One of my teachers (Ming Liu) shared a quote the other day:
"When you run after your thoughts you are like a dog chasing a stick.
Every time a stick is thrown, you run after it.
Instead be like a lion who, rather than chasing after the stick, turns to face the thrower.
One only throws a stick at a lion once."
The quote relates to meditation practice, but struck me as a useful model in other arenas also.
If there is something you need to work on, something that needs troubleshooting or fixing ... say repetitive tendencies, freezing points, giving away targets, lack of escape routes from tight angles etc ... anything that occurs as a pattern. Then best to look at the problem area head on rather than try to make it go away by doing what you've always done ..... but faster .... or harder.
This tendency to try to fix things by either adding more power or more speed to exactly the same reaction, is very very common ... as is the tendency to deny that the problem even exists in the first place, or refuse to see it at all.
I guess it's linked to a switch from the 'human brain' into the monkey or lizard, to use the 'triune brain' model, and is pretty universal as some level of frustration overcomes the conscious mind.
The old standard of hitting the TV to make it work, throwing an offending object or pushing a button over and over again to try to achieve the desired effect faster, seem common enough experiences to us all (OK, maybe not the TV one for those who have only known flat screens ...) but, back to martial arts ....
Sonny was a big fan of understanding a problem by observing it in ACUALITY, and solving it through the experience of making the mistake, becoming conscious of it, and trying to work out how to fix it - sounds obvious, right? But hard to do in practice. A coach can help here of course, as sometimes the solution is invisible to the participant, and often it takes time, and patient training partners, too.
The 2 key elements are -
1) EXPERIENCE the problem
For instance, if you keep getting your hands tagged in dueling .... put your hands in different places and WATCH where they get tagged, WHEN they get tagged, HOW? WHY? If you keep getting stuck in the same corner with no escape, watch what happens before you end up there. How? Why?
Understand the parameters, then you can start to fix the problem.
Keep running away from the problem without understanding it first, and basically you are trusting to luck.
Recognize it, face it, feel it. THEN fix it.
2) GO SLOWLY ENOUGH SO YOU CAN DO THIS.
Some might disagree with this, as certain situations and motions only happen in real time, and are hard to recreate slowly ... but you have to have some way of exploring the moment. With a good teacher you can go faster and can work on real time solutions, especially if the teacher can point out when something is ABOUT to happen so the student can readjust ... and the student is capable of keeping their mental and emotional focus, and ability to change their movement, at speed. But it also works well to concentrate on just one aspect of the game, and work at a pace where the problem becomes manageable with any training partner.
Our nervous systems seem to possess a mechanism that wigs out, and ceases to process rationally when it reaches a certain level of panic or emotional frustration.
You can't fix things here, as this is the place of preexisting patterns, and if your preexisting patterns do not work consistently, then you have to change them ... and this has to occur in a stimulus/reaction scenario in the CONSCIOUS part of the brain.
Trick is to notice when the switch has flipped ... because it sure feels like you are completely compos mentis even when you are not ....
Quick way to check - Decide to go half speed and touch lightly. Possible? Or not?
Ask your training partner.