Deliberate Practice At The Mill: The Value Of Intent

Ray Goodwin in canoe on a river in Wales
Deliberate practice in canoe at Mile End Mill.

It’s not about the hours you put in but what you put into the hours.

Despite the “10,000 Hour Rule” becoming almost a commonly held belief in recent years, even a layperson has to admit that 10,000 hours of crappy practice is not going to make you a world beater.

Indeed, it isn’t just practice that makes perfect. I’ve heard some people say “perfect practice makes perfect”. Perfect practice is hard to define, particularly before you know the result. But deliberate practice is easier to get your arms (and brain around). And in certain fields, deliberate practice is important (although maybe not as important as Malcolm Gladwell would have you believe.)

Deliberate practice appears to make a difference to skill levels in canoe. And you don’t have to be plying new waters to get the most out of yourself, your paddle or craft. Yes, there is an important place for varied practice too. But repetition and thoughtful variation will pay dividends.

Watch the following videos, all filmed by Ray Goodwin at one of his regular stamping grounds, Mile End Mill, on the river Dee, upstream of Llangollen. I’ve paddled there with Ray many times and there is always some value to be had, whatever the water level. The bottom rapid is a favourite of Ray’s as you’ll see from the following clips. You might even be able to spot me in the background of one of them…





Deliberate Practice And Bushcraft

I also believe that deliberate practice makes a positive difference to your bushcraft skills. If you approach your skills in a deliberate and structured way, exploring variations and aiming high, then, over time, you will be much more capable than the person randomly doing stuff every time they head out “to do some bushcrafting”.

Reverse engineer what you want to be able to do, what capabilities you want to have and work back from there, putting into place deliberate practice sessions to take you step by step towards your goal.

And, like Ray, squeezing everything he can from a regular training ground, close to town, you don’t have to be out in the wilds to train your wilderness skills. The moves, body balance and paddle strokes honed near home will pay dividends on the next Missinaibi or Bloodvein trip.

It’s all about intent…

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Paul Kirtley is Founder and Chief Instructor of Frontier Bushcraft. He has had a lifelong passion for the great outdoors and gains great satisfaction from helping others enjoy it too. Paul writes the UK's leading bushcraft blog. He is the author of Wilderness Axe Skills and Campcraft, as well as having contributed to several other books. Paul has been involved in teaching bushcraft since 2003. He is also a Canoe Leader, British Canoeing Level 3 Canoe Coach and UK Summer Mountain Leader.

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2 Responses

  1. Iain MacDougall
    | Reply

    Hi Paul,

    Probably about early spring this year i stumbled across your blog and since then have found it so insightful and useful.

    Anyway, the points you raise above are so true and for anyone developing their skills or training for a trip this is sound advice. I’m planning to kayaking around Scotland in the summer and as part of my prep i’m doing a lot of white water paddling, including kayak surfing, as oppose to big miles. This is within the context of quality training rather than quantity and getting the most out of the training time i have. That said, as we move into late winter/ early spring i’ll have to do some multi day trips and also focus on my camp discipline.

    Kind regards


    Ps; your contributions to bushcraft and all things associated is truly excellent.

    • Paul Kirtley
      | Reply

      Hi Iain,

      Thanks for your original comment, which I apologise for not replying to at the time. I use to struggle to keep up with comments on multiple online properties in between all the courses and trips we were running back then.

      I was wondering how your kayaking trip around Scotland went?

      Warm regards,


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