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Imagine that you don't know how to drive a car... You have an idea of what is involved. But you have no experience, no skill and no licence.
If you got into a car and tried to drive you would make a mess of things.
Books & DVDs
Could you conceivably learn how to drive by watching a DVD or reading a driving manual? No. You need lessons and you need hands-on practice.
To drive safely and correctly within the legal guidelines, you need to have lessons. These will probably be weekly and could take many months. The lessons culminate in a theory test and a practical test.
If you pass, you will become a novice driver, not a skilled driver.
Consider this: you cannot be taught everything all at once. Tuition must be incremental. Just like in school.
Before the car can be safely driven, the learner must familiarise themselves with the vehicle:
Cockpit drill: what the controls are, where they are located, seat adjustment, the mirrors, the steering
Familiarity with the pedals
Clutch biting point
Use of mirrors
Are the lights functioning?
A learner makes a colossal amount of mistakes. They remember one concern and forget another. Driving is akin to juggling: trying to keep several balls in the air at once.
A high degree of concentration and awareness is needed.
The first step in learning from your mistakes is to accept the mistake without being defensive. The second step is to consider what went wrong and why.
The third step is to try again; this time with a modified approach.
Eventually the learner gains an increasing number of driving habits. The unfamiliar becomes familiar and they gain confidence. Practice is relentless.
Heavy repetition of basic elements
Levels of proficiency
To gain greater skill, a learner driver must combine different skills. By combining different facets of knowledge, the student gains a far more comprehensive picture of what is taking place.
They can then perform more complex skills, and re-evaluate/revise/refine existing competences.
When the learner passes their test, they are legally entitled to drive a car. But they are far from skilled. With virtually no experience, the learner is barely able to drive competently.
If the DVLA instituted an annual re-testing of all drivers, how many people would re-pass their test to the legal standard?
Many people lapse into bad habits of speeding, distraction, not indicating, poor lane discipline, wrong use of gears, aggression, driving too close to other drivers...
Some drivers avoid using their weaker skills such as reverse parking.
Learning any real skill
Learning any skill in life is akin to learning how to drive. There are no shortcuts. You cannot just sit down at a piano and play.
You cannot travel to Spain and speak fluent Spanish without learning the language beforehand.
You cannot watch taijiquan form (or applications) on YouTube and expect to be doing the same in the first months of class.
When starting taijiquan classes, treat it like driving lessons. You will only get out of the class what you put into it.
If you just attend once a week and neglect to practice between classes, then progress will be slow. If you have conviction, then your progress will be steady.
If you are competent with taijiquan, you should be quite comfortable having an instructor test your taijiquan skill any day of the week, at any time. This is quite reasonable.
Your skills should be active and present at all times. Otherwise, you are not really capable of using the art in combat.
18 March 1997
Last updated 29 April 2021