Something I see sometimes in myself and in the people I teach and coach Xing Yi Quan is an eagerness to rush ahead do more “interesting” or “advanced” practices. Sometimes you need to push forward and past your comfort zone too, staying too long doing things which are really basic doesn’t always aid to progress either.
I want to look at the former situation – rushing ahead. Sometimes I’ve been guilty of this myself but I think in general I curb this quite well. One experience that sticks in my mind which has helped me with this was the first time my teacher invited me to what was essentially a private (or if you like inside door for those that are turned on by these kind of terms) class. I had hoped to do something really exciting or advanced, some xing yi animals or weapons work. Instead we did five elements in super fine detail and a five element linking sequence which my teacher had put together from a couple of sources. I remember his words at the time being that if you want to advance and improve in understanding and ability you must become more critical on yourself.
I’ve held to those words and believe in them. Sometimes you can get somewhere by pushing ahead or doing the things you really enjoy but you need to take stock and test yourself and what you are doing. You need to ask whether what you are doing conforms to core requirements of the art, whether you could do it smoother, faster, more controlled, more precise, with more power, with more sensitivity, or whatever the movement or exercise may require to be better. You may ask whether it would hold up under pressure and maybe you can find ways to test this, whether it is solo or with a partner. If it is with a partner you might ask whether the partner is sufficiently skilled for you test the method – does it work because they are not skilled enough to deal with the method? Or are you making it work because you are not actually doing the method but something else (this isn’t necessarily an issue in terms of means to an end but if your goal is to improve a skill/application/animal then you need to focus on doing what the practice is about not just falling back on those things in your comfort zone. – Another phrase I often heard my teacher say was “That’s good, but it’s not what we are doing”).
Awareness and acceptance are critical. You must accept your level to understand where to move to next. Thinking you understand something isn’t always the truth. Test, test, test, and seek feedback. Asking your teacher, partners or students helps to get feedback – don’t be held back by pride or ego. Film yourself and examine the details, you will see a lot of things you don’t want to see and which you might not have been aware of. Once you are aware, go back and work on those things.
Xing Yi is a really deep art, it goes beyond the martial and into spiritual and esoteric practices, it trains your willpower, stamina, character and resolve. It is easy to fall into chasing after ever more advanced or interesting practices whilst not really mastering the basics. So keep returning to the fundamental skills, look at the detail of your movement, application and linking sequences. Return to and really dig up the root of the art and test everything, test yourself constantly.
And work outside of class, whether it is ten minutes a day or 2 hours, if you want to improve in anything make it a consistent practice. Most of all do it because you enjoy it and you will find purpose and want to delve into the practice in detail and often. And in my experience the more you delve the more you will enjoy it.
Good luck in your training everyone!