One must be able to fully concentrate, fully focus, be fully aware and have the ability to be fully in the moment. This is both a both a trained skill, and a prerequisite to long term success in the arts.
All of us have had the experience growing up through grade school while sitting in one’s English class, and just zoning out. Or you might spend that class time doodling, writing notes, or staring out the window. Many people continue to go through life like that.
Coming to class and not really paying attention to what you are doing or what you should be doing. I have often seen students come to class and then proceed to “play around.” The teacher might demonstrate one technique and explain how everyone should practice it, then a student might do that once or twice, maybe not even try, then proceed to just dawdle around or do whatever it is he/she might want to practice at the time instead of what the teacher is trying to get across. Not only is this disrespectful to the teacher, it is disrespectful and causes other students to not be able to pay attention. It is also hurting the student themselves. One thing that I have noticed that often separates the experts from the masses is attention to detail, repetition, and willing mastery of the basics. Its not the ability to do “advanced” or flowery, cool techniques that defines one as having become expert, it is their mastery of the basics. There can never be too much attention and focus paid to what one is doing at that moment.
When practicing, one’s mind should be fully present on what one is doing. One should not be daydreaming of the past or future. One should not be distracted by what happened at work or on the way to class. One should concentrate. Awareness. Focus.
One should not bring baggage to class or to practice…
I refer to this in two ways, one is personal, emotional, and psychological baggage. This is one of the most difficult things to accurately access and deal with in practice. It is often a long term project. It is also often never even considered by most teachers and practitioners. It is my belief that the Internal Martial Arts should be beneficial to one’s entire being and life. The mind does not get free escape from this attention. It is often that one’s own “issues” have a deep effect on the way they train, the way they deal with their classmates, the way they carry themselves in life, the way they approach fighting and naturally the way they approach their life.
The second is one’s past experience. Although previous training and athletic ability can be a great boon to one’s success in martial arts, it can also be an impediment. Although many people treat the old maxim as cliche’, there is great wisdom in the need to recognize how one should “empty one’s cup so that it may be filled” in approach to every class and every lesson. It is often seen that a student will bring their ego to the school and approach every lesson with something akin to “Oh yeah, that’s just like this from xyz martial art” or “I like to do it this way instead.” While some people make use of a learning mechanism wherein they need to connect everything they do new, with something they have done. This can only get you so far. There will inevitably be differences, its best to take off those blinders and see the whole picture, clearly, as its presented to you.
I’m sure everyone has also had the experience of sitting in that lecture in college and then walking out of the lecture hall having taken in nothing. Your mind was somewhere else or you just couldn’t concentrate long enough to absorb what was being presented. In a college lecture you might be able to ask your friend for the class notes. In the traditional internal martial arts, as my teacher would often remind me, there are many times where you might see something or hear something just once. If you are not present, if you are not aware and focused enough to pick it up, then that is just something you might never get.
Why limit yourself by not being there, in class or in life?