Newsletter from Master Joe Schaefer

This is the latest newsletter from my teacher, Master Joe Schaefer of Austin, TX.  This weekend Master Joe is hosting a rare visit by one of the most senior teachers in our lineage, Elder Master Eric Smith.

Information & Registration for Elder Master Smith Seminar

If you are not interested in getting better at Kung Fu then this doesn’t apply.

Four examples to help shape our thinking

1.         There are many reports of cops surviving a shootout and then finding their empty shell casings in their pockets. In other words, they took the time, while being shot at, to pick up shell casings from the ground and put them into their pockets. This has great significance for our Kung Fu training. It turns out the cops did this because they were re-enacting their behaviors at the shooting range. So whatever they repeated on the shooting range they did unconsciously in the shootout.  Whatever they repeat a lot, becomes an unconscious skill.

2            Recently while reviewing short stick for black belts, I noticed that several of them pulled to cat stance when they turned after basic swings. Rather than being a product of being told it’s that way, they felt it was right to retreat to cat stance when turning to face a new direction. This was not a rule they memorized because that rule has NEVER been told to them. However, in the 3 birds and many other forms, this is precisely what happens when you turn to face a new direction. Pretty cool huh? They have internalized a core principle without being told it. Whatever they repeat a lot, becomes an unconscious skill.

3.            Anecdotally I can tell you that in the past several sparring sessions I have grabbed people by the head and repeatedly hit to the body while chasing them. Tonight at class I realized that it was the precise black tiger drill that we had been practicing at least 100 reps each and every Tuesday night. I further realized that whenever I did that move, I found myself performing it and then noticing it afterward; unconsciously. Whatever I repeated became an unconscious skill (and pretty quickly).

4          Final proof. Try any kata on the opposite side you’re accustomed to. You body cannot perform it with the same fluidity or thoughtlessness. If you can’t even do the movement well on the other side, it might be a clue that you haven’t internalized it yet. Repetition increases performance.

We could go into the whole cellular mechanisms of learning by repetition (NMDA receptors and the like), but take my word for it…repetition works. It may not be trendy or new, but it works every time and is the method the monks used to pass their knowledge across the centuries.

There is no mystery here. Piano players play piano to get better at playing piano. They play songs and scales and drills. Whatever they practice becomes second nature. If they really want to be good, they practice hours a day on the same songs. That is why they stand on a stage and we watch them play from the audience. They have paid the price for mastery.

Whatever we surround ourselves with is what we will become. Ignacy Jan Paderewski, the Polish virtuoso from the 1800’s, once said: “If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days, the audience notices it.”

I am sure that Ignacy got pretty tired of practicing the same songs and drills, but boredom is not the sign that you’ve reach the promise land. This is the difference between process and outcome goals. Outcome goals are “I want to master this martial art” That is pretty obscure and hard to measure, but you can say that if I practice this tiger form 25 times a day  I will certainly move more like a Tiger master, then that is a process goal and can be easily measured.

Maybe we get too easily bored and distracted to reach the high country of mastery. Which is why there are so few people on stage in the world and so many watching them. But I put this final thought to you all. When that pianist becomes the best in the world, after 20 years of practice, and they look in the mirror, they still have to say “what now?”

So in the long run, do what makes you happy, because no matter how awesome you can become at anything, it will not fill the void if you are not happy inside your own skin.

Ignacy Jan Paderewski

Take few moments and learn about the amazing person pictured above. You will see that while being one of the greatest pianist of all times, he was many other things. I am sure that he used the mastery of the piano to create a mastery of life. A path I think we’re all trying to walk.

Elder Master Eric Smith

Elder Master Eric Smith

When we have a chance to meet a person who has trained hard and “paid a price” for unique skill and understanding, it is a rare fortunate opportunity to hear what they have to say. You have that chance with Elder Master Eric Smith this Saturday at 5PM and Sunday at 10AM. Speaking with Master Bill today on the phone he said “you know Master Eric and I really went through this stuff since the beginning and we actually know some things.” This if course was an understatement.

2136 Rutland Dr #D-1, Austin, TX 78758, USA


~ by nolashaolin on October 21, 2009.

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