Form to Leave Form

Drill techniques until they move from your conscious mind to your muscle memory.

Form to Leave Form is a concept from Josh Waitzkin’s excellent book, The Art of Learning. Josh also refers to this concept as Numbers to Leave Numbers, but that label is more applicable in Josh’s original area of expertise: chess.

The general principle behind Form to Leave Form is:

  1. Drill complex techniques until they become ingrained in your muscle memory. These drills are the “forms” you are practicing in “Form to Leave Form.” Josh means “form” in the traditional martial arts sense of practicing forms.
  2. Once a technique is in your muscle memory, you can use it quickly and fluidly because you don’t need to think. You no longer need to recall each step and detail.
  3. You can now think of the technique as a single concept rather than an overwhelming series of steps and details. In other words, you have “left form” because you don’t need all that information anymore.
  4. This single concept now becomes a building block for future learning. You can use it as a foundation for more advanced and complicated concepts.

As an example, think of an armbar. Recall how overwhelming and complicated it seemed the first time you practiced it. If you’ve been training for a while, you’ve probably drilled armbars hundreds of times and no longer need to consciously think about every step when executing one. Now imagine how difficult it would be to apply an armbar, or learn new variants of the armbar, if you had to consciously think about those steps every time. That’s why Form to Leave Form is so important.

Further Study: