Saturday, March 24, 2018

Discovering the Wujifa Crossroads Blues

Here's a story of my musical life before I got into Chinese martial arts and how these two seemingly unrelated worlds are in fact connected.

At a very young age I began playing piano. Then somewhere around fifth grade I shifted to saxophone. Both were based on reading music. In junior high school I bought my first electric guitar and taught myself the notes following the same score-based method. After establishing this connection, I bought sheet music with guitar tabs and discovered the resultant sound didn't match the sound of the song on the record that I enjoyed. I then shifted to playing by ear; trying to replicate the song on the record as precisely as possible just based on what I heard.

Unable to understand nor reproduce the guitar parts, I switched to bass guitar which is relatively easier. I was able to copy most of my favorite '60s - '70s rock tunes pretty well. I then got into playing bass guitar in various "cover" bands; bands that played, or covered other well-known artists.

After years of this, I thought I was pretty good and wanting to expand my skillset, I investigated a group of improvisational jazz bass players. I quickly learned that I was not in their league and feeling a bit hurt (I'm not as good as I thought) and not knowing where the gap was nor how to bridge it, I hung up the bass guitar and started learning and practicing Tai-chi Chuan.

And then a few years ago I decided I wanted to get back into guitar after a thirty year hiatus. I wanted to learn how to play blues guitar but this time to really learn what I didn't learn the first time out. I stumbled into Griff Hamlin and his Blues Guitar Unleashed course which has been wonderful for me. Over the last couple years of receiving his daily email which includes tips, hints and examples and reading his blog, I've noticed how similar his message is to the message I was learning in Wujifa.

And here is the lesson at the crossroad, the Wujifa saying, "How you do anything is how you do everything."

The same copy-refine mindset or the way I originally approached music was the same mindset or way I initially approached my Chinese martial arts practice; copy, refine.

Reflecting on those early years, just as I never learned the principle of how music worked - how to make music, not just copy music - I never learned the principle of Chinese martial arts movement - how to move from the principle, not just copy the choreography.

I now see parallels between bar bands, cover bands, tribute bands and many Chinese martial arts practitioners who appear to follow the copy-refine approach where the so-called "more highly skilled" are merely a more refined copy than those with a less-refined copy.

The way I see things now is that martial arts fans, students, teachers and judges who were raised up through the copy-refine system and who never crossed over to explore, learn, or develop in a principle-based system, like Wujifa, are ill-disposed to recognize principle-based movement. Conversely, those who develop principle-based movement are better positioned to recognize those who are following a copy-refine approach.

And I'm standing at the crossroads...What I've learned of feeling principle-based movement in Wujifa has opened me to interpret the lessons of how to play blues guitar in a way I could not have with my former mechanical copy-refine mindset.

"How you do anything is how you do everything." until you do something different and then everything changes...

Happy practicing everyone!