The Spirit of Repetition
Practice is dynamic. Study is static.
Even with a superficial cerebral understanding, regular physical practice can produce a significant benefit.
Having a profound academic knowledge without application in the real world will come to naught.
The Fusion of Wu (Warrior) and Wen (Scholar)
Initially, students learn by following along and imitating their teacher. By being attentive with undivided attention and really looking intently for ever little nuance, a little more can be learned each time we attend class. Practice is done in a rote fashion, always keeping in mind our teacher’s corrections. Don’t underestimate its potential for good results. How many times a day do you practice your hand Form regularly? The main objective initially is the establishment of a regular practice.
As a student gains confidence in themselves and a growing proficiency by learning to discipline themselves in daily practice, the choreography of Forms and exercise sets becomes thoroughly memorized. This allows the student to bring a deeper study into their practice. Where we initially focused on doing the exercises, now we can begin a study of how to use the body to do the exercise with greater effectiveness and efficiency. The perspective changes from outside to inside. Study becomes more academic, using both eastern and western medicine. A basic study can go a long way. In general in regard to health alone, we benefit greatly by knowing more about ourselves; physically and mentally.
If we are talking about Qigong, answering questions like how is Qi cultivated, gathered, stored, circulated, purified and emitted will redefine practice. Qigong has a lot more to offer than just calisthenics. If we are talking Tai Chi Chuan, understanding and applying the Tai Chi theory as Yinyang principles locked away in the Tai Chi literary Classics will open new doors to exploring methods of obtaining greater Skill.
Image: An exercise from the compulsory Qigong set, the Ba Duan Jing, 8 Section Brocade, Draw the Bow. If we don’t gain the ability to see the similarities, in what externally seems to be vastly different exercises, then we failed to understand the internal theory that is inside of them all. Regardless of what we do, we are always using the same body and mind. Forms and sets are not meant to limit what we can do, but instruct us in how to use our bodies and mind with greater versatility.
Pearls on a necklace are strung together on a single string.
This is why we say, “Don’t practice Form, but practice Kung; Skill”. The Yi; intentional mind leads the body. The more we practice by applying an ongoing study, movements are not only more familiar with time, but become our natural refined self. There are no short cuts. We don’t need more and more forms, we need greater and greater insight into the technical movements we already know. “Make less into more” is in line with Tai Chi theory.
Note: I asked my Sifu about a Qigong exercise I was practicing. He explained it to me in great detail, and then went on to tell me, he drew that knowledge from four other exercises to offer me that complete explanation. We have to enter the stage of critical thinking. Teachers are students too. Being a little further down the road than their students, teachers are merely explaining their practice to us, and like a finger pointing to the moon, helping us find what we are seeking in our own bodies and mind all by ourselves. Like parents, a teacher’s job is to make the student self sufficient, not dependent.
Only you can do the work.
No one can do it for you.
We are not islands. We need each other.