7 steps to mastery of an Art
1. The Master
The first step is to find your self a Master. A Master is a teacher with a high level of skill and knowledge that comes from a genuine linage. Be thorough in your search and decision. But once you find him, trust him and follow his ways. Many of the skills, and ways of teaching these, are a result of knowledge acquired by many people during a long period of time. It would be presumptuous to believe that you by yourself can reach the same result in one lifetime, with out the tradition and information passed down by the Masters. Therefor it is important to find a good teacher that can guide you on our way. Alfred Sheinwold, a famous American card player and author once said ”Learn all you can from the mistakes of others. You wont have time to make them all yourself”, and a Chinese saying goes ”It takes three generations to create a master”. These two proverbs shows the importance of collecting experience during time, and that one lifetime is to short to gather the demanded amount of knowledge for true mastery. There is a line of Masters before you who have dedicated their life to the arts. If you take your first step on their foundation you will be able to reach higher. Unfortunately you many times have a hard time finding a good teacher, who knows your particular art form, who also lives in a close by range. This is where some people stop their pursuit or get limited. But if you have true dedication you will go out of your way to find this Master. The people who do this are the people who achieve greatness. This is a choice you have to make, and it usually involves certain sacrifices. This is a choice that will define your life from that moment and forward.
2. The Classics
Study the classics of your art. There is books written by generations of scholars and practitioners that shares their understanding of the art form. One book will give you a narrow view and limited understanding, but many books will give you a perspective where you in a more easy way can judge relevant information and compare different thoughts. At the same time you need to keep up with the development and collect new information that can help you. What does the contemporary writers say? Also, you should read books from other subjects that can further develop the knowledge of your own art form.
3. The History
Once you are studying for a master and reading the classic books on the subject, you are now in connection with the history. You are part of a tradition and a keeper of knowledge transferred through the ages of time. Here it is important to learn and understand the history of the art. History will give you a key to the essence. By understanding the background, creation and tradition you will see what the basic elements are. When you understand this your practice can become more effective, but most important, this will show in your appearance as well.
4. The Practice
Books, history and access to information through a good teacher is elementary things, but then I comes down to your own effort. You need to put in your share of work, hard work. Achieving a skill is never easy and can only be done by practical exercises building from a good foundation and upwards. This is your job, and can never be handed over to someone else. You need to do what needs to be done. And you need to start right away. The more effective you are in your training and the more you are dedicated the better the result will be in the end. It is not your teachers job to teach you this skill, he is in possession of the information, it is your own responsibility to honor him by your own dedication and effort.
5. The Creativity
To be in harmony with your environment you need to be open and perceptive of the things around you. Your own flow must match the energy that flows around you in nature. Your ideas must be alive and reflective. Your creativity must follow the changes and faces of your situation. Adaption and development is our key to survival. This is also the key to mastery. Your thoughts need to be alive and creative. New ideas based on your foundation and understanding will be what separates you from other people in the same field. You need to personalize your training and method so it suits you. Once you have “become one” with your art, you have the chance to actually fuel it with your own life force. This is strongest form of energy you can generate, but also the energy needed to reach the highs.
6. The Mistakes
One important quality you need to have is the capability of analyzing your mistakes and see where you fail. If you can learn from this and correct your practice, and further your understanding, you will be under constant development. A Chinese proverb referring to Xiang Qi (Chinese Chess) tells us “When you have lost the game 100 times you will have learned it” or the more macabre Indian Hindu proverb ”No doctor is really good until he has killed one or two patients”. The first step in this is to actually see and admit that you have failed. Some people are to proud to realize their own shortcomings and this will be their mistake. Everybody fails, but the difference is how you handle it. If you are able to see opportunities even in failure and you will be granted with success. The opposites, Yin and Yang, are two aspects of the same and can at every time be transformed in to the other. This is your advantage. You can blame the events around you but you can never change these factors. The only thing you can change is your self.
7. The Endurance
The term “Gung Fu” is translated as “hard work” or “a skill achieved during along time”. Both of them together is closest to the truth. One important aspect of the training is time. There is nothing in the quickly achieved that will last long. You need to understand this to get a steady development and inner peace. Set up a goal for your self, but be realistic in the estimation of the time needed to achieve this. Usually the basic training is 3 years, you will feel that you understand and have learned something after 5 years, and after 10 years you can say that you know it. There is a Chinese proverb that says “欲速则不达”(rush will get you nothing). This tells us to “keep holding on and you will get what you want”. Long time of hard work will make even your biggest interest seem like pain. There will be times where you doubt your decision and where you simply feel that it is not funny at all. Here the saying ”先苦后甜”(first bitter than sweet) guides us through the hard times showing that these are the only way to good results.