Posts Tagged George Leonard

You Need Constant Practice To Improve Sports And Stage Performance, Leadership Skills And Living Your Life, Says Aikido Master Richard Strozzi-Heckler

These excerpts (mostly about sports) are from a longer, broader article by Richard Strozzi-Heckler, author of seven books, master of aikido, and founder of Strozzi Institute for embodied leadership training, which incorporates physical methods as well as cognitive approaches. The complete article can be found at

You Are What You Practice

“We are what we repeatedly do.”

By Richard Strozzi-Heckler, Ph.D.

…To get good at something it’s necessary to practice…Researchers say 300 repetitions produce body memory, which is the ability to enact the correct movement, technique, or conversation by memory. It’s also been pointed out that 3000 repetitions creates embodiment, which is not having to think about doing the activity, as it is simply part of who we are….

Compare this with a recent ad on television that promotes weight loss with the promise that, “You don’t have to change your life, you only have to take a pill.” We live in a culture that sells the quick fix, instant gratification, and get it all right now, on a daily basis. While we may understand, at least intellectually, the importance of practice when we casually comment to our children that it’s necessary to practice when learning to play the piano, type, write in cursive, or drive a car, it’s largely an idea that’s unexamined.

The media and entertainment industry create the illusion that by simply stepping into the right car, dressing in the latest fashions, or dyeing our hair a certain color, our goals will be instantly attained. The idea of committing to a practice to achieve mastery or personal fulfillment is not a highly endorsed idea. When we’re constantly fed a diet of “Fast, temporary relief,” there is very little incentive to consider a practice as a way to positively take charge of our health, behaviors, relationships, attitude, or over-all success in life, to say nothing of developing leaders.

The notions we do have of practice are through the realm of sports or the performing arts, where perhaps we’ve had some experience, or at least enough familiarity (mostly as fans), to know that it’s a requirement for success.

Yes, we understand that athletes and performers practice, but what is invisible to us is how much they practice. They continue to practice during the entire season, during the off-season, and even while they’re in a championship series or in a heavily booked performance cycle.

In a recent interview with Ellen Degeneres, you could hear the audible gasp of the primarily adolescent female audience, as Britney Spears reported that it’s not uncommon for her to practice her singing and dance moves 12 hours a day; Read the rest of this entry »

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Advice from a Tennis Coach As To Why The Top Pro’s Are So Much Better Than The Rest

Learning from experts is helpful obviously, and Frank Adam’s 50 years of experience coaching and knowing or playing with many of the top tennis pro’s of his lifetime gives him a broad and wise perspective. We met yesterday, so that I could take some pictures for his manuscript and also some videos demonstrating his unique swings and moves. I will post some of the videos here later.

The philosophy Frank has discovered and describes calls upon us to just use natural, familiar motions that are second nature and incorporate them into our game. We don’t think about how to use a rake or a shovel, how to grip a hammer or sweep with a broom. Those movements are basic and simple. And that is how he teaches tennis for the past 20 years. His approach has definitely worked for me and improved my game.

shovel motion

shovel motion

rake motion

rake motion

racket motion the same

racket motion the same

He discussed this on the video snippets I shot and at lunch afterwards. A delight to hear about matches and specific points he remembers involving Federer and Nadal, McEnroe and Connors, but also old-timers like Don Budge, Rod Laver, Pancho Gonzalez, Ed Moylan, etc. And Frank recalls specific kinds of backhands or turnarounds in tight games. He has unending anecdotes. A real thrill.

Knowing mostly about the contemporary pro’s, I asked him what makes the top two in the world (Nadal and Federer) so superior to the rest of the top 10? I have been to matches and seen some of the top five play. I have also seen the huge distance in talent between players two to 10 and those who are in the 20 to 50 rankings. Same thing in squash—big difference between pro’s I have seen in the top 20 to 50 rankings and those in the 70 to 120 brackets. I hear that the very highest level squash players are also way more talented than those with just slightly lower rankings.

Frank thought that the very top guys use more instinct and intuition. They can sense better where the ball will come to them, kind of an ESP (extra sensory perception). I heard that same comment from the squash coaches and top players—you just learn to anticipate where to be. Of course the very top champions can not only guess or feel that better than their lower ranked opponents, but they are also incredibly skilled at running for the ball, placing their shots and having astonishing endurance. They must also have a superior mental game.

With a few years of practice, most of us can anticipate better where the ball is likely to be hit. There must be some kind of zone one can enter to play the game sort of mystically. I don’t want to sound too ethereal or (out of) spacey, but I know there is this other way of performing. Read the rest of this entry »

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