How do You Become an Expert? In Martial Arts or Anything?
In the West there is an academic discipline known as expertise theory.
Expertise theory is the study of how expertise is acquired and what makes a person an expert. As academic disciplines go, it is relatively new with most of the significant work being done in the last 20 years. Of course, this is a vital discipline, because while we can all recognize when a person has acquired expertise in something, the path to getting there is a lot of guesswork, folk knowledge and just hokum.
The concept of the expert, what makes a person an expert, and why you should become an expert, has been discussed for thousands of years in Asia. As writing emerged, it became a major thrust of Asian writing and of literature. In short, it is a cultural focal point of Asian society.
What’s the cultural focal point of Western society?
Now simply because it is a cultural focal point of Asian society doesn’t mean that everything said about it is correct, just that it is important. Be certain though that modern expertise theory and ancient Asian expertise theory pretty much say the same thing.
Lets look at a few important features:
1: Expertise in one area makes it easier to become an expert in other areas. The expert mind is structured differently than the non-expert mind. Once those structures are developed for one thing, they can be more easily built for another thing. The brain has learned how to make those structures and so does it more easily.
2: Most of the personal behaviors that let a person put out a dedicated effort to become an expert can be reused to make yourself an expert in another area.
Let’s take a little closer look. If you want to become an expert in kung fu, you’ll need to go through some emotional highs and lows getting yourself to stay consistent in training and focusing and refocusing on the goal of expertise. You will lose your goal focus. You will want to do other things. You will lose the emotion that compels you to do the kung fu. The behavioral struggle that you need to go through to become kung fu expert is pretty much the same as the struggle you have to go through to become an entrepreneur or an academic success.
Of course, it’s not exactly the same, but having been an expert in one thing, it is much easier to realize that you are in the expertise pathway and experiencing a standard difficulty.
3: It takes about ten years of continuous, focused effort toward expertise to achieve expertise.
This is the classic kung fu, qi gong number, and is also the number that has been settled upon by expertise theory. I can tell you from personal experience that the first ten years of training are difficult, after that it suddenly becomes easy. Of course, this is ten years of active commitment to a skill set and the pursuit of expertise.
4: The pursuit of expertise is the active desire to increase one’s practical skill and knowledge. We all know people that have done a thing for a long period of time and gotten nowhere with it. That’s because simply doing something doesn’t move you to the level of an expert. It can make you proficient, but not an expert. To become an expert, you must seek to deepen your knowledge and explore the boundaries of your knowledge.
These are some fascinating elements of becoming an expert, aren’t they?
3 Big Stoppers That Will Short Circuit You!
Let’s apply a little of this to martial arts and qi gong training. I can tell you from my perspective that ‘Ive never seen anyone fail at training because of a lack of ability. What will stop a person at the very beginning is the wrong set of thoughts in his or her head. Those thoughts are typically negative and close the door to performance.
As a person trains, the second big stopper is the inability to ride highs and lows. There is nothing that a human does that will not go through highs and lows. That’s part of being organic and following organic cycles. The problem that is absolutely typical of someone who has not gotten to the expert level in something is that when a low occurs, he assumes that it’s the end of the world. Ohh, I’m not interested. Ohh, I’m blah, blah, blah.
No, the person is doing what humans do. A person that can ride highs and lows and not crap himself over it will become a success. Certainly that person will be successful in martial arts and qi gong.
The last big stopper for a person is the failure to properly value martial arts or qi gong training. Almost without exception, this comes back to bite the person. I have heard probably every single month of the last 30 years of my training, someone express regret to me about not continuing training, not starting training or not finishing training. That’s a lot of people.
Let’s get this straight, when you are becoming an expert in martial arts or qi gong, you are becoming an expert in yourself. There is nothing else to it. Nearly every other expertise you pursue will be for outside purposes, not for you and for what you are. When you underestimate the importance of kung fu and qi gong, you are underestimating yourself.
That should create a state of regret.
Improper teaching can lead to the state of regret very easily.
11 years ago I was speaking to another instructor. A student of his had been having difficulty learning a kick. The kick wasn’t that difficult, but the student came to me to learn that specific thing because of my reputation. I taught the student because he was on the verge of quitting and he had contracted me to teach him. After 4 lessons he had learned it easily and also improved all his other techniques.
The other instructor wanted to know how. Since his question was earnest, I told him. You taught the technique. I taught the person. You see, before the student went to do the kick, he would go over all the things that could go wrong in his head. That is a behavior of failure, and it needed to be eliminated. I did that.