Sharpening your skills is a little like sharpening a knife: When a good blade smith has to sharpen a dull knife he takes it through stages. The first stage involves removing steel from the edge to restore the original geometry. He will use a rough stone that removes a considerable amount of steel. This is the roughest part of the process and the one where lack of expertise can immediately create detrimental results. The toughness of the first stone makes it ideal for removing large amounts of steel but comes at the price of of a jagged, toothy edge that does not cut smoothly. This necessitates the second step, where a smoother stone is used. It won’t have such a dramatic effect on the edge geometry since it removes far less steel, but it smoothes out the roughness of the first stone’s work. This process can be repeated several times using progressively smoother stones. Finally the last step is to gently polish the edge with a leather strop. This does not remove any steel and does not make the edge any sharper, just smoother for perfect cutting. Your training cycles should follow a similar pattern. When you begin a training cycle you want to change your game, just as the blade smith wants to change the geometry of a very dull knife. You will have to add new skills, new tactics. This is a rough time, as the new skills will look clumsy initially. Some will prove workable, others will have to be abandoned. Once you’ve decided which new elements you want to keep and you have a basic working knowledge of the moves, you go to the next stage where you have to refine those new moves and smooth them out and make them more efficient. This is done in stages. Working first against easier opponents and building up to more difficult ones. Finally when the moves are at a satisfactory level, you enter the stropping stage, where periodically you practice the moves, not so much to add anything to them, but just to keep them sharp and smooth for future use – particularly when competitions are approaching. Working in cycles like this will keep your game developing and progressing over the years and give you a lifetime of growth in the sport