Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Martial Arts and Music

An analogy can be made in a limited way for a relationship between martial arts and music.

There is a point where one can go beyond forms to express oneself truly.

Take Mozart. His wonderful once in a thousand years genius stayed within the standard musical forms of his time, but he did things within those forms that no one though of before; that no one could have pulled off.

One such was a duet with two violins, with both players reading a sheet of music that laid on a table between them. They were playing the same music, but from different directions.

Over at The Way of Least Resistance blog, Dan Djurdjevic wrote a very good post on the element of time in the mastery of martial arts and made some appropriate analogies to mastery of playing music. 

Below is an excerpt. The full post may be read here. Please pay a visit.

 There is an old rule of thumb in martial arts: 1,000 repetitions to get the basic idea of a movement, 10,000 repetitions to get it more or less right, 100,000 to get it near perfect.

And that's just a movement.  We've not yet talked about application.  Application takes much, much more practice.

Let's put it in the perspective of some other art - say, music.

You might want to be a world-class jazz guitarist, playing lead solos off the cuff, with no two performances alike.  And that's how jazz is meant to be played.  You're responding to your environment: the other musicians, the crowd, the venue, its atmosphere, your own mood, the time of day... practically anything and everything.

So what does it take to be a good jazz guitarist?  100,000 repetitions of scales won't cut it.  I don't know what the figure in repetitions is, but it's going to be a lot higher.  Actually, it's measured less in terms of repetitions than it is measured in time.  You need time to become a master.

"But I'm super-talented and ultra-focused," you'll hear people say.  "I have an unbelievable work ethic and I'm already doing things that 'masters' can't do!  Check out the speed of this particular solo..."

Yes.  You're good.  Really good.  But you're not Django Reinhardt - yet.  You won't be until you've approached his experience.  Because, in the end, there is no substitute for experience.  However much you wish it were otherwise.

In the case of a jazz guitarist, this experience isn't just about you and the guitar.  It's about you and your band.  It's about playing live.  It's about not "choking" when you suddenly realise that there are 10,000 people watching you.  It's about knowing what to do when you make a "mistake" and taking things in a different direction.  It's about knowing how to deal with the fact that you're having a bad day...

This often has more to do with the passage of time than the literal number of repetitions.  Because that passage of time is often what is needed for something to "bed down".  It's for this reason that sometimes it's best to "sleep on it".  How many times have you found yourself frustrated by a particular technique or skill, mucking it up almost every time, only to find it vastly improved if not "effortless" the next day?  It has happened many times in my life and I'm sure it will keep happening.  Indeed, I've come to trust the principle of "sleeping on it".  I've come to expect less from sheer dogged repetition and more from activities such as visualisation, if not pure "rest": time for my subconscious to process a new technique or skill - time to make it truly mine.

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