Category Archives: Learning

“Monofocus” in Martial Arts

We have all met them: those individuals who have such a singular focus and dedication that they devote the entirety of their working lives to the development of a particular skill (or set of skills), and hence attain a rare and astonishing level of refinement of that one thing.

My suggestion: learn from them, as much as you can from as many as you can, but try to avoid becoming one.

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Posted by on February 17, 2017 in Learning, Martial Arts


Hayes on Self Development

Excerpted from Ninja Realms of Power, by Stephen K. Hayes:


With such powerful tools granted to virtually everyone, the compelling universal question becomes not so much how do we accomplish our dreams, but rather why do so very few of us go on to create resplendent living temples out of ourselves?

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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Learning


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How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything


reflected in Mirror Lake, , USA. Español: Refl...


Tai chi is a mirror for life.  Your practice can be a mirror for your life.  But the effect goes both ways.  What is showing up in your life will show up in your practice.  The qualities you cultivate in your practice will show up in your life.  Reflection and correction go hand in hand.


What is showing up in your practice?  Impatience?  Tension?  Distraction?  Negative emotions?  How is whatever it is showing up in your life?  How’s that working out for you?  And how can you use your practice to cultivate the qualities you want to grow?  As an opportunity to cultivate patience, relaxation, focus, positive feelings?



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Posted by on March 31, 2012 in Learning


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Three Principles of Kung Fu

There are many ideas about how to develop good fighting skills.  My experience has revealed the following three principles common to good kung fu practice.

Good kung fu is both powerful and effortless.  Naturally it should be practiced the same way.  If there is an uncomfortable strain being exerted anywhere in your body it is because you are doing something that is ineffective.  Let this guide your movement.  With good kung fu the more effortless your movements feel to you the more forceful they will feel to anything you touch.  Do not try to achieve effortless power over time, but rather feel for it every time you practice.

The more you try to hurry the more you will hinder yourself.  Take as much time as you need.  If you are unable to control your movements with perfect precision it is because they are too fast.  It is more important that you maintain an inherently stable structure at each moment and let each movement start in the heels of the feet and propagate freely through the body than that your movements proceed quickly.  Hurrying makes practice less effective, and thus wastes time.  Only move as fast as you are able while still maintaining the feel of effortless power and a full awareness of your body’s structure from moment to moment.  Also do not hurry to achieve particular results.  Instead act as if you have the rest of your life to develop your kung fu and in the meantime make your practice so enjoyable that you are glad to do it for its own sake.

How your movement feels is more important than how it looks.  Your own sensations can teach you almost all you need to know about kung fu.  You have the singular privilege of having available to your awareness everything you feel.  Thus you can sense more easily than anybody else if your structure is stable and if your movement is effortless.  An experienced instructor may be able to point out gross deficiencies, but you must feel your own kung fu working.  If you devote the time and attention to listen to your body it will tell you how it works best.  A powerful movement will feel powerful, a stable stance will feel stable.  It is more important to be able to move freely and react spontaneously while maintaining a feeling of power and stability than to be able to do a particular movement exactly the same way many times.   Experiment constantly by flexing individual muscles and noting the effect each has on your entire body.  Vigilantly seek out and release tension and strain wherever you find them creeping in.

The three principles of kung fu are interconnected.  To follow or violate one is to follow or violate all.  Straining wears away your patience by making practice difficult and unpleasant, resulting in an instinctive desire to hurry through the motions; furthermore tense muscles make it difficult to determine the intrinsic strength of your posture.  Hurrying requires strain and likewise obscures sensation.  If you do not maintain awareness of the information your body sends you it does not matter how quickly or slowly or hard or soft you practice, your progress will be miniscule.

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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Learning, Tai Chi


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Teaching Tai Chi

A good teacher should not teach by adding but by taking away. Learning tai chi is not a process of adding skills but of removing inhibitions to reveal the natural virtue of the body’s functioning.

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Posted by on March 17, 2012 in Learning


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How to Learn Anything, the Tai Chi Way

To learn how to do something, make it as easy as possible for yourself.  When it becomes so easy that you become bored with it, you will naturally want to increase the intensity.  If you let the natural learning process proceed in this way, your skill will progress automatically, without any conscious striving.  In tai chi this is codified as the 70% rule: when practicing tai chi, exert at no more than 70% of your maximum capacity.

To speed up, slow down.

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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Learning, Tai Chi


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Masters, Pupils, and Peers

“First train with masters and pupils, eventually train with peers.”

Interpretation: This saying invokes the context of tai chi, but can be applied to other fields as well. It means that when you first start training, the distinction between master and pupil is relevant and important. You begin as a pupil learning from a master, and eventually become a master teaching pupils. But, if the training is effective, then the difference in skill between people who train together will diminish over time so that you will become the peer of your masters, and your pupils will become your peers. Be skeptical of any master-pupil relationship that persists over a long duration.

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Posted by on March 8, 2012 in Learning, Teaching

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