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Learning to Get Fit: Repetition is Key

As a martial art practitioner (wing chun), I think that one of the most frustrating aspects of learning a multifaceted motor skill can be the quantity of repetition necessary for the skill to move from the incompetent and slow conscious ineptitude stage of skill to the unconscious aptitude stage where we just seem to execute the movement without thought.

Repetition is completely vital for the achievement of any skill and, whereas there is no substitution for the hands-on mechanical drilling of a martial arts movement on pads or with a partner, the quantity of time necessary for drilling can be very challenging for the standard apprentice. The majority of people who practice martial arts, whether it be kung-fu, Brazilian jiu jitsu, escrima, wing chun or mixed martial arts, prepare as a pastime or for reasons that improve and add to their lives, aside from their everyday interaction. Consequently, time to drill the new skills effectively enough can be hard to find in their busy lives.

An additional method that can assist with the learning of motor skills is that of visualization or visuo motor behavioral rehearsal (VMBR) training. Numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of this system, and it is useful not only for the learning of new skills but also the development of existing motor movements. The techniques have become standard in the training regimes of elite athletes throughout the world.

A study, carried out over 18 days, by Lohr and Scogin (1998) using VMBR with relaxation and prematch anxiety imagery found noteworthy improvements in mental and sports performance when compared to a control group that actually deteriorated in their performance during the same period.

In summary, the most powerful way we can improve skill achievement by increasing the quantity of practice.  One question that we must address is, “What should we practice?” This question clearly relates to the goals of workout plan: the target behaviors, which the person will need to perform in the future. As fitness professionals we hope that the abilities acquired during our involvement will transfer to functional activities outside of workout plan.


Lohr, B.A., Scogin, F. (1998). Effects of self-administered visio-motor behavioral rehearsal on sport performance of collegiate athletes. Journal of Sport Behavior, 21(3), 206

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