This short entry is just to express some of my opinions on repetition.
2,400... That's how many repetitions it takes for a movement to become instinctual (according to experts who worked with the British SAS to determine how much training they needed in certain combat techniques).
Now this might not sound like too much hard work - most of you reading this are probably now pondering whether they have done over 2,400 cat passes, 2,400 arm jumps and 2,400 metres of balancing on a rail etc. But what we have to remember is that every single obstacle is slightly different.
Think of every cat pass you have ever done and I'll bet you cannot think of two that were absolutely identical. Take in to account the approach, the heights, the widths, the distances, the weather, the dust, the humidity, the cuts on your hands at the time, the lunch you had to affect your weight and it is very unlikely that you have ever done two identical cat passes on different obstacles (or even the same one!).
So these magical 2,400 repetitions suddenly seem not so simple to complete.
According to those experts' findings based on a LOT of research, an SAS soldier in training would have to repeat a particular knife attack technique 2,400 times before it was drilled in to them and an instinctual reaction. This couldn't be done in a day since this relies on the soldier being fresh and perfectly executing the techinque whilst under realistic training conditions and in the mindset of actually killing someone.
So to bring this to the interest of us, the traceurs, this would mean that just ONE movement on ONE obstacle would need to be repeated 2,400 times whilst you were fresh and completely focused, before that ONE movement on that ONE obstacle might be considered an instinctual movement!
This hammers home the point of repetition being key, something that we've all heard from Parkour veterans time and time again but perhaps we fail to fully comprehend the messages' magnitude.
I'm sure I've done over 2,400 repetitions of every type of pass that I practice but I honestly don't think I could say I've done that amount on one obstacle whilst I was fresh and fully focused in the mindset of doing it to save my life. In fact, I know I haven't.
So for anybody who thinks they have 'mastered' a particular technique, it might come as a surprise to hear this is almost impossible since it would require around 2,400 repetitions of the technique on every single obstacle, ever created plus every one being created every day... not to mention the maintenance of that perfection.
I believe a man could spend an entire lifetime training just one technique on one obstacle and never develop it to the level of every one being 100% perfect without exception. Which is why it's funny to read lists of techniques on forums that people have 'mastered' in their first month of Parkour.
But don't worry or become disheartened with never being able to perfect your favourite technique - strive towards perfection by all means - but just remember that you can only ever finish somewhere on the path towards perfection, never at the destination itself.
There is always room for improvement.
no, actually, I'll just shut up and go train...
The are certain passes that i use in everyday life that really do feel like they are instinctual. Like the switch hand, i use it everyday regardless of what im wearing or what time of day it is. I know this means I havnt done this technique under the same condition 2,400 times, but i've practised it under varying condition maybe 10,000 times. So I don't know, could it ever become instinctual regardless of the obstacle, to a degree.
Would be nice to try do 2400 repeticions at one day. It may take the whole day, but I think it could be worth of it as a experience. 2400 repeticions at month would be piece of cake, 100 at one day and you have still some resting days. Yeah, that was maybe little "off-topic". But I think I will sacrifice one of my summer holidays day to do crouchings about 2400 times or some else movement.
Check out my blog: http://jariko-parkour.blogspot.com/ It's still young, but I think I will soon have little update there about my raising at my level of training.
yo blane... a lot of your posts recently have been upper-body related.
would love to here an update on lower body work? and also, a question - how many leg squats and single leg squats you able to do?
I currently work on 300-500 double leg squats a day, but can't quite grasp single leg squats.
Any tips in this area??
When I saw the title my first thought was "omg, did he really COUNT all the pullups he did, and today he acheived 2,400?" :) But I guess you're not THAT insane.
BTW, good to know I will never master antything at all ;) And sorry for my bad english, it's not my native language
PS. And I'm sorry if this message gets to you more than once - i seem to have some connection problems
Tash, haha - I tried to achieve my maximum number of pullups in one day in February and didn't get close to 2,400! It was harder than I thought it would be... I think I got around 310 in sets of 5 (62 sets) in about 7 hours. I could perhaps have pushed for more but I wasn't keen on the idea of overworking my elbows. :P
Blake, this is really interesting stuff and it's great to discuss things like this to find out people's opinions. Don't think I'm disagreeing with you here, I'm just raising some questions that are in my head and trying to come to a conclusion as well. I'm just playing devil's advocate to open up the discussion and look at the question from different angles.
I think the majority of your 10,000+ repetitions will have been done slightly differently with maybe a few exceptions where one was identical to another on the same obstacle... but depending on the height of the obstacle and so many other factors, the technique would need to be adjusted slightly for each scenario.
Let's forget for a second that we class all of them as a 'switch hand' based on what two parts of your body are doing (switching hands) and give every single slight variant you have performed a different name. I think that the switch itself could become instinctual in the sense where you know EXACTLY when to release with the one hand, contact with the other etc. based on feeling and timing and experience, but the rest of the technique will require different amounts of leg power, different landing techniques depending on the surface material and angle - or if there's a drop afterwards then this will greatly affect things too.
I'm therefore reluctant to class them all as one technique but it's just easier for us to call them all the same name so that when we talk to each other and describe what we did, the other person can gather a fairly accurate image of the description in their heads.
Many times I've listened to a traceur describe a movement they did on an obstacle I was yet to see. Based on my personal past experience of the movement they mentioned, I immediately imagined the situation in my head and often when I arrived at the area, the circumstances were totally different.
The 'technique of the technique', if that makes sense, can vary greatly. When someone says 'cat precision', it makes you picture in your head one you have done before but there are hundreds of thousands of possible variations just depending on the heights of the two obstacles, not to mention whether you're landing on a wall or a rail... it would be difficult to therefore make a 'cat precision' instinctual since this one technique has suddenly become 100,000 smaller techniques.
Unlike Martial Arts, where a kick can be trained to strike exactly one spot on a bag to represent the average person's solar plexus (for example), our obstacles are never that uniform in design. The human body is a perfect design and a solar plexus on a human can only really vary in position by a limited amount depending on their height and probably over half of the adult population's solar plexus lies within a foot of one another's.
Whereas a standing jump for example might vary by 6ft or more. Can we class all precision jumps as being the same technique?
Can we make a precision jump instinctual or does each one need to be practiced individually to achieve 99.9% success rate?
Replace the words 'precision jump' in the above paragraph with whatever technique you like and ask yourself the same question... when I do this I find my answer becoming 'yes, I think each one would need to be practiced individually to achieve a high success rate'.
So in conclusion, I really believe that one technique can become instinctual in one circumstance if we practice hard enough, but for each new variation in setup, our previous instincts can HELP us with the new situation, but cannot immediately adapt on their own to suddenly allow us to suddenly have an instinctual reaction to the new obstacle.
This is just my opinion based on the research of those SAS scientists and I'd really like to hear more of your opinion Blake. :)
Cool blog Jariko, I will keep an eye on it for updates. It always impresses me when I see so many people speak such good English when it is not their first language. By comparison, people who speak English as a first language don't tend to spend as much time learning other languages, which is a shame.
To 'anonymous' - I do a lot of leg training but recently my posts have focused on upper body goals and developments. There is no real reason for this and if you want to know more about my leg progression then I'll begin to include some in my posts. :)
300-500 squats per day is a LOT! Or do you mean on your leg days? I wouldn't recommend doing that every day as the body needs time to recover between workouts.
For one legged squat advice, check out this article: http://www.powerathletesmag.com/pages/pistols.htm
This comment is far too long.
a very interesting read there B
and just think, all this will change when i come to uni in leicester in september :P
haha, new obstacles to play with :]
probably head up your way over the summer, before i come in september.
keep it up
yer i ment on my days that i work my legs.
my weekly workout is something like;
MON - Upper Body
TUES - Lower Body
WED - Back and Abs
THURS - Pure Balance, and I try to fit in some pilates, yoga or meditation.
FRI - Lower Body
SAT & SUN - General Parkour
...Lower Body days consist of a large number of toe raises and a large number of squats recently.
I'm now going to progress towards mainly single leg squats, i'll check out that link.
yeah it's I'm becoming quite frequent visitor here, what can i do if you have nice posts huh? but here i go.
This questions about repetitions and becoming natural (instinctual) of course i don't really want to disagree with people who have studied and are professional on training and physical things, but i think the number of repetition really depends on lots of different factors.
i can surely say that as more repetitions you do, more natural it will become to your body, but to your body assimilate some new movement (in different obstacles) you will always have the experience factor, which makes your body able to use your muscular memory and makes it really easier and natural.
I train every day in the same place, every single day, and i always work on repetitions like an maniac, never less than 200 reps from the same thing, but when i go around in places i never trained before, i see no problem doing things in different places and more difficult obstacles , but i like to apply "the rule of 3", the first time is always strange, and i have to focus, the second is quite ok, and the third is always really good, and after this point it's like natural. you have more than thousand of repetitions on your background, and your brain do never forget that, and we humans are really good in adaptation.
I remember everything Thomas did while here in my city, every training session had something really insane, and he always make it looks natural, like he was born training there. few things i'm just able to do now, about 6 months after, and other i will probably took few more years to do.
i believe our experience background really counts, after that you just have to adapt your experience to the new.
sorry if my english isn't clear enough, language issues :/
see ya bro'
Hey Soilwork, nice to hear from you again, you're always welcome here. =)
Yes the famous 'rule of 3', it's a great way to train and I feel the same as you... the first time is always a little strange and requires 100% concentration, then it becomes easier and cleaner in the next two attempts. I always apply this rule of 3 when I do something new.
I totally agree about muscle memory and experience helping with new situations and the more experience you have, the more things you can do in new areas with ease.
The study was more to do with instinctual movements, that is something that happens automatically. Like when we drop a knife or heavy item, instinct is the unconscious act of moving your feet out of the way. You don't have to think about it, it just happens. Or when we touch something very hot, instinct pulls us away from it, we don't have to think about it.
So the study suggested that for anything not already 'programmed' in to our brains, it would take roughly 2,400 repetitions under realistic conditions to make the movement instinctual. So for example if moving away from danger wasn't already part of our instinct, you would need to have a friend drop a knife towards your feet and avoid it around 2,400 times before that reaction was instinctual and a natural response to such danger.
So to relate this to Parkour, the study suggests we would need to do around 2,400 of the same arm jump whilst being chased and under pressure, for that response to become completely natural. Of course we could probably do this arm jump the first time we were being chased but it would at this time not be instinctual, there would be a short second or two where we had to think "OK, now I'm going to do this arm jump to try to escape". It would be a choice based on previous experience rather than an instinctual movement.
Where are you based again Soilwork? I might be in your region early next year and would like to meet up with you to train. :-)
Great post Blane.
I think it really shows how important versatility is. I understand that that isn't exactly what you were trying to say. We all know that Parkour contains many, many different movements that are all very useful in different situations. But when you talk about doing a cat-pass for example, you hardly ever (if ever at all) do exactly the same cat-pass twice. This made me realise that we need to learn more technique than you first think, because you will need to learn how to do a cat-pass over this type of obstacle, trying to land this way, get this much distance, this much height, in these conditions etc etc.
I'm really surprised that the magic number is so high! I knew that repetition was very important - mainly from Stephane emphasising this importance, but I guess it really cannot be emphasised enough!
I'll be out around 8ish tonight by the way dude. If I don't see you, see you on Saturday.
i realy like looking at all the angles you and others have shown of looking at this. One thing i was wondering and i raly think could be true but want to see what you and others think is that if you do for example an 8 ft standing level to levl, rail to rail precision 2,400 time when fresh and in full focus to make that instinctual, would the same precision on walls be instinctual only from that training, just thinking about it now i've actualy realised the technique for a rail rail precision is probably a tiny bit different as wall to wall but still want to se what people think. maybe 2,400 on 1 brick wide walls makes that and on bigger walls with same edge instinctual.
Always quality posts here :-)
Where did you read about this SAS research?
I don't have much else to say except very nice read, puts things into perspective.
Just shows how important drills are, and actually how much time parkour demands from us!
I want to get onto my drills in a bigger way but am still working on sorting out my knee, although i think it will be a chronic thing which i will have to take care of and watch for the rest of my training,
awesome post mate
I got the statistic from a book I own called 'Deadly Fighting Skills of The World' by Steve Crawford.
The paragraph reads:
"The British SAS' Training Wing, for example, had determined that it takes 2400 repetitions of a movement, combined with realistic exercises to make it into an instinctive drill."
Phil, I think drilling that rail precision you described enough times would make you extremely good at both that jump and others of the same size regardless of whether it was a wall or a rail (although I do agree both require slightly different techniques). But I think it would only make the movement completely instinctual on the original obstacle, in that it would be completely normal to do if a lion suddenly appeared next to you, just as much as running away from it would be. It doesn't require conscious thought.
I think the important thing here is to remember that 2,400 repetitions of each technique will not make them all perfect.
Remember that drilling something will definitely make you better at that thing and any others like it... but to really imbed it in to your neural system and make it an instinctual reaction takes a lot more focused training in controlled circumstances. Under which conditions, not just each technique is different and needing to be practiced, but the slight variations depending on the obstacles characteristics need to be considered too.
It's all very interesting stuff and it would be cool to get some scientists involved to break things down further for us and explain more about our nervous system and what would be required of us to regress, almost, in to a more animalistic state of mind when we train and fight/flight reactions are triggered.
Callum, see you tomorrow mate!
Nice topic and discussion.
Just to say that although your point on the reps is valid I think the study done by the scientists might not be transferable to the Parkour scene in its full meaning. I don't know the conditions on which those experiments were done but to be able to be measured they were probably very specific.
As you said, there are tons of variables concerning how the reps are practiced and those same (almost) infinite circumstances make almost impossible for one to complete 2,400 in a specific drill, let alone "isolate" one drill to be able to work on. In fact, one might argue that every single time you do something it is always original because you are not the same person, the environment has changed, time (that omnipowerfull "entitiy") has passed by, dragging along every atom in the universe with it.
However, there is one point worth exploring, that I think might give a clue on how to progress in this discussion.
Instinct is something very difficult to define. As you mentioned, it happens when we unconsciously and in an semi-controlled way react to something. However, i don't think we can talk about it the same way in that scientific study, in Parkour or when we burn our hands. If we talk about it when we get burned, then we are naming a split second innate reaction, never learned. In that study, they seem to refer to a learned, neural pathway memory input, kinda like conditioned behaviour, which makes you react in a specific way, also in a split second time span, to a specific occurrence in your surroundings.
Now, in Parkour, "instinct" has something to do with a longer time span i believe. It relates to a state a traceur tries to achieve, not so much a reaction, where he is able to keep an exact momentum throughout an obstacle course and for that he is able to jump, land, balance, crawl, apply all the techniques effortlessly.
So I think that you are true about repetition being essential to achieve instinct, but one should distinguish between "instincts", as even scientists themselves probably haven't managed to isolate a single definition applied to all situations.
The task of achieving this kind of "instinct" in Parkour isn't influenced by so many variables as to the point it would be impossible to repeat one single movement as I was saying earlier. This happens because I think our brain cannot process so much information as the one contained in the sum of all those variables. It is (ironically ?) our instinct to categorize information, pack it in classes and chunks, and sometimes omit it and keep it from reaching consciousness. In this way, although theoretically every movement is unique, our brain makes some of them, in reality, equal. This is perhaps why traceurs manage to act "instinctually" in places they haven't been before. Of course, that implies a huge experience and lot's of "grandpa's memory strength" to put it in your words Blane (hahaha).
The environment helps in making you feel familiar and safe, and thus relaxed enough to easily act "instinctually" but, in the end, what really counts is what is inside the brain of the traceur.
So, to conclude, perhaps there is something like a "Parkour instinct" which might relate to that capacity of the traceur to keep perfect momentum through abstraction of fears, anxieties and surroundings strangeness. Also, there might be possible to actually repeat a movement 2,400 times if we manage to isolate those things that actually interfere with our brain categorization capacity, one of them might be fatigue, for example. Still, 2,400 might not be THE number for Parkour instinct behaviour though... or it might... who knows?
(sorry for the long reply. Be welcomed to say that its too long, as i'm afraid it might be. Also, the english is not that good)
Sorry late :)
I'm based in Brazil, if you come around here, feel invited as a honor guest :)
Dudes...thats taken me all day to read over lol dont know where to start..
2,400 is a overwhelming number to aim for in my world, I mean do any of us have what it take to achieve this? taking into account things like time you may need say over a week, would your other training be pushed aside in pursuit for this magical number. Like some have said its hard to find(if not impossible) 2 obstacles the same, plus "the approach, the heights, the widths, the distances, the weather, the dust, the humidity, the cuts on your hands at the time" maybe its a futile endeavor.
Blane, you said the SAS experts did a lot of research, did they do so on say parachuting jumps,lands and rolls or rope work? I find this a lot more relavent then the "knife attack technique" in my mind the complexities of overcoming any given obstacle says it all. In short, I don't think the 2,400 number can be applied to our Art because of the incalculable variations,as listed. Also I think there are a LOT of dangers in becoming instinctual with movements, eg if i hit the target on a cat-pass and i believe its now instinct would i remember to look around for a puddle, loose bars, lol a bunch of rusty nails on the landing or would i be inclined to just go for it because of the 2,400 times before???
I dont know..good stuff tho, like the kind of stuff your on mate,
got lots more to say on this but im off out to play now.. c ya soon mate
Morbitur and Cable, thanks for your excellent contributions to this discussion.
I agree with both of you when you say that that one study perhaps cannot be directly related with Parkour or every other activity that the brain can learn to repeat. My aim with this post was to learn from other people's opinions as much as it was to spread the interesting fact I had read. Since our discipline is still in the very early stages, it's great to share these theories with each other and explore their potential for improving ourselves. In 100 years, the traceurs of the future will have all of our knowledge and trial/error experiences and be able to use their time more efficiently to progress but for now we still have to explore the different possibilities based on what we collectively know.
You raise a good point Cable when you mentioned that care would need to be taken not to become complacent with techniques if someone developed them to the stage where the execution was almost perfect on most obstacles. However, on the same subject I believe it's also possible to learn how to adapt to dangers as they happen.
It's natural for the body to contort itself to receive minimal damage when something goes wrong but some people are better than others at this and this is why I believe it's a skill that can be improved.
When a drunk person falls from a high balcony of a hotel, when compared with sober people, the statistics say that more drunk people survive because they are completely relaxed and let their bodies take over rather than trying to resist the natural body alignment during free-fall.
Try to find a comfortable wall at a comfortable height with a comfortable landing area, but one where the landing is blind until you pass the wall. Get a friend to spread some small stones or ideally, coins on the other side of the wall in a random manner. Now when you pass the wall, the purpose of this training exercise is to avoid the coins. This would get you in to the habit of thinking fast, adapting, improvising and deciding on the best possible foot placement to avoid coins, in this case, but this ability could easily be transferred to small puddles, dog poo or rusty nails. With enough practice I believe this type of training could improve your reactions to dangers.
My training, and many others' revolves around preparing for a life-threatening situation where we would need to use my training to save ourselves. So I think that although it is dangerous in some ways, it could be useful for us to occasionally NOT test our surroundings before we train there. Now I know there's the 'always check your surfaces' motto that I also fully encourage but hear me out, with a bit of care this could be very beneficial.
It would need to take place with a friend who HAS fully explored and tested the area for dangers, weak obstacles etc. It would ideally take place in a nice, soft grounded area such as a play park or on grass. Now the idea here is for you to trust your friend when he tells you of any things to avoid and trust him that the rest is safe. A simple game of tag in this area now becomes a very useful training exercise for a real life situation since you will be forced to adapt and improvise on everything! Of course this will take some prior planning but it's just an idea on how we could (almost) safely test our training as it would be in an unfamiliar area.
Morbitur, 'instinctual' may indeed not be the perfect word for what we seek for our movements. You said 'effortless' and I think this could be a more realistic target for people. A well-rounded technical ability with plenty of emphasis on drilling and more freedom-based moving in your training time will no doubt go a long way towards developing effortless movements that can be adapted to any situation.
I wasn't trying to dictate to people that they must go and do everything exactly 2,400 times in every single situation they can think of... that figure was as you say from another, entirely different practice (that of defending yourself with a knife) and although I am now agreeing with you when you say it cannot be entirely related to Parkour, I think the moral of the story is the same:
We need to practice things a lot more than we think, in order to make them effortless and close to perfect.
I wanted to open people's eyes to the harsh reality that we can never reach a finish line in Parkour and be 'the best we can be', since there is always something we can improve and a new situation needing to be trained for.
I know of a few people who stopped practicing Parkour and began to seek other similar activities such as free running and tricking because they felt Parkour was 'too easy', 'not challenging enough' and because they had a fairly good grasp of the basics, they felt that was enough.
My goal with this post was to start a discussion and come to some sort of conclusion with the majority of people that the path is a lot longer than we might think at first glance.
I didn't really finish the drunk/sober person comparison. The point I was trying to make there is that the more relaxed person is more likely to survive...
And how do we become more relaxed when something goes wrong? Through trusting our past training and ability to adapt.
With regular training exercises like the ones I mentioned with the coins and tag in a new environment, we can learn to trust our ability to adapt to overcome... and when something goes REALLY wrong, by having that experience, we can relax a little more and increase our chances of recovering since we have trained for this, rather than leaving it to luck.
"Technicalities" aside, the moral is all good and well reminded. Thanks.
That drunk\sober statistic is very interesting. As Bruce Lee would say "Be water, not ice." ;)
i saw once in discovery channel the history about a woman who was climbing and felt from the mountain wall, and it was to high, i can't remember how high it was but it was "impossible" of surviving like 10 floors building, but didn't died and had any fractures.
They were trying to explain how and why it happened, and the conclusion was that for an unknown reason her body relaxed when falling, and when she reached the ground which wasn't completely vertical, was a decline, her body started rolling.
something like this is related to that guy who jumped from the air plane and his parachute didn't work, so he felt from 1.400 meters. and just broke his ankle.
(just to show more examples like the drunk)
i admire the SAS no end, but i think 2400 only serves those adminstrative folks approving rounds spent or statistical 'facts' to make something that is already amazing (e.g. the SAS being the one of the best - if not THE BEST - special forces in the world) into something that moderns need to quantify once again; it's as if quantity was everything. the SAS train, and train, and train, and train...... etc.
"I believe a man could spend an entire lifetime training just one technique on one obstacle and never develop it to the level of every one being 100% perfect without exception."
"The study was more to do with instinctual movements, that is something that happens automatically. Like when we drop a knife or heavy item, instinct is the unconscious act of moving your feet out of the way. You don't have to think about it, it just happens. Or when we touch something very hot, instinct pulls us away from it, we don't have to think about it."
(I`m from sweden so the english might not be the best :) )
I have copied 2 sentences from 2 of your posts Blane. When I read the first scentence about that you can`t FULLY master a technique I felt a bit disencouraged, BUT, when I read the second sentence I noticed one thing: when you drop a knife and just pull away instinctly it was a reflex(may be obvious :P)and from what I know I didn`t train that movement to pull away from the knife 2,400 times, it was already in my head and "survival instinct" to do so. Maybe that means that our ancestors had developed this instinct and it just became more and more of a reflex. If that`s true then that means that after a few generations from our, the techniques from parkour will become more and more of a reflex. If it does then we maybe did them a favour cause they got it in their heads already and can "use" them as a reflex in most scenarios and do them almost perfectly even if they don`t practise parkour.
What I meant by this post is that maybe WE in OUR generatin can`t make the parkour techniques a reflex then our future generations maybe can, which means that they don`t need to pratice these techniques 2,400 times to make them to reflexes and save themselves with the techniques. And THAT would be great wouldn`t it? :D
This post will probably just confuse you but i just had to write this. :)
/"Saut" from parkour.net :)
This is a very important aspect of training and I love how you keep on bringing these intresting things up, Good work.
Dunno about this 2400 repetitions number I guess it varies with every person/move in question. Somewhere I read about 1500 repetitions being enough.
In parkour I'd imagine this will be most useful in the most basic things that don't vary as much as for example vaults do. Climb ups and landings will most definetly benefit from being instinctive.
What people really do have to remember is that the 2400 repetitions Must Be Clean. If you do 2400 rolls and the technique is bad you are stuck with that bad roll and it will be Very hard to correct. That's why people shouldn't try to do hundreds of repetitions a day, do a bunch and Really concentrate them, do them when you are feeling good and fresh. This can't be emphasized enough.
Traceur from North
Thats why Gibbons swing instictual, and why humans walk instinctual. There are Monks, wich live in the wood for 5 or 10 years and can move like monkeys, there are Artists, wo do a Backflip instintual. It only takes time to do...
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