Turning Action Capacity to Skill

Everyone wants to be skillful and get good at the right things. However, it seems that usually when our intention might be acquiring skill, we are training action capacity. There is a huge difference though!

First, let’s determine what is action capacity and what is skill.
Action capacity is something that you can do, and skill is putting that action capacity to use in a specific situation.
Skill means coupling perception and action together. So, you can change the direction of a kick or punch, you can alter the direction of your bodyweight according to the attack or you can change from, e.g., a front-kick to a side kick or from a kick to a punch fluently.

Skill Acquisition Fast Track

In my book, "May the skill be with you - how to accelerate Skill Learning in Self-Defense", I laid out the fast -track methods in skill acquisition by using the ecological dynamics and the constraints led-approach (CLA) as the backbone of the training curriculum.

I use the CLA and differential learning in every exercise to speed up the process and I can tell you, it just works!
If the constraints change, it is skill to be able to deliver the task.


Let’s say that you have ability to kick, punch, do a release from a hold or so. You know how to do it to a pad or a bag or a target standing still. To turn it to skill means that you can deliver that action capacity to a target in a changing environment, against a moving target, in different balance and so.


The first step is to learn the gross-motor movement and then start using it to complete the task.

Let’s say that we start from learning attacking skills, kicking, and punching. We start with pad work and once the punches and kicks start landing strong, we’ll start turning it to skill with perception-action coupling. This means “the eye-hand coordination” drills.


Next step is to train the action capacity from a different position and balance and turning principles of self-defense to action




Once we have trained the eye and hand coordination it’s time to move on to using that in different situations. So, let’s go back to training scene. Now we will try to hit the performer first and make them slip. Then we will integrate the punching movement to that slip. If the punching is not possible, another task is to use a kick. Now the perception-action coupling is fully applied.

Adding +1 movement principle

We have now completed the first phase of turning action capacity to skill. Next move is to add more skill to the combination. So, now the task is to strike with punches or kicks after the initial slip and punch/kick. This task forces us to keep on moving with the attacks. We might be in various body positions after the initial slip and attack and that means that our +1 movement may be a kick or punch depending on that.


Every time we have opportunity to train with a partner or a group, another human being, let’s not waste it to do only action capacity training.

Let’s move, make ourselves react to attacking movements and couple our reactions to the perceptions.

Let’s challenge ourselves to fail in, say 20-30% of, our attempts to make defenses (safely though!). Training the perception action coupling and pushing the limits constantly.

Using the active attacker methodology to help us understand the whole problem, not just the first appearance of it like a jab or cross or kick.

I explain this in more detail in the Skill Accelerator Podcast Episode #6

 We have a lot of these examples in our YouTube Channel, with latest one being how we turn action capacity to skill in utilizing the startle flinch -response. Check it out here and subscribe to the channel! 


If you want to learn even more, check out May the Skill Be with You book and the online course.

Train Smart and stay safe!


Coach Tommi Nystrom

5. Dan, Krav Maga

Head Coach, Krav Maga Finland