Very often martial artists or those engaged in athletic endeavors will reach a plateau or they may find that their rate of improvement dramatically slows down. The tough question to be faced is whether one is willing to put in the work necessary to achieve a 1% or 2% improvement in their performance ?
For some, it appears to be not worth the effort to see only incremental improvement in their overall performance. I think that it’s worth it for the reason that incremental improvement really adds up over time. Let’s say your performance improves (admittedly, when it comes to martial arts, this can be subjective) by 1% or 2% each year for the next 20 years. You are looking at a substantial improvement over a prolonged period of time. While this is easy to understand intellectually, it’s harder to put in the effort over a sustained period of time. But it can be done and it is noticeable. For example, if you look at videos of Professor Remy A. Presas in the 1970s and compare them to the videos he made in the late 1990s, one can see a very noticeable difference in his performance level. His movements became much more refined, subtle, and efficient compared to twenty five years earlier. His timing, rhythm, and body management underwent noticeable improvement.
The great thing about incremental improvement is that they are long lasting. It’s safe to assume that the incremental changes come as a result of hours of practice, aided both by instruction and self discovery and tend to be more ingrained. Naturally, this goes to the question of motivation and desire to practice when you know that improvement may be only incremental. But it’s worth the effort! As GSP points out, nobody becomes great overnight. Steady consistent practice is the key. Focus on the process, not the outcome.