Monday, September 7, 2020

Mastering Internal Gongfu: Are You Ready? The Progress Matrix

The title of this series is: Mastering Internal Gongfu: Are you Ready? When I was asked this question twenty years ago, I responded with an emphatic “Yes!” As the years went by and I discovered the amount of work involved in mastering this art, I slowly came to realize that, no, I was not ready. Sure, I was willing to give it a try but I was not appropriately prepared to acquire new skills.

This realization then shined a light on the question asked by many internal gongfu practitioners, “Why does it take so long to get it?” To this, the typical response is, “If getting it were that easy, then everyone would be a master.” Well, we need a better answer than that! This series of posts is an attempt to provide a more thoughtful response to this question.

In the Introduction I said that I now think of training as consisting of two phases where preparing and conditioning my body is the first phase of training and then when I am ready, I can begin the second phase of training –  the practice of developing the movement principle in my body.

I then introduced six components that I consider as having an influence on my practice of preparing or conditioning my body. In each of these components I identified how my approach within that component either helped or hindered my practice. Now I'd like to extend the application of this "My Practice" puzzle by looking at these components through the framework of a hypothetical Internal Gongfu Progress Matrix.

My Practice puzzle completed

The Internal Gongfu Progress Matrix further parses these six components into three progress scenarios: Quickest, Moderate, and Slowest. The purpose for doing this is to frame the above six components in the context of situations and attitudes found in each component that influence the rate of progress.

These three scenarios have been developed from my observations and from comments that have been expressed by myself and by my school brothers and by visitors to Wujifa classes over the last fifteen years. Hopefully, this collection of observations and comments as I’ve summarized them here, can help identify where we might be getting stuck in our preparation or conditioning phase of training and where making one or more changes may help our progress.

The Internal Gongfu Progress Matrix
ComponentProgress Scenarios
Quick progress over short period of time (3-5 years)Moderate progress over a moderate period of time (5-10 years?)Slow progress over a long period of time (more than 10 years)
Activity PatternsMy daily activity pattern is congruent with practice. I can train 2-4 hours throughout the day.Some of my daily activity pattern supports practice and some hinders practice. I can train 1-2 hours a day.My daily activity pattern absolutely hinders practice. Training time is limited to 1 hour or less.
Cognitive BiasI don’t have any previous experience in these arts. This is all new to me.Sometimes my biases hinder practice, but when I notice them, then I can overcome them.I’m not going to ignore all my previous experiences. This new stuff fits in there somehow.
Body Structure-CharacterI feel free to experiment with different aspects of my body structure-character. It’s really fun!I’ve heard about body structure-character before. I’m skeptical but I’ll explore the possibility.Body structure-character has nothing to do with achieving expert performance.
Ability to ChangeI enjoy exploring changing my body and daily life.I may be open to small, incremental changes but not big changes.I came here to learn. Don’t tell me I have to change!
TalentI’ve always been able to sense and feel inside my body.I’ve never been able to sense and feel inside my body. I’ll practice but it’s difficult and uncomfortable.I can't feel anything! Feeling is overrated. Just show me what to do.
CommitmentI’ve (re)organized my life so that my practice is the focus. Maybe a 80% commitment to training.I can incorporate practice throughout my daily life. Maybe a 40% commitment to training.I’ve got other commitments that take priority over practice. Maybe a 10% commitment to training.

It is likely that many people (myself included) will not identify entirely with one column of the Progress Scenarios. It is more likely that we identify with one scenario in one component and with a different scenario in another component, or more likely we place our attitude or situation somewhere between two columns.

The point is that this matrix should provide an insight into how your situation or attitude about any one of these components may be influencing your rate of progress.

I don’t expect that every practitioner will agree with all of the Components and Progress Scenarios that make up this matrix. As I said, this matrix is based on my experience in Wujifa. If these components are not pertinent to you, then what components would you identify? How would you define or describe your components? How would you define the attitudes and situations that constitute Slowest, Moderate, and Quickest rate of progress for your components?

In Closing
This Internal Gongfu Progress Matrix is a first step toward recognizing the influences on the internal gongfu practitioner and how the practitioner’s own attitude or situation in any given component can influence the practitioner’s rate of progress.

This model may be the first of its kind to provide internal gongfu practitioners with a tool that can both provide a reasonable explanation for their rate of progress and simultaneously provide guidance on how to improve their rate of progress. It may also stand as a prototype for others to develop their own progress metrics.

A practitioner’s rate of progress does not have to be a matter of chance or fate. As I've attempted to illustrate over these last several posts, it is possible to identify the components of an internal gongfu practice and then further parse these components to identify attributes that contribute to quick, moderate, or slow progress. It is here that we ultimately find what may be hindering progress and in this, we find clues as to what we might want to explore to improve progress.

This series will continue with considering the role of the Source and Level of Instruction and then we’ll close this series with some final remarks.

Previous post in this series: Mastering Internal Gongfu: Are You Ready? Commitment

Next post in this series: Mastering Internal Gongfu: Are You Ready? Source and Level of Instruction

1 comment:

  1. I like this. I think it is interesting. My main focus is to release rigid thinking. That is why I study and train. Many many other benefits. I try not feel forced to feel the benefits. I just know I feel better when I do some type of nei gong or nei dan.