Japan has won three of the last five Little League World Series.
What’s the secret of their success?
The team practices eight to 10 hours every Saturday and Sunday. Each morning is devoted just to fielding practice. The kids field endless bunts, and turn one double play after another.
Ten hours a day!
“This is the Japanese way of doing sports, the same in karate as in baseball,” he told me. “It emphasizes what we call konjo, or grit and tenacity. Repetition is important. You’ve got to repeat movements until you master them.”
He calls this yakyudo, the “way of baseball,” just as kendo is the “way of the sword,” or bushido, is the “way of the warrior.”
They all focus on honing technique until it is flawless and instinctive. It’s this way that Omae believes led to the team’s victory two years ago.
“We had no star players,” he says, “but our discipline and repetition of basic plays made our defense strong and helped us to finally win.”
Longtime readers of this blog will find these sentiments very familiar. It’s at the heart of what Josh Waitzkin has to say in his book The Art of Learning, which I ask everyone who takes my class to read. Also Guitar Zero. And Malcolm Gladwell. Betty Davis says you have to love the sweat more than the lights.
But as many times as I have remarked upon these things, they bear repeating. A prominent Hollywood acting teacher with a platform on a major industry website tells students NOT to rehearse, and says their scene partners would rather be at the beach anyway. This is a remarkable double-whammy: a teacher telling students not to rehearse, and then scaring them with the prospect of social rejection at the hands of their partners.
Actors are already up against it because the acting they consume lets them see the lights but not the sweat. The work is cast, costumed, coiffed, lit and edited for consumption for an entertainment-starved public. Aspiring actors don’t see the sacrifice that was required, the sweat that Bette Davis mentions, behind those lights.
So telling actors not to bother with rehearsing and to worry about whether or not their partners would rather be at the beach is, as I have written previously, nothing short of criminal.
There was a reason Uta Hagen her book Respect for Acting. Telling people not to rehearse is an act of gross disrespect for the craft. Taking class, working on scenes, bringing obsessiveness, grit and tenacity to the class work, embracing the breadth of challenges that acting involves, and the difficulty of those challenges, is what respect looks like.
Take it from the Japanese little leaguers.