Learn to Learn
By Derek Cheng
Have you ever felt discouraged about your training? The feeling of stagnation, the feeling that you are not progressing fast enough? The feeling that you are just not getting it, even though you have tried so hard, and even though the guy beside you, who just started last month, is already better than you are? Maybe wushu isn't really for you? You are too old and too out of shape, and are even considering quitting?
If you know what I am talking about, then don't be discouraged anymore. You are definitely not alone.
A major part about practicing wushu, is to learn how to learn. This is different from the learning we did inschool. When we were in school, we are used to learning in terms of giving the correct answer. There is only one correct answer to each problem and we are taught to find that answer in the shortest time with the least amount of effort. Progress is characterized by the number of correct answers that we can provide.
However, when we are learning wushu, or any other form of art, this model doesn't apply anymore. Thisis because there is no definite answer. The progress and satisfaction does not come from simply knowing the "answer," let it be a move, or form, or an application technique, but rather, progress comes from the time and effort in going through the repetitions, practice, and training, in order to arrive where we are today.
When you first begin wushu, you often start with the basics: how to hold the proper stances, how to throwa properpunch and a proper kick. Once you have learned the basics, then you learn how to put the basics together into a form. And once you have learned one form and have practice enough to really remember it, you then move on to learning the next form, and then the next form. One day you decide to review and do the first form again and suddenly, you feel something different. Your movements feel smoother. You have gained a new perspective. You don't feel like you are doing one basic movement after another anymore, but instead you are doing the form as a whole. It makes more sense to you now. You have made a break through and you feel good about it. This, if you are still unaware, is real progress.
As you advance in your training, learning and practicing has become a part of you. You also expect acertain rateof progress from yourself since you always go to class and practiced diligently. However, those leaps and break through are harder and harder to come by now. So you start wondering, why am I so dumb? What am I doing wrong? Am I not practicing enough? You feel frustrated because you realize you have reached a plateau in your progress...
Sounds familiar? We have all been there before.
So what can you do?
Quite often, it is no one else except your own mind that is giving you the pressure and criticism. Therefore, the first thing to do would be to stop thinking about it and stop listening to yourself. Talk to your coaches or instructors and ask them for their feedback. You should have faith that your instructors know about your progress better than you do, and that they have the ability to guide you along with your training.
Looking again at the way you practice may also be helpful. Practice does not necessarily lead toperfection; practice only leads to familiarity. If you practice the wrong way or the wrong thing, then doesn't matter how hard you practice you are still not going to get it. Only quality practice will lead to perfection.
And don't ever think about quitting, if this is really what you like to do. If you quit something because you are not progressing, how will you ever improve now? It's a good idea to take a little break from time to time, to let the body and mind rest and let the desire build up again, however, it's never a good idea to stay out of practice for too long. Again, you may think that you are working hard and you deserve a three week break. Remember, your thought doesn't count. Ask your instructor.
Learning is a continuous process and it requires repetition and patience. And yet, many people wouldrather quit than keep on practicing to improve, simply because they just don't have the patience and will. It's a silly thought, I know, but you have to admit, it did come across your mind once.