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Training with substance

There's a Chinese saying that we use in martial arts -

"練拳不練功 到老一場空" 

liàn quán bù liàn gōng, dào lăo yī cháng kōng

So what does it mean?  Well it's means if you practise quán (martial arts) without gōng (effort), all would all be in vain.  Confused? I bet you are.  OK, so I'll elaborate.  To a lot of people practice martial arts means doing form routines. But what does it mean? And are you getting anything out of it?  This is common in Taiji as it is in any other martial art. At best, it is physical exercise (which is fine if that's what you want), but how do get more out of your training? 

So what is missing?

The gōng factor, because it is that which is missing. The word gōng can mean a lot of things. However, in this content it is about effort and the meaning is much broader. Because it is about training with substance. After all, what is a punch if you don't commit? So if you don't have substance in your training, then is all in vain?

The saying isn't meant to be harsh, but about tough love. Sweet words don't always mean well or bring out the best in people. But good medicine is unlikely to taste sweet. A good teacher only want what's best for their students. Wrapping students in cotton wool, giving in and sign post everything will not bring results. If you look at successful athletes, they are successful not because they are gifted, but because they are motivated and work hard at improving their game and getting selected. All that must happen before the big day. Everybody sees athletes on the day, but few understand the hard work that goes into it. Hard work brings results and that's real gōngfu.

And substance?

Substance comes from a combination of different factors, such as:

  • Good foundation

  • Attention to detail

  • Sincerity in what you do

Good foundations may include quality stances, footwork and internal training. None of this can be achieved in a short

space of time. The quality of each move is depend on these factors. If you have good

foundations, the path ahead would be a little easier. Attention to detail is also important. There's much to remember in any style, so remembering and doing things in

a certain way is a real challenge. But remembering and processing this information is good mental exercise. Lastly there's sincerity and this is a broad area which covers attitude and integrity. As martial artists, we need to be modest and sincere about what we do. Be honest about your training and look at ways to improve yourself. Be willing to accept feedback and seek advice. Integrity is important because it is about what you do when your teacher isn't watching. It would help to go beyond the syllabus and books. These books and classes provide basic knowledge. Experience and wisdom does not come from books. Training should be like slow cooking and that's where the goodness and quality comes from. All this makes a difference to your overall practice and your level of training doesn't lie.

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