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  • Writer's pictureSpencer Bennington

The Journey of 10,000 Kicks

The Journey of 10,000 Kicks Begins with a Solid Fighting Stance…

Bruce Lee Statue in Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong

Bruce Lee once said “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” In other words, rather than become distracted by partially learning a huge collection of techniques, the dedicated martial artist must take the time to master each movement they perform, no matter how small, subtle, or simple.

Bruce Lee’s comment about 10,000 kicks possibly stems from the concept of expertise advanced by psychologist K Anders Ericsson and popularized by author Malcom Gladwell in Outliers. That is, to become an expert in any field, one must devote 10,000 hours of practice.

Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

But, according to more recent psychological studies of success, mastery, and expertise, simple repetition or hours logged isn’t necessarily enough to become a Bruce Lee-level grandmaster in your field. Instead, one must engage in 10,000 hours (give or take) of “deliberative practice.” This means that the practitioner must clear their mind, focus on the one skill or technique that they wish to perfect, and devote time specifically to the improvement of that skill.

This Rhetorical Roundhouse article series is dedicated to that kind of deliberative practice, the process of becoming a true martial artist. After 13 years in Tae Kwon Do, I’ve begun to comprehend what it means to move through the black belt ranks. It’s not enough to memorize poomse or perform advanced breaking techniques. Instead, I must humble myself and persevere, I must perfect the foundational techniques of my art before advancing toward the rank of master instructor. Put simply, I need to take the time to slow down and revisit some of the kicks I didn’t practice enough as a young color belt.

A young, Napolean-Dynamite-esque Spencer Todd Bennington earning his first belt

To do that, I’ll follow Bruce Lee’s advice and participate in the deliberative practice of 10,000 kicks. This series will document my progress through each kick and reflect on what it means to achieve mastery. As always, Rhetorical Roundhouse is dedicated to inviting the scholarly and martial arts community to participate in knowledge/content creation.

So, if this series inspires you to record your own journey of 10,000 kicks (or anything else!), I invite you to share it with us. In addition, as I discover new information, training regimens, or exercises to help develop the skills I’m working on, I’ll be sure to share those too. So, as I embark on my first 10,000 kicks journey, I welcome any advice, criticism, helpful hints, feedback, or useful resources.

With that said, the only thing left is to begin. Check back soon for the first article in the 10,000 Side Kick Series. Thanks for reading.


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