Instant gratification and fast results seem to be the order of the day in our connected world. In keeping with the spirit of the times I offer my personal and idiosyncratic list of 9 shortcuts to great skill in martial arts. Good luck!
1. Stay healthy. You know, diet, sleep, exercise, alcohol/other drug use and that kind of stuff. It’s important.
2. Wake up! Pay attention and train mindfully. Don’t simply drill like a robot.
3. Practice what your teacher tells you, not what you think you should practice. If you think you know better than your teacher why are you paying this person for lessons? So just focus on the lessons and get over yourself.
4. “If you practice slowly, you will learn quickly” (Shifu Robert Castaldo, Jiulong Baguazhang). When learning something new, take your time to really understand what it is you are learning, how it works and how to train it.
5. Speed up slowly. As you increase speed with a new movement or technique make sure each part of it (e.g. posture and coordination) is in place and make sure it remains effective. Speed can cover a multitude of sins.
6. There is no substitution for repetition. Training means doing the same things over and over and over, under ever changing conditions. You should be able to use your technique in different terrains against different opponents using different techniques of their own.
7. Did I mention repetition? And the importance of changing conditions?
8. Train every day. Better yet, train all the time by always being mindful of your physical/ social/psychological environment and how you are moving, interacting and reacting (see the suggestion to wake up, above).
9. Always seek improvement. You can always get better. Once you think you are at the top, there’s nowhere to go but down.
Some might complain that these aren’t shortcuts at all and I concede that following my list may be time consuming. BUT – don’t you think an unhealthy, unfit person who doesn’t listen to the teacher or train diligently is going to take a lot longer to attain great skill?
Please feel free to add to the list if you’ve found shortcuts that work for you.