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Great Is Drill by Mark Hatmaker

“Great is drill.” – Henry VIII

A common request among combat rookies and even intermediate players (and if we are honest some long-timers still think this way, too) is “What’s next?” or “What’s the next super-secret neato technique to master?” And I get this attitude, I mean who doesn’t want some new bit of information to chew over, some new skill to toy with and occupy the mind? For some, familiarity breeds contempt and if most of us don’t feel contempt for what we know we must do, we can at least admit that sometimes another day in the gym working on variations of the same things as we did last week can occasionally lead to a bit of staleness.

But, despite the occasional battle with “This again?” we must come to terms with and embrace the fact that this is the way of all great and serious endeavors. Let’s look to other sports for illustration.

basket ball drills

If we were to step onto the court of any winning basketball team during practice, would we expect to see something unlike what we see in a basketball game itself, that is, athletes working on passing, shooting, rebounding, the full court press, et cetera?

In football practice from Pop Warner to the NFL you will see variations of the same drills and plays.

In tennis you will not see athletes forgoing tried and true serves in favor of developing jumping spinning back serves with a half-gainer twist.

In a good boxing gym you will see amateur and pro fighters alike working the bag with the exact same arsenal.

In good MMA gyms you will see good double leg takedowns and the same handful of go-to submissions being worked by rookies and pros alike.

In other words, if even those at the top of their games, those who play their given games for money are subjected to the exact same regimen as the beginner (with a difference in intensity, of course) than why would any of us not at that particular level expect to do something different to get to that same status?

There is a sometime tendency to see Drills as finite in that once a particular skill has been honed to an acceptable useful level we get to move on and leave it behind as we play with the next toy.

Pacquiao Training

Nothing could be further from the truth. Manny Pacquiao still hones and drills the exact same jab that any 1st day boxing rookie must work on.

Demian Maia still throws hooks in and uses the same rear-naked choke that any strip mall aspiring blue belt understands.

You can go on and on with examples of tactics and techniques that you are introduced to in your first year of training being much of the basis of what you will see emerge victorious in rings and octagons the world round.

We must not approach drilling as a soon to be reached destination with some threshold arrived at where we get to stop. Drilling must be a continuous process as we will never quite know what individual repetition or single drill session will be the one that does the job to make that tool what it is.

Here’s a passage from Ralph Waldo Emerson on the subject of drilling:

“At West Point, Col. Buford, the chief engineer, pounded with a hammer on the trunnions of a cannon, until he broke them off. He fired a piece of ordnance some hundred times in swift succession, until it burst. Now which stroke broke the trunnion? Every stroke. Which blast burst the piece? Every blast.”

Emerson and Colonel Buford’s lesson still holds, we never have any way of knowing which day of drilling our jab, our double leg, or our double-wristlock will be the day that puts it over the edge, the day that makes it move from the commonplace to the extraordinary.

But while we may not know the single instance that does the job, we do know that every instance contributes to the one (if such a one even exists). And with this wisdom in mind we should follow in the steps of Henry VIII, Emerson, Colonel Buford, Manny Pacquiao, and every other top athlete who does what rookies do, but they do it better because they never stopped working on what works and pursued something else. They just kept drilling and drilling and drilling.
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23 thoughts on “Great Is Drill by Mark Hatmaker”

  1. Drilling is not just strength and agility you need tactics in todays world. Speed, stamina, and strength alone won’t win. To paraphase Sun Tzu.

  2. I looked up Henry VIII’s quote, and he actually said: “Diligence passe sense”. It was a French proverb, and he wanted everybody to be diligent in their preparation against an invasion. My understanding is that Drilling as such arrived when pikes and muskets rendered armoured knights obsolete. Before that, European battles resembled Japanese battles, with individual warriors walking around in their armour waving two-handed swords, and using the occasional Judo throw. See Talhoffer’s Fechtbuch of 1467. Afterwards they discovered pikes and muskets were more effective if they fought in a Phalanx like the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Hence the need for Drilling, to practice keeping in formation. Having said that, there’s more to working a Heavy Bag than I used to think.

  3. So drill is really about making the school of hard knocks more painful for your opponet than it is for you.

  4. As an ex Airborne Ranger (82nd) I know what it means to DRILL, DRILL, DRILL. My friend Richard Marchenko (I’m sure you know the name) once told me that drilling builds speed, hand eye coordination and that your muscles will automatically pop into place. In other words when you raise your weapon you won’t have to look down the site to hit what you’re aiming for. Your weapon becomes an extension of your body. I find this to be true.
    When I visit the firing range I take several weapons and 75 rounds for each one I take and by the time I leave they are all spent. I then spend the next two to three days reloading the shells. The same goes for bugging out. Twice a month my family will have a bugout drill. They never know when it’s going to take place. I will text them one word and they know that they have a certain time limit to be at the location we have chosen, fully prepared with their bugout bags, and once a month we hike to our hidden lair 30 miles away through some rough terrain. We have hidden supply caches along the way should we need them.

  5. Never stop drilling the basics. It’s the foundation for every other block in the building in whatever you are attempting to build.
    As a police sergeant working many years on the streets of a metro sized city there are an endless and ever-changing array of skills needed to keep up with the bad guys ever-changing skills, especially when it comes down to you vs them and who gets to go home that day.
    Bags of tricks are good to have but nothing will keep you alive like an understanding and mastery of the basics. Stay safe.

  6. I live in bronx ny.usally young thugs when its 2-or more and if im alone they usaully attack me because im alone and alone.your couses have helped me to get out of this jam fast.makes me sad all of my attackers are between 13-25.and for some reason black americans dame these school systems turning them into soldeirs of theire ideaolgy .

  7. This is a really good mindset to have. When I wrestled we would all drill the same stuff, the seniors and the freshman. We would all hit the same double legs single legs and ankle picks every day for the same amount of time. Drilling is the only thing that can take you to the next level in anything and the levels never stop. Thanks for the insight. Keep up the great work.

  8. Been active in MMA since 2003, but also use Akito on a regular basis mixed together they are a dangerous and deadly combination. But very interesting read. I taught US Army combatives for 9 years and used it in cobat in Iraq during hand to hand situations. They was quiet effective and wont change the way I defend myself.

  9. To paraphrase Bruce Lee, “I do not fear the person who learns ten thousand kicks … I fear the person who has practiced one technique ten thousand times.” Repetition allows us to memorize techniques in our body so that we can execute them quickly and correctly if the need arises.

  10. Developing muscle memory, the basis of drilling, gets you to a point where the reaction is faster, the nerves have a quicker, more sure path to perform an action. Making a certain action, in proper form, a habit leaves the brain more available and ready to make subtle adjustments to better conform to differing situations.

  11. Have you ever heard of the Berserk Technique? Is is an ancient battle technique, was in use before The Vikings,the Huns, the Turks,the Romans or any other Warrior’s.The United State’s Military use some of these techniques, when in training and you are attacking your enemy,you make the most blood curdling noise you can make.Example Basic Training or Boot Camp,it is the simple phrase as loud as you can yell—–kill,kill,kill and you tear into your enemy with all the ferocity you got and then some ! Reason being if you can startle your enemy for a split second can give you the advantage of killing or being killed.You have to appear to your enemy and convince him that you are much superior to him and then be willing to over whelm him with everything you’ve got! Been there did it and I am still alive,my enemy is not !

  12. Great things to use as I continue to learn how to defend myself. To go from a meek kind hearted man having fun with some friends to having to defend oneself in a dangerous situation in minutes has to have something to do with the mind. There is a switch that must be turned on to get through that scenario. Thanks for getting me to a point where I was able to think about that. It gives me more confidence.

  13. Very good article. I’m reminded how, when I was a kid, there was the Marvel Comic (Marvel was new and revolutionary — in the good sense, then; DC was so stale, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen had their own series!) about “Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, recounting the (fictional) exploits of a mostly American squad of elite soldiers, mostly in occupied Europe, in WW II. One thing I remember vividly, over the decades now, was this brief scene of the squad, back at camp in Britain, incessantly going through the drills, and the caption said, “–What do they do when they’re not on a mission? Train, Train, and train some more!-”

    Ah, memories of departed youth.

    (Incidentally, that sergeant is the same Nick Fury who is featured in the S.H.I.E.L.D movies and TV programs. I hope I’m not telling you what you already know; I’m guessing that you’re young enough that this stuff is before your time.)

    Gary c Tesser

  14. First of all I I would like to say that I enjoy the weapons to knowledge everything that comes with what each and every one of y’all do I recently broke my neck I have 6 titanium screws in my neck not making much money but I don’t sleep well if I don’t find knowledge or learn something new I would love to get everything that y’all sent me is just not possible right now but I’m still not laying down thanks again for the knowledge that you pass on to each and everyone of us and the tools the weapons all the year outstanding I would love to be able to support you all more thanks again for all that you do I’ve purchased a few things from y’all have enjoyed each and every one of them I’d love to have a lot more I just not possible as of right now but thanks again for the knowledge and everything that you do for each and everyone of us

  15. Bob I am a Vietnam Vet . 1st Tour with 4. RAR. 68/69 . All of your info is top reading . So please keep them coming . Thank You .

  16. It was Suzuki that said one should always be a beginner, to be open to all possibilities. The worst thing we could do is feel confident that we have the required skills necessary in our accumulated bag of tricks.
    One should always be a beginner, open to the possibilities of the universe.

  17. The best advise given. It is important toimprove on even your best move and defensive moves.It should never be a dull work out but a serious intention of honing all you abilitys to the most perfect finesh, when you thik you have perfected your moves go back with increased renewal to attan even a better perfect in what you do. Your nmind and heart must always be in snyc with your total apprecation of always bettering your self. Thanks for giving this informational advice to all that will understand and accept the validity of this wisdom.