My mountain bike skills are only average although my enthusiasm is exceptional! In accepting that reality I know that if I want to clear tough techy sections I need to keep what little skills I have sharp.
Unless you have a dirt trail near your doorstep it’s not that easy to practice mountain biking often enough to really help. Most people can only hit the dirt once a week for a big ride and since that’s “game day”…you need to keep up with your buddies not stop at each techy section to ride it again and again.
So what I do is head to the park or downtown to the urban jungle to work on getting up and over obstacles – then down the other side. It’s not the same as riding the dirt, but it sure helps and you can head out for a 1hr session and get in 45mins of practice rather than spending a lot of time riding/driving to some real trails.
Perfect for days when you only have a little time after work or before the spouse/kids need your attention.
I should also note that this isn’t just a mountain bike thing….roadies, bike tourists and commuters can also practice relevant skills close to home like emergency braking, different touring bike loading strategies, how to lock your bike the most effective way, etc…
I will note that although I am not a 100% of the time bike helmet wearer I do recommend that any time you are riding or practicing techy moves you should wear a helmet as well as elbow/knee pads. Not only are they useful when you fall, but the security/confidence they provide will let you work on your skills with less anxiety and therefore more success.
Finally practice should be fun. Work on things in a progressive way. Start small and build slowly each session. Quit when you are tired – that’s when you’ll get hurt. Feel free to reward yourself on the way home with a nice coffee, beer or whatever you enjoy.