I saw a video posted today of someone saying they were practicing “flow.” Flow does not mean randomization. Flow may happen spontaneously, but only because of mastery of the basics. If you don’t practice the basics to a level of mastery, then you’re not flowing, you’re floundering. Virtuosity can be understood as “excellence in fundamentals” or in other words, performing the common uncommonly well.
A new logical flaw threatens to infect performance and virally diminish health and fitness. Martial artists can be fond of misquoting Bruce Lee as stating, “Take the best and discard the rest.” Copy-errors occur from passing of one memetic idea to the next generation. Over many generations, they distort and mutate into meaninglessness, if not harmful meanings. This is a perfect example. Lee’s actual message intended to compel one to:
Master the Basics and Suspend the Superfluous.
You cannot adequately utilize a skill until you have mastered it. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being perfect technique, even if you perform it with very good form (an “8″), you’re still conditioning yourself with a “2″ of something that’s untrackable, unmeasurable and probably undesirable, which accumulates into pain and injury. However, many people train with a technique level of 5: so/so or “not bad but not great” form. In other words, 50% of what their doing is working for them, and 50% against them, for a net result of zero. This wastes effort due to lack of basic mastery, and creates more problems than it solves.
Unfortunately (especially in America) when we see something, we believe we have “got it.” But we don’t acquire skills by observation, only by practice. Skill acquisition isn’t even sufficient. Only skill refinement begins the mastery phase, so protracted practice with excellent form is mandatory.
Secondly, advanced techniques are not separate skills which you can choose to adopt over a more rudimentary skill. Advanced skills are a refinement and coordination of the basics. Complex skills involve a series of refined skills, or a heightened refinement of one skill. Do not discard the basics as unnecessary, and rush to the advanced. Suspend what initially appears unnecessary, for all excellence is built upon the fundamentals. When you’ve sufficiently mastered the basics, “advanced” skills can suddenly become accessible.
Although I’ve fought in “mixed” martial arts competitions even at a world games level, I believe that all students should begin with a mastery of a “Base Style” - not because one style is better than another, but because the process of mastering one set of basics, of ANY set of basics, is absolutely imperative for learning the above.
Be serially monogamous about personal mastery. Stick with one set us skills until you’ve mastered the basics of the discipline. Then you can move on to another. And once you master both (or more), only then can you integrate the two bodies of work. How you master one thing is how you master anything. If you want to perform uncommonly well, then don’t discard the basics. Master the mundane. There’s magic within.
Learning is the process of constant displacement. It is the constant nudge that forces realignment, a rebalancing act that stretches and pulls the sinews of the mind and of your choices. It is this refinement which suitably adapts you to new locations, tasks and people.
Practice deliberately. Fitts and Posner discovered three keys to breaking through your plateau:
1) focus on technique
2) stay goal oriented
3) get immediate feedback on the performance.
In other words, you need to practice deliberately to break through plateaus.