They say “repetition is the father of learning”, but why is that? Often, in Jiu Jitsu, you hear your professor emphasize doing a technique or a drill over and over and over again until it becomes engrained in your muscle memory. One of the reasons behind this is because of the neural circuitry involved in the sensory-motor part of your brain. The more you practice a movement or a behavior, your brain makes neural connections that strengthen the efficiency of each particular movement. In addition, there is something behaviorists identify as “accessibility” which can be defined simply by the availability of certain information in the brain that allows it to process information and structure a behavior. The more you drill techniques or transitions, the more accessible it becomes stored into your long-term memory system. As it becomes more accessible, your brain will be able to retrieve the information more easily and will execute the technique with more speed and efficiency.
You will often hear that “practice makes perfect” and while it may not make “perfect”, practice and repetition will certainly strengthen the synapses responsible for executing techniques. It is important to strengthen the neural connections that make behaviors almost instinctual. This is particularly important in high-pressure situations where your cognitive resources are distracted and attentional processes are interrupted. There is a large body of research that is involved with the strengthening of synaptic connections as the result of repetition and I will go into further detail soon, but for now, keep this in mind when you are striving for perfection.