Sifu of Wing Tsun Kung Fu - Student of Sifu Ralph Hänel's WingTsun-CoreConcepts

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fear of failure

Sifu Ralph Haenel of Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver held the 2010 year-end seminar at Si-Hing Philip Lee's Golden Monkey Martial Arts Studio. Sifu German of Calgary WT also attended, from one snow-laden city to another...

The seminar was entitled "Twenty-One Steps to Knock-Out Self-Defense Skills!"

Basic or advanced skills?

We learned many different exercises to aid our growth in WT. Some of you may be wondering if we learned any advanced skills? Well, to answer that question, I will borrow a quote from Sifu Ralph... "Yo!"

Although the motions of the various exercises from the seminar originated from a variety of different WT program levels, they could all still be considered "basic" exercises.

It's not whether the skills themselves are advanced or basic, but whether or not the practice of the skills is done in an "advanced" or "basic" way.

In order to practice any basic exercise in an advanced way, we must first embrace failure. Yes, failure!

Learn how to fail

Being advanced just means refinement and improvement in skills. And in order to improve, I think we need to fail, even purposely at times.

Here are three simple common pitfalls that hinder improvement and progression in our WT training:
1. Fear of failure
2. Reliance on strengths alone
3. Over-confidence and complacency

Of all of the various "aha!" moments I gained at this seminar, "fear of failure" stuck with me the most. But, as you can imagine, the above three points are inter-related and feed off of each other.

Students want to succeed. Teachers want students to succeed. We all want to succeed! Doing otherwise can be uncomfortable, embarrassing perhaps, not really a big confidence-booster.

So, what do we do to avoid this situation? One option: shy away from failure, revert back to our strengths in order to succeed, and then become over-confident and satisfied by our "extreme skills". Some of us are stronger, some may be faster. Some have great footwork, while others have a tree-trunk-like stable posture. While these skills are of course, beneficial at the beginning and helps build self-esteem (a good thing), it makes it difficult to improve if we use our strengths all of the time.

Fail in order to succeed

Another more useful option in the long run: analyze the failure in the scenario and discover what weaknesses to improve upon. In fact, try doing something wrong to check what you need to do to correct it. Failing itself is not the problem, but how we analyze and react to the failures.

It is okay to get hit in a training scenario. Better to experience this in a controlled training environment. We can't expect to succeed immediately after just learning a skill. We aren't going to perfect the skill after 1 trial, a dozen trials, a hundred trials, or perhaps not until 10,000 hours (as per Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers").

Next time you are training an exercise, try turning off one of your strengths every now and then and work on failing. Then slowly build a new-found weakness into yet another strength over time. And then cycle back again and again...

I gained a lot from this seminar, but I thought I'd share with you a small philosophical viewpoint in training WT, but yet hopefully still being a practical approach.

Happy training!

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