One must come to class.
Its often that simple. There are always distractions; whether its work, traffic, significant others, sleep, TV, video games or whatnot, there is always something beckoning one away from what one wants to do or sometimes just should do. If you want to do it, if you want to get better at it, you have to do it. Its that simple.
I remember noticing this in my teacher’s classes in Taiwan. There were people who came through who were physically more gifted, perhaps mentally more the fighter type, had more free time, were independently wealthy, had a lot of previous martial arts experience or whatever other potential benefits a certain person might have. Greater potential does not always mean greater success and greater skills. I often saw people who came to class consistently, who did their work earnestly, eventually develop great skill sets in the martial arts above and beyond those who might have had more potential. This was often simply a matter of consistent practice.
A sparring partner and friend of mine in Taiwan who was also had a great interest in yoga told me a funny story about a thought he had one time while training yoga in India. He was in India training yoga full time for about a year and a half. He mentioned how he was doing yoga for 8 – 10 hours each day and how he was improving by leaps and bounds. Then one of his letters to me had a great line that said “damn – if only I trained Baguazhang this much I’d be awesome!”
These arts and their training process are also not constructed on a logical, linear progression of development like many systems in the western world. There is sequential training involved, some things are better learned before others. Much of the learning process is also non-linear; different parts of the whole will feed back in on each other leading to greater comprehension and understanding. One needs to be there to see the wide and the narrow, the non-linear expanse and the linear progressions of material. One needs to review old material and learn new. One needs to be available to constant correction and themselves ready constant questions. One needs training and sparring partners. These are all things that a class is an absolute necessity for.
I recall something that struck me as funny at some point. When I first started studying with my teacher, I was getting information left and right. I was elated. I listened as I could and tried to understand the principles to the best of my ability. I took notes. After a year of seeing the same stuff and hearing the same things, I thought I could understand some of it. Then after year two I thought “now I’m really getting better at this stuff.” Then in year three you finally realize you were a dipshit in year one and two and think “now I’ve got it!” It took me a while to just get to the point where I’m not thinking “I’ve got it” all the time, but come slowly to the place where I would accept that I’m continually getting it, deeper. Throughout the whole process I eventually found out that what my teacher was showing and saying were the same. He was not coming up with new information or new moves, though he might couch it in different terms or methods. The teaching was the same in year one as it was in year three, as it was in year six… The difference in understanding came from me. Being there, doing it, hearing and seeing the principles repeated in different manners over time, all of this led to improvement.
Can you learn alone without visiting a teacher? I highly doubt it. There is too much to these arts that can’t be put into words or video.
Can you learn while occasionally visiting a teacher? Theoretically yes. Will it take longer? Yes.
Do you remember while in school how teachers’ would take attendance? Do you remember how that would be part of your grade? There is a lesson in that. Sometimes just being there and following along, soaking things in, even if only passively, does have an effect. Think of it as the minimum necessary requirement.
Its funny that it even needs to be said.
Luo Dexiu Laoshi knocking me on my butt with the houtian technique Duo.