Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A solid foundation

Neal Martin at Urban Samurai has triggered a flurry of posts by various martial arts bloggers about the importance of continuing to train "the basics".

My take:
  • The basics are not just for beginners.  They are foundational.  Perhaps "fundamentals" is a better term than "basics", but I'll stick with the shorter term.
  • Since we practice them every class, we log more "flying hours" in the basics than anything else.  Why?
  • Hopefully because they contain the essence of the style.
But just going through the motions, however regularly, while necessary, is insufficient.  Like the difference between 20 years of experience and one year of experience - 20 times, we need to keep peeling away layers and getting more and more out of our basic practice, both in terms of performance and in understanding.

So I absolutely agree that continual training in "the basics" is not just for beginners, but it has to be more than routine.  For example:
  1. Every time you learn something new: How does it relate to the basics?
  2. Got a question?  Look to the basics.
  3. Want to focus on something: Find it in the basics and work on it there.
  4. See someone doing a different variation from what you're used to.  Learn the other way and see what lessons it has to offer.
  5. Bored by the basics?  Think you have a thorough understanding of a particular exercise or technique?  Time to look again.
It's part of learning to hit the occasional plateau (bored!), or be stuck at the bottom of a cliff (can't do it!), but by training the basics continually and intelligently these obstacles will in time be cleared, and you will have also built yourself a solid foundation for further learning.