There are times when a student will come up to me after class and say, "This person showed me this technique this way. Is it right?" The first thing that I think of when I hear this is how much more effective it would have been to ask that question on the spot in front of that other student.
I know, you might feel awkward about doing so because you think your training partner might feel offended that you didn't trust his or her advice. If you ask the question and I confirm that what he showed you is right, you might feel embarrassed to have doubted him. If I disagree with him, it might cause him to feel embarrassed for showing you the wrong thing.
I recognize the awkwardness. Having said that, none of you should feel embarrassed about asking questions or offended when your partner wants to confirm something with me. Our school's website has my name on it, so it's only normal that students may want to confirm with me that what is being shown to them is correct. Whether you're doing the showing or you're the one being shown something, if you're uncertain of what you're doing for whatever reason, you should ask me on the spot. Here's why.
Every honest mistake is a learning opportunity. Use it wisely. And, be humble when you're right because there was a time in the past when you didn't know what you now know. If you are committed to lifelong learning like I am, there will be times in the future when you will be the one making the honest mistake. There is more value in learning something and applying that newfound knowledge than in being right or wrong.
Sifu Gary Ma
Anytime you perform a new technique, make sure to take your time to allow yourself to develop proper habits. Every single repetition counts. Once something becomes a habit, it is difficult to correct. Therefore, it is very important to ensure that you are developing proper habits from the start.
In order to do this, you shouldn't be concerned with speed or power. Instead, you should be focused on proper posture, alignment, relaxation, precision and coordination. The only time it is acceptable to attempt to increase speed or power is after you have performed a sufficient number of controlled repetitions and have developed proper body awareness and muscle memory. This way, the application of speed or power will not derail your movement from its most efficient and effective path. Any application of speed or power prior to having developed proper technique will increase the time it will take to develop proper technique.
To ensure that we will perform well when it counts, we must practice well and make sure each repetition counts towards that goal. Under extreme pressure, the only thing that we have to rely upon are the habits we are developing now. Let’s make sure they are good ones.
Sifu Gary Ma