A repetition is easy - it is doing the technique against less than full resistance. As Andy Lee so eloquently put it on twitter, "repetition is about muscle memory". I am a very, very big proponent of repetitions, doing the technique over thousands of times.
When you are first learning a technique, do repetitions with no resistance. For example, in the photo below, Jerry is allowing his partner to reach under his arm, reach behind his neck and apply a choke.
Take a close look a the position above. What she should be doing at this point is rolling to her RIGHT and getting on TOP of Jerry. When she does that, she'll drop her right elbow and have a cross choke. More importantly, she'll be in a pin while she's choking him. Also importantly, she'll be in a great position to do other techniques as a combination off of that pin/choke.
The instructor's role in repetitions when a technique is NEW
You do a lot of repetitions, slowly, with no resistance, when you are first learning a technique. As an instructor, this is the time when you are correcting players, telling them to move their hips further to the right, adjust their grip, drop the elbow lower. You, too, are doing a lot of repetition, reminding the student of each part of the technique that makes the whole thing work.
As you become more experienced with a technique, you gradually do your repetitions against more and more resistance. This builds up your strength and it is more realistic in training for a tournament situation.
Musicians do scales, basketball players practice free throws, martial artists do repetitions
There is no point at which you have become so awesomely great at a technique that you don't do repetitions. Here I am doing a matwork repetition for a rolling choke. I've probably done this move for 40 years now and I still practice it. Tina resists about 50% ....
As a more experienced player, you should do your repetitions faster and faster. Try to be done before anyone else in the room, and still do the technique correctly. As I tell players all of the time, there is no point in being able to do a technique badly faster than anyone else.
Notice, Tina is trapped. I have my leg keeping her from escaping, my left hand is sunk deep on her lapel and my right arm is shoved through under her armpit and far past her neck. That completes one repetition.
Another term for repetitions is newaza uchikomi. However, I switched to using the term repetitions because over the last few years we've had more people from outside of judo coming to practice. People in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, grappling or mixed martial arts seldom know any Japanese terms, and neither do many of the younger judo players.
Speed drills aren't really drills. Those are just fast repetitions.
What are drills, then?
Drills are training for a specific situation.
Here are four examples of drills. Why four? Why not? In all of these drills, both players are going 90%. (I say 90% because it's not a tournament, you want to look out for your teammate a little. If you go 100% in practice what do you do in a tournament?)
- One player has just been knocked to one knee. The other is still standing with a grip. Start matwork from there. They have ten seconds before the referee calls "break". At the end of ten seconds, the two players switch positions.
- One player is in the guard. The other player is between the legs. This is a disadvantage for the person on top so he/she has 30 seconds to get out of there.
- One player is on elbows and knees in the "turtle" position. The other player is in front. They have 30 seconds for someone to score.
- One player is on elbows and knees. The other player is on the side. They have 30 seconds left in the match and the player on the bottom is behind by a score.
Do they all occur in a match? Yes.
Ever notice how some people just know what to do when they hit the mat? It's because they practiced for that exact same situation before.
P.S. Thanks millions to Jerry Hays, USJF Archivist for all of the way cool photos.