The Hidden Power Of Training Videos
By Pete Kautz, 2006
Animals have long influenced the martial arts, and so this time we’re going to get into something I like to call “the hidden power of training videos” that is inspired by animals - specifically by a study done several years ago with chimps.
In this study, the scientists monitored the brain activity of chimps. They did this in two stages.
First they recorded what parts of the brain were involved when the chimps were performing a certain task they had been taught how to do.
Then later, the scientists recorded what parts of the brain were involved when the chimps were passively watching another chimp perform the same learned activity.
Amazingly, when they compared the results, the parts of the brain that were being utilized in both cases were the same!
So what does this have to do with martial arts?
This means that when you watch a video of something that you already know how to do your brain lights up in the same way as if you were actually doing the thing yourself! Each time this happens, the correct mental firing pattern is reinforced and grows stronger.
Does this mean you can just watch a video and never practice? NO!
Let me explain...
You have to physically HAVE the skills in question FIRST. If you do not have the skills you can certainly learn from the video but your brain will not yet be firing in synch with the action. (Check out this great older article about "how to learn from video" for more details about how to get the most out of instructional tapes and DVDs.)
However, if you DO have the skills you are watching then YES, this study indicates that every time you see them being performed correctly on video it reinforces the correct mental firing patterns just as if you were doing the activity!
That is pretty awesome, really!
(I feel this study also helps explain why visualization works for athletes - a topic we will get into in a future article)
For example, say you attended a Drawpoint Defensive Knife Craft seminar. You could get all the physical skills required at the seminar and then watch the Drawpoint videos afterward to not only enhance your retention but to actually deeply imprint the correct mental firing patterns and help make the skills permanent.
In short, for any skill you want to develop you can reinforce the correct mental firing pattern by training the specific material and watching video of the same material being done by an expert, using spaced repetition learning. It’s that simple!
Though it is not magic, it is another proven tool in the martial athlete’s training toolbox.