My first steps into understanding what it means to be a master has lead me to a series of new developments. My training has undergone dramatic changes so that I may improve more efficiently. I hope that by sharing my recent evaluations that you too may be able to find a better route in your own training.
The first step of course is knowing the basics of your art thoroughly and where they are leading to. Bagua has a vast amount of basics that must be understood before reaching the next level of training: footwork, coiling, fajin, trapping, locks, weapons, reversals, trips, qi training, weapons, and so on. The amount of information just pertaining to the basics, is enough to train everyday of your life for 30 years and never repeat a single movement.
However training everything in the style at all times would undoubtedly make you ineffective at everything. It is the equivalent of going to a university and trying to major in all of the subjects. Even though you would have invested a thorough amount of time, you would have been training just for the sake of training and never finding your true mission in the art.
As I have mentioned before a master is specialized in his field of expertise giving him the full advantage when he is placed in a combat situation. Guan Fu mastered the Guan Dao and killed thousands of soldiers of many styles by only wielding his one weapon. He didn't waste his time on those things that might have been interesting but in the end would have diluted his commitment to his mastered weapon.
Of course there are many masters that are not specialized in combat: knowledge, Qi, healing, teaching, research etc. The main point being that the critical criteria of finding what kind of master you are already lies within yourself. In can be broken into three parts: determination, natural talent and interest.
What we are naturally talented at is much like the clay that we use to mold ourselves. You may feel that you are not talented but I can promise you that this is not true. Myself I have learned everything slowly and used to be frustrated by the fact my brothers learned much faster than myself. Even to this day I learn things from my master that take me much longer to digest than the rest of the class. It took me a long time to realize that by learning things slower I am better able to teach students in the future how to avoid mistakes. Those who learn quickly can easily miss the point of a movement which actually serves as a disadvantage. In a sense, my talent is that I learn slowly. Talent is not always obvious.
The next part is determination. The things that we have made up our mind to be good at will be our most powerful attribute. In many cases this power comes from those telling us what is not possible or can not be done. Much like a bow and arrow, the farther you are pulled back, the farther you can soar.....if you don't lose your aim. When we train and develop we must always have our goal in mind. It is the glue of the fabric that we are made of.
Finally we must be interested in where we are going. We can not do the same thing over and over without a sense of joy behind it. It's understandable that practicing thousands of techniques can be boring and painstaking after a while. This can eventually kill our determination and drive. It is important to constantly change the way you practice your thousands of techniques. Change the environment, speed, setting or whatever is necessary to keep you driven. I will practice a set of techniques for a couple of weeks and then practice the same techniques with an added adjustment. This week I have been practicing all of my techniques while using steel chopsticks in my hands. This will give me more accuracy and help me to focus more on my hand precision when attacking.
Through understanding ourselves more we can dive deeper into our art and lifestyle. Do not train with out passion or purpose or your final product will be empty. Even while doing the necessary things that we do not like, we must relish in the truth that we are strengthening. For those of you that are curious, I am a master of training. Keep the faith, you are a hero.