful in the application of that technique is an ongoing and arguably never ending process.
The process that begins with gaining proficiency and continues into long term skill development has three primary phrases – Accumulation, Intensification and Transformation.
Accumulation is the period that is focused gaining proficiency with the technique and, as such, you should mostly be concerned with getting your reps in, learning the primary mechanics of the technique and how to apply them in a live environment. Effective training strategies for this stage include getting in some extra repetitions before and after classes, frequently attempting to “hit the move” in sparring and, most obviously, receiving formal instruction on the technique from a knowledgeable coach.
Intensification is the phase that will take you beyond being merely proficient in a technique to being truly skilful in its application. Here you will develop a series of heuristics and begin to move towards the ability to apply the technique intuitively. This stage should be characterised by lots of specific sparring focused around different aspects of the technique and regular troubleshooting sessions with coaches and training partners.
Transformation is the stage where the technique is almost fully autonomous in execution and adjustments to timing, speed, power, angle, balance and leverage are all made completely intuitively. Your training at this phase is more focused on transferring the new skill acquired by developing this technique to other areas of your game and exploring/exploiting the reactions of your opponents in their attempt to deal with your new skill.
Sadly many people tend to stop at the accumulation phase and prize developing a surface level understanding of a multitude of techniques over developing true skill.
It should also be noted that skill in a given domain is frequently acquired without learning any distinct techniques but techniques cannot be effective without skill.