The Mathematics of Training
A bit of simple math can really boost your Kung Fu. It’s all addition and multiplication, really! As a Sifu and as a student, I have seen both the talented and the not-so-talented begin Kung Fu, and I can tell you that talent is nice but in the end it doesn’t matter. What matters is the math of your training—how much time you spend practicing.
Most schools offer only one-hour or 45-minute classes. Two one-hour classes a week is two hours a week total. At the 10,000 Victories School of Kung Fu and Tai Chi, we have a two-hour + class twice a week. That’s already twice as much training time, which means that perhaps we will progress twice as fast or learn twice as much. But consider this: what if you trained an hour a day outside of class? In a week you have seven hours outside of class and four hours in class. That’s 11 hours instead of two. Now you are moving five-and-a-half times as fast. In just one week you are doing the same amount of training as one month at other martial arts schools.
What if you trained two hours a day outside of class? That’s 18 [7×2=14+4=18. Don’t forget the weekend!!] hours a week. One week now exceeds two months of training at a typical school. If you trained for six weeks, you would have logged more hours than one year in those short classes. In one year you would have spent more time training than you would have in eight years with the other guys. There is another aspect to the mathematics of Kung Fu: the consistency of training has greater benefit and impact. At a low level of training hours, you maintain a plateau easier. You may learn new material, but it is hard to achieve real Kung Fu body transformation and ability. When you build intensity with regular hours, the effect is synergistic and greater than the hours spread out over a long period of time. I have met many people who have been training in Tai Chi for many years and have almost no real skill. Some can barely remember the form. Others remember the form but their body mechanics and transformation is so low that they are still beginners even after 20 years. They have basically repeated the first year 20 times. There is a vast difference between once-a-week people and everyday people. This is true in both health and skill. Many of the top Tai Chi and Kung Fu masters I know have had life threatening or debilitating illnesses or injuries. Many had failed with Western medicine or their treatment had left them weak and feeble. These individuals had to practice like their life depended on it because, in fact, their life did depend on it. They practiced not one or two hours, but many more in small blocks of time. They cured themselves and, in the process, mastered the arts. I am one of those people. I have survived two major car accidents. In one, I broke my pelvis in five places and went “code blue.” Code blue means that you’re not breathing, your heart has stopped beating, and you’re flattening on the cardio machine. You are basically dead or very near death. In my case, the paramedics brought me back to life. When I left the hospital I could barely touch my knees. In a second accident, I suffered massive spinal whiplash. Every single vertebrae was misplaced from the top of my spine to the bottom and there was damage to all the tissue around my spine. As a result of these accidents I was always in considerable pain. My only choices were to work out or end up in a wheelchair.
In those early days, I would work out six to eight hours. I might practice Qi Gong for an hour or two, stretch for an hour or two, and then practice forms and train with partners. That was what it took for me to break through the scar tissue and restore my flexibility and posture. If I stopped training the pain would come back. If I had practiced only an hour or two a week, I wouldn’t have the results I have. Because I practiced diligently, I not only gained skill and knowledge in five different arts, I developed a deep love and respect for Kung Fu and Tai Chi.
Even today I really can’t stop. If I do, my body rapidly loses its tone and the spine loses its alignment, which makes everything hurt. Even when I get bored, I practice because I know my body needs it.
These days, I maintain a steady two to three hours of practice outside of class for a minimum of five days a week. During class I get a great foundation workout and go over beginning forms and drills. On my own, I practice advanced forms and often revisit all the hand forms in the Shaolin system in one hour and then practice weapons for another hour. A couple of times a week, I train with worthy partners and old friends on two-person skills for an hour or two. Most recently, I have been practicing spear a great deal. These sessions can last three hours with water breaks included. Usually I practice one spear form 10 times and the others once or twice each. On occasion, I practice all five spear forms three times each.
If you take care of your practice, your skill will take care of itself. An hour a day of practice may sound like a lot at first, but after you start to see the results in your body, health, attitude and skill, it will become easier to be motivated and make the workouts happen. If you really want fighting skills, you’ll need to log hours with partners. If you want rapid progress, spend two hours a day with partners at your level or better—your skill will blossom. You’ll be like a train slowly gaining steam. To get started, create a strategy and stick to it: ask for the support of your family and closest friends and find a place or places and schedule a time or different times to work out. Get the mathematics of Kung Fu on your side and go for it!
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