Showing posts from September, 2014

Top Practicing Techniques of Great Musicians (and Great Martial Artists)

I dislike the concept of listiclesas readers may know, but I ran across a nice blog post called 8 Things Top Practicers Do Differently. It's a brief summary of some research done in 2009. The principles translate (as they so often do) to martial arts practice as well.
You can read the post, ("No! I'm too busy! Just tell me what it says!"), but here's my takeaway ("Thanks!").
A group of piano students were set a brief excerpt of music, given the same amount of time to practice it and had to come back the next day to play it. Their performances were evaluated for correctness (right notes, right rhythm) and quality (tone, character, expressiveness).
Practice Strategies of the Winners Since most people can only remember three things, here is a distillation of a distillation of the winning strategies: Whenever you practice, practice with focus and attentiveness. As we say in Kokikai Aikido, with "mind and body coordinated." If you are not focused…

Having to Practice vs. Wanting to Practice

Practice, almost by definition, is something that you have to do regularly.

Most of my music teachers (ALL of my music teachers) have told me I need to practice regularly, usually way more than I do. Or they have told me that "professional musicians" practice X hours a day, with the implication that if I ever want to be as good as I aspire to be...well.

Thats why I was surprised to hear Frankie Gavin, legendary fiddler and founding member of the group De Danann, saying this in a master class:
"Practice for as long as you feel like practicing. If you're really enjoying yourself, time will fly...Practice when you want to. If you feel like you have to practice, it's an awkward one... Decide to practice, yourself...You have to think, 'I know what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna take out the fiddle and play a tune!'"   I like that thought!

Yeah, But

As an aikido teacher, there's nothing worse than hearing a student say, "Yeah, but..." or obviously dismiss the idea I'm trying to convey.  Sometimes they say something, sometime they just look at me funny. When they do say something, it's usually something like this:

I don't really think that will work. I've done it differently with another instructor. I'm not able to do that. I already know that. Now, it makes sense that the best way to learn new things is to be open to new ideas. So why are we often so resistant when someone makes the effort to help us? It's especially illogical when we actually came to a class to be taught, to then resist the teaching! 
I am not immune to this reaction, myself. Both in piano lessons and in aikido seminars I often catch myself on the point of saying (or thinking), "Yeah, but..." Where does it come from? Do I need the teacher to acknowledge that I "know something"? Is it hard to accept critic…

Don't Strive to Be the Best

Everyone wants to feel like they are truly unique, different, better, the best, even though, statistically, with more than 314 million people in the U.S. and 7 billion in the world, well, there's just no way.*

In my case, I want to be the best musician, the best at aikido, the best mom, the best driver, the best at everything. Maybe not literally, but somehow deep down I am always comparing. If someone else is better, at some level that means I'm just not good enough. And out of 314 million people, there's always someone who's better. Sometimes this means I'm never satisfied and always pushing to be better. Other times it's depressing and makes me want to give up. And from what I've seen, I have a lot of company in looking at things this way.

It doesn't help that there's a strong message in our culture that competition is good. Competition supposedly drives us to work harder, be more productive, invent more and accomplish more.

But on some level th…