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If you are anything like me, you probably suffer from at least an occasional case of CRS; “Can’t Remember S – – t.” And, often as not, when you realize you don’t remember something, you either get help remembering or move on to other things. Take movie actors for example. My wife and I will start trying to remember an actor’s name and, the next thing you know, we are on the internet, looking it up. But, sometimes I make the effort to remember by going through the alphabet, looking for a letter or phonetic sound that triggers my memory. Nine times out of ten this works but it takes patience and time. Can you see where I am going with this?

(This is an updated post, with revisions
and new ideas, originally posted in 2012)

Training alone forces you to remember things for yourself. There is no sensei standing by to remind you of a move here, or an idea there. And, let’s face it, sometimes we have a hard time remembering things, especially if we have not practiced in a while, or focussed on some things to the exclusion of others. But, rather than getting frustrated, realize that, whether you remember a move or not, there are real training benefits to trying.

As an example, on a recent workout, I picked up a weapon and started in on a kata that I had not spent time on in a few, let’s just call it, “weeks.” And, to my horror, I couldn’t remember the end. Try as I might, I kept getting stuck. This is not a first for me. I have been the recipient of a lot of very generous teaching by numerous individuals. Sometimes I just have not put in the time, afterwards, to commit the ideas to memory. And, you have to commit things to memory first, before you can really start to work on them properly. (see Beyond Memorization).

So, instead of giving up and waiting until my next visit to my teacher, I decided to continue working on what I knew, over and over again. Each time I would run into the trouble spot, I would explore something different that might be right. Eventually, I found the missing movement, buried deep in my cerebral cortex. Finally, although it was shaky, the lost moves were reasonably right. But the moves “up to” that point had gotten a lot stronger from the consistent and focused practice. In fact, it is easy to see how they might not have improved nearly as much if I wasn’t struggling to remember the rest of the sequence. And, as an added  benefit, all the practice got me fired up to continue working on that kata in its entirety. So, in the end, this memory exercise helped me to both improve my technique and motivate me for future training.

So, the challenge today is to pick a kata or drill that you have been shown but can’t quite remember and work on it until you do. The information is up there in your head. It may already even be a part of your physical memory. And don’t worry about making mistakes. The process of trying to remember is as valuable as anything you do. If your sensei corrects you down the road, your dedicated attempts to remember now will make it much easier to adopt the suggested changes later.