The Path to Mastery …

The path to mastery is just 10,000 hours away.

In explaining the development of extraordinary talent, both Mr. Gladwell and Mr. Colvin zero in on seminal research by Florida State Professor Anders Ericsson and colleagues that suggests the threshold for world-class expertise in any discipline — music, sports, chess, science, business management — is about 10 years, or 10,000 hours, of persistent, focused training and experience.

Source: Wall Street Journal – Golf Mastery, Just 10,000 Hours Away

Based on my calculations, in order to get 10,000 hours in 10 years, one would need to practice roughly 3 hours per day, everyday.  I must admit that I do not practice 3 hours everyday, in fact, I do not practice 2 hours everyday.  Personally, I practice roughly 1 hour per day averaging 5.5 hours per week. At my current rate, it would take me 35 years to hit the 10,000 hour mark. Whoa..!?!! 😉

However, previously before I had more commitments, I would often train 2-3 yrs per day.  For example, when I first started learning chen taiji, I would attend a 2 hour class and then practice for an extra hour or so upon arriving home. Additionally, I would train at least 4 days during a week.  Just like anything, the more you do something, the better you will become.  I have been at this thing we call taiji since 1998 and feel I have only scratched the surface.

The Wall Street Journal article then goes on to state:

The most successful performers in any area engage in "deliberate practice." This is activity specifically designed, ideally by an expert teacher, to improve performance beyond a person’s current comfort and ability level. These activities are repeatable, provide clear feedback and are highly demanding mentally, even when largely physical. … The bad news is that deliberate practice is very hard, and usually unpleasant.

But don’t expect this kind of practice to be as satisfying as whacking balls on the range. One drill that Ms. Nilsson and Ms. Marriott sometimes recommend is a super slow-motion, 30-second swing — the tai chi swing, they call it. "About 25% of our students find this to be so difficult and awful that they won’t do it," Ms. Nilsson said. I’m one of them. Each second is agony. Why? For people whose minds customarily operate at 100 mph, slowing to a snail’s pace is just plain hard, but being totally in the present moment is a key to great performance, Ms. Nilsson said. The slow swing also reveals blind spots in awareness of where our hands, limbs and the golf club are. This is surprisingly uncomfortable, but the best players are hyper-aware of their positions throughout a swing and thus can detect when things are off.

Reading the notes above about deliberate practice quickly reminded me of how I felt when I first started doing chen taiji. Time and time again, my instructor told me the foundation practice included standing meditation, single handed silk reeling and double handed silk reeling.  Even though standing meditation was physically the easiest, it was the hardest for me to do. The same was true for single handed silk reeling. It was more fun to do double handed silk reeling or form training.

Fast forward to present time, most of my training now is spent on standing meditation work.  Something just clicked in my life where I find more benefit and satisfaction from doing zhan zhuang.  Similarly, I now find great enjoyment in doing simple foundational exercises, the same ones that I had a hard time doing before. 

One of my favorite lines from the article is the take-away message:

… simply understanding how much hard work is required to make significant progress as a player reduces the power of the Grand Illusion… "One of the main problems [people] have is unrealistic expectations," … "They make themselves miserable when they should be having fun."

For me, I practice taiji because I enjoy the exercise and find mentally relaxing. Have my goals changed much from a quote in previous article I wrote called Cranking Widgets and Taiji?

What are my high level goals in practicing taiji? First and foremost, it’s to nurture my body after many years of wushu wear and tear. In addition, I enjoy the meditative aspects of the art. I don’t train in taiji to be a bada$$ martial artists, I don’t train to fight, I train to learn about myself and who I am. I train in taiji because it makes me a better person.

Not really.  For me, misery comes about when our actions are not in alignment with our goals. Practicing should not be grueling to the point that one avoids training.  Life is too short to do something we don’t like or engage in an activity that is not in alignment with ourselves.  The first question we should ask ourselves is, “What do I hope to gain/achieve from this training?” Only then, will you know what to do.


About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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6 Responses to The Path to Mastery …

  1. Rick Matz says:

    If you want to get better, practice more. If you’re tired, rest. Self discipline is remembering what you want.

  2. taiwandeutscher says:

    Well, with a fulltime job, a family and a life besides the arts, I also struggle with my main objective, to get done 1 hr average a day, for the whole year.

    In younger days, I did also 2, 3 hrs, stayed with the teacher till lunch for translating his writings, but those days have passed, so..

    Since the beginning of 2009, I could keep up my 7 hrs a week target, even I am ahead a bit, but then, the hard days of summer heat are just around the corner, when I stay in bed longer, letting the air con do all the work.

    We’ll see..!

  3. Mike Ferruggia says:

    My sifu, Leung Shum, wrote in one of his books, practice 1,000 times and you’ll start to understand tai chi. 10,000 times before you really start to get it. So, for fun, not taking him literally, I started keeping track of how many times I did the long form. It took about three years to get to 1,000, and it was quite a personal celebration moment for me.

  4. Tim Duehring says:

    Up here in the great north we refer to catching a musky as taking 10,000 casts. Very similar outcomes. The excitement as you get close and the frustration when you lose count and have to start over. Just practice and don’t think about it.

  5. wujimon says:

    Great comments. For me, instead of thinking I should be practicing more, I am working on enjoying my time when I am practicing. Be in the now and just enjoy 😉

  6. RickMatz says:

    There is a terrific little book on time managment called The Art of Time:

    It’s very short and has all the usual little tips on getting organized and being efficient, but the author closes with this observation: you always seem to make time for what you love the most and what is the most important to you.

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