A lot of us want to be great at something in life, for many of you maybe that’s kung fu. Whether its kung fu or something else you want to be great at, the principles for getting there are the same. To help you on your way here are a few keys to greatness
1. Show Up
The first key to greatness is to show up. I get a lot of enquiries from people wanting to learn kung fu, but only a few of them actually make it along to a class. To embark on your journey to greatness you must at least take your first step. If you’re not there you can’t and won’t learn.
2. Keep Showing Up
There are lots of distractions in life, and all too often after an initial burst of enthusiasm people find things getting in the way of their training. At this point you need to decide how much you really want it. If you want it enough you will find a way to put the other distractions aside and carry on your path.
3. Put In The Hours
There was some research done that suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. Certainly in my own experience I have observed in all areas of life that it is not necessarily those who initially seem to have a talent for something that achieve the greatest success, but those that stick with it and put the practice in year after year.
How long will it take you to put in 10,000 hours of practice? Well if you were to practice full time (around 40 hours a week), you might achieve mastery in five years. If you were to practice an hour a day, it would be more like 30 years. If you practice one or two hours a week… well its going to take longer.
4. Perfect Practice
It is not just the quantity of practice that matters, but quality as well. When you practice, always try to be improving, not just going through the motions.
5. Keep Working On The Basics
A true master does not tire of practicing the basics, because they understand that they create the foundation for everything else that they do. As you keep practicing the simple basics you will find many subtle nuances that you were previously unaware of and that were beyond your understanding.
Modern research suggests that to learn a movement you need to repeat it 1000 times, and to relearn a movement, if for some reason it needs correction after you have already created habits around it, takes 3000 repetitions. This is a minimum level of learning, there are some kung fu movements that I have repeated literally MILLIONS of times, and even now I continue to gain further understanding of how they work as I continue to practice them.
6. Consult the Experts
Wherever possible, consult the experts to help you in learning and improving. They can help you to only take 1000 repetitions to learn something and avoid the need for another 3000 repetitions to relearn it if you are doing it wrong to begin with. You can do this in many ways, asking good questions and listening to the answers in class is a good starting point.
7. Set Goals Along The Way
That target of 10,000 hours can seem pretty daunting, so it helps to set intermediate goals along the way. This is why we have a system of belts in kung fu, it helps us to see the progress we are making on our path to mastery.
You might like to set other goals as well, maybe specific movements you would like to learn, refine and even perfect. Then put in the work to achieve your goal, you’ll feel great when you do.
8. Don’t Let Setbacks Push You Off Your Path
Inevitably on your journey you will from time to time face setbacks. You may not achieve some of your goals as quickly as you had planned. You may sometimes have injuries that prevent you from training for a time, or you may have work or other life commitments that need to be attended to. This happens to EVERYONE, all too often people will let these setbacks stop them and move them off their path. Those that go on to greatness are the ones that treat these setbacks as delays and not as obstacles that can’t be overcome. As soon as they are able to, they get back on their path and carry on from where they left off.
9. Enjoy The Journey
A lot of these keys to greatness have been about hard work and perseverance, but it is important that you enjoy yourself along the way. One of the secrets to this is to learn to enjoy hard work! But as well as this take time to have fun with what you are working on. In kung fu this can be things like competitions and performances, study trips and camps, and the social events we have from time to time.
As a reminder, here are a few videos of some of the fun times we’ve had at Long White Cloud Kung Fu lately:
10. Surround Yourself With Likeminded Individuals
This last one is really important. The road to mastery is a long one and its going to be a lot easier if you have support along the way. When you look at the greats in any area of expertise you will often find that there are groups of them that all developed at the same time, often coming from the same schools, the same social groups and so on. This is no coincidence; having friends and acquaintances who are pursuing the same goals you are is a huge help.
These friends can provide inspiration, motivation and competition that helps you to become the best you can be. They help you to stay focused on your goals and to have fun along the way. It is a lot easier to put those 10,000 hours in if every time you hang out with your friends you end up doing some more practice because its what you enjoy doing together.
So make friends with the people you train with. As well as seeing them at training, take the opportunity to socialise with them as well. If you don’t have many people near you doing kung fu, maybe see if some of you other friends would like to start, and you can help them begin their own journey to mastery.