Friday, March 3, 2017

Practice makes perfect or perfect practice makes perfect?

There's a hint of spring in the air. Just last week it was bitter cold for several days to the extent that I had to put makeshift inserts in my sneakers to protect my feet from feeling like they were frozen. This was particularly true during our 7:00am and 9:00-11:00am training periods.

Coupled with the insistent rain, it could feel pretty miserable more often than not even if I were moving about training. We either train outdoors or in the garage. Rarely are we indoors and even when we're in the gym, it isn't heated. If it's raining too much, we'll be in the dining area on the wood floors either barefoot or in socks. Either way, the traction is different than being outdoors in sneakers.

Though challenging, the experience is not a hardship compared to traditional, non-modern martial arts training environments. It does, however, help me truly appreciate a cloudless sky from where the sun shines brightly. A day like this afternoon when my hands and face got tanned in just an hour! Spring is in the air...

We've finished all three chapters of the Yang Family Style Taijiquan form as taught by Dr. Yang. By no means does this mean we've mastered it. Dr. Yang will personally review our progress tomorrow morning at 9:30. His corrections and insights during this review are priceless gems that help clarify our efforts and refocus our practice.

Speaking of practice, I heard many years ago the phrase, "Practice makes perfect." Through my own experiences in a variety of training efforts (basketball, long distance running, Qigong and Tai Chi), I learned what seems to be a more appropriate phrase, "Perfect practice makes perfect." In fact, I don't ascribe to the notion of perfection at all. I believe it's a false aspiration that leads to eventual disillusion. I believe in continual refinement and correction toward a stated goal where the practice itself is the source of true satisfaction.

This is not to say that there is no value in practicing. Quite the contrary. The masters I've admired the most have been those who immersed themselves in the kind of devotional practice and refinement of their craft over time that eventually led them to a pinnacle of achievement--John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Malcolm X, Oscar Robertson, Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter, Moses Powell...After years of practice, they present their craft effortlessly and with grace.

One of my classmates, Javi, shared a TED Talk with us during dinner this evening that I'm confident you'll appreciate. It's on the subject of effective practice.

I hope you find it helpful in your own endeavors.


P.S. Thank you to all those who continue to support my being here 'on the mountain' financially and morally. I appreciate you all!

Executing "Single Whip"
Photo credit: Michelle Lin

Preparing to execute "Press"
Photo credit: Michelle Lin

Preparing to execute "Snake Creeps Down"
Photo credit: Michelle Lin

What would you do if you knew you would not fail?

1 comment:

  1. In your "Qi Portals" intro, did you perhaps mean "intersections between the material and ETHEREAL" vs "ephemeral" ?