Saturday, 26 July 2008

Self training vs training together

Students who have trained with teacher Mike know that he gives us lots and lots of info alongside the exercises. Often he points us the importance of basics, other times he introduces us to movements and power very few ever heard of. What I have learned so far increases my ability to observe and to think about my own training methodology. To think about one's own methodology of training is important if one wants to improve his/her Kung Fu. Ask yourself this question: What would you like to achive for yourself in a year, two years, three years,...?

"Kung-fu is demanding. It requires the full attention and participation of mind and body. ... Another less obvious element seems to be lacking in many people's practise, however. Many practitioners don't have a clear idea of what they are trying to achieve." (Adam Hsu in The Way of Kung-Fu)

What has achievements and methodology to do with self-training and training together? Simple: because the more you know about what you really want, the clearer it become to know what you need to train in order to get there.

Achievement = finding the right methodology + training

1) Now let's say that you know you want to improve, and you train a lot by yourself:

Self-training is the first logical way to practise, when you want to improve yourself. But self-training can be very bad if one doesn't have a clear idea what he is doing. What you improve is bad habits. The first 2 years of my training, I did a lot of home exercises, however, I didn't improve, nor did I understand where I am going to. I always have the bad habit of overstretching my elbows, but no fellow students could help me because I was training by myself. In short terms, I was fooling myself with the general cliche of: "if I just train, I will get better".

Mike's note is that self training is very important, "one should always train". But he also made the remarks on the danger of students trusting only their own interpretation, and not seeing their own mistakes (Mike's corrections forgotten, mistrusting fellow students, not watched Mike's correction properly). When the student is in such narrowminded state (believing only in yourself), then self training can easily become training of "bad habits".

2) What is the benefits of training together?

Self training is easy, you just have to stand up and do it. But self training in a correct way is hard, because unlike laoshi, we don't have the understanding of what is correct and what is not. Truth is: we all know a little, and yet not the same. That is what makes Kung Fu students so unique and that is also why training Kung Fu is a combination of self discipline and being social towards eachother.

For example: I know that in our school, one can be good in Long Fist stances, then someone else is talented in linking the postures so it looks fluent as a movement or form. If those 2 students would believe in self training only, they would be good. But they will never improve beyond their own limitation, because they never meet up for training together. That is the difference between self training and training together. I believe that only by understanding that both self training and training together is equally important, that there is room for improvement.

Self-training = repetition of movements and exercises, extremely important, but with the danger of creating bad habits.

Training together = the opportunity to correct your movements by training with students of different levels.

So far, I can say that we all work very hard on self training, and the prospect of taking it further by taking advantage of training together often will make the Kung Fu only better.

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