OBSERVATION AND CLARITY IN TRAINING
PAUL M. BAKER
After training in any rich activity one begins to acquire an appreciation for details. This observational growth will sometimes inundate a beginner with information. This means that initially one’s ability to observe is overwhelmed, but after repetition familiarity sets in and the beginner is able to perceive with more detail. Thus the beginner is working on their observation abilities along side of any physical ability. It is this observation improvement that often results in a sense of getting worse, when in fact they are just uncovering for the first time movement that has gone previously unnoticed. As your ability to notice details improves so does your precision in measuring right from wrong. This presumes that your training form has well defined criteria for correctness.
I must digress here because some practitioners often trivialize having "a well defined criteria for correctness". From my experience the ingredient for success in our art is cultivating an attention to detail and drilling it into physical form. A basic form determines the correctness of ones physical movement. Every lineage offers a basic form that is complete and self-consistent. Submitting to the form of the lineage is the key that unlocks the secrets of that lineage’s kata’s. This can never be done if the form of each lineage is not made distinct and then learned.
If an instructor is vague and glosses over a form take note. Nothing can be gained by a slack-"feeling" approach to form. One method to determine if your instruction is vague is to ask your instructor if you are doing a movement correctly. Bearing in mind the specificity of the answer should be tailored to the question. Example: "Am I doing this right?" is extremely general, but if you ask "Is the timing of this technique appropriate?", an instructor can answer your question poignantly. This is important in every practitioner’s development. Asking clear questions often demonstrates a well-developed grasp of the situation.
To summarize, clarity comes from distinction. Have well defined reference points in your training and develop the ability to distinguish them from the less correct positions. Furthermore, make distinct focused objectives each time you train. Finally when you begin to observe how much work is needed because you finally developed a standard in your training take heart. You have gone farther than most.