It’s all about basics. All martial arts are rooted in basics. What you do in martial arts are basics and combinations of basics.
Basics are single moves: A roll or tumble, a fall, a punch, kick, strike, a throw. You learn how to do each single move properly and effectively, and then repeat it over and over again in practice. You learn to combine these basics in techniques; techniques are combinations of basics, logically sequenced in relation to an attack. Sounds complicated, but it’s elementary.
Why is repetition in martial arts practice and training important?
Brain Memory and Muscle Memory
The simple way to put it is that you memorize the moves. You burn them into the neural-pathways of the brain and into muscle memory. Your brain and body become accustomed to the movement. The more burned into brain and body memory, the faster you will get at executing the moves.
You learn how to do the moves without wasted motion, learn to use economical motion, learn to use the correct angle and position. You learn particular position in relation to you and another that is effective for executing the moves. You practice the moves that way, over and over, until the brain sees it immediately, sees the correct form and position and then the body can act instantaneously on the situation. To you students of Zen, this is related to No-Mind. Acting without thought. However, the reason it works in martial arts is because the moves are so burned into the muscles and pathways of the brain, that you don’t have to think; you just do. Like driving a car after many years. That kind of thing.
Repetition of basics and techniques actually develops speed. As stated, the moves are so embedded in the body and mind that it’s easy to perform the moves when they’ve been practiced repeatedly; thus, you get faster with them. This also depends on the intensity and speed with which you execute your moves in training and practice, to develop those fast-twitch muscles.
Repetition is also how you learn sound principles. You learn them mentally at first, see the logic of them, then practice them so the body understands them. Economical motion, for instance. You practice moves in a way that is most economical, no extra movement and so faster and not telegraphed. You learn to align the body and its parts correctly to make your moves effective.
Well, obviously, the muscles are developed and become stronger through repeated practice in martial arts. It becomes effortless to execute your moves, so they also become surprisingly stronger.
So, clearly, it is important to use repetition in martial arts practice and all martial arts have this as a foundation for training. Not that there are not spontaneous aspects to training also, like sparring, but this is done after basics and techniques are understood and start getting established in your mental and physical system so that mind and body can coordinate and execute techniques. Such aspects of training as sparring are also crucial, because then you train how to actually use what you’ve learned in the way that you need to: On the spot.
Repetition of basics and techniques is how the martial artist gets better at his craft, trains the body and brain to use techniques efficiently and spontaneously. It is a major pillar of martial arts practice.