Friday, April 15, 2011

How do you know when you’re making progress?

How do you know when you’re making progress in your martial art or internal practices? This one basic question 'How do you know?' may be the most important question you can ask yourself. This one very question is well worth the time invested for understanding what you are doing and why. Remember the lessons from the story of Alice in wonderland and the rabbit hole when you start off on this adventure.

So many people, over the years have answered the following question about making progress, how they know if they are making progress, with one simple word, “results.” They seem so confident about that and yet this idea of results can also be so very ambiguous, that is, unless they’ve taken the time to really define what that word “results” means to them.
How long do you practice?

So often people get so tied up in the amount of time they invest in something and the amount of effort that they put into something that they start to distort, generalize, or even block out whole aspects of this principle to the point where they have no real idea of what they are doing and why.

The second thing I’ve noticed is that many times the 'results' people have in mind change. The real question is “What happened to the results they started out looking for?” Many times it’s “as if” new ideas have been “magically” placed there by some external influences which creeps into their heads unknowingly.

I’ll bet you have met a sales person or two in your life who you’ve seen doing this kind of thing. The kind of thing I’m talking about, playing off of your emotions of ego, power, guilt, shame, wanting, or neediness that hook you into buying into their paradigm or product. Getting others input can be a good thing. What I’m saying is “Do you know what you want or where you are going?”

What do you want?

What do you want? There is a good question for you. What is your basic intention? How well have you defined this in terms of what you are really willing to put into getting the results and the bigger question what results do you expect in return for your effort?

In Wujifa we often say “Making tea is the highest form of practice” in the practice of Wujifa. The reason we say this is that knowing how to express yourself, influence others and get your point across in a social situation is key. It’s like a very high level of martial art expression. The simple idea of “influence” while connecting with others while drinking tea explores the many subtle levels of the understandings that take place with others and yourself and the possible intended results that may arise.

You are where you are…

Another Wujifa saying we often come back to is a guiding compass in understanding that “You are where you are and that’s where you start.” Knowing and gaining a good understanding of where you are is a great starting point. There is another saying I personally enjoy, “If you know where you’re going you know what to wear.” This addresses action steps to take. Knowing where you are and which actions to take are all about the result you have in mind.

How will you know and how do you know if you’re making progress is a very functional and personal process that involves understanding what one’s intentions are. Simply said, getting clear on your intentions takes time. This is why we suggest that people practice following through on their intention and practice. This starts by noticing what lessons show up while progressing towards your goals.

A functional example

Let’s say a beginner who just starts out practicing our Wujifa Zhan Zhuang practices for example. Let’s say you ask them the following question “How long do you stand?” Their answer is often that they really don’t know. Different times on different days, maybe 5 to 20 minutes they reply. They will tell you it depends and their answers get more and more fuzzy.

Here is a great piece of advice, keep a diary (which I suggest for people starting out) of your stance or daily practice(s). One may reply that they don't really need to keep a diary. Then the real question begs to be asked “How do you know?”

Here is a really cool trick. When you set up an amount of time to stand for example and a time of day to practice, we can call this an intention. Following though on an intention to completion is a result. When you doing this it will become a habit and even more than a habit it also develops the neurons in the brain. If you don’t follow through, then this also develops neurons and patterns, patterns that I bet also show up in other areas of life.

What do you want?

What do you want? How will you know when you are making progress? Take the time to explore these questions. Try keeping a diary of what you do and what you notice along the way. Write down what you are working on and your goals. Track yourself and see if you are doing what you plan on doing. I’m not suggesting doing this with everything you are doing in life. Just pick something simple like your intention to practice your zhan zhuang.

Simply doing a little noticing with a small chunk of your life will have powerful effects. And remember “you are where you are and that’s where you start.”


  1. Hey, cool stuff.

    I like the focus on clear intention. Most people are not likely to understand how deep that rabbit hole goes. But that's absolutely one of my favorite principles within Wujifa.

    Much Love,

  2. These questions always stops me dead in my tracks. Thanks for laying this out so clearly!

  3. Beautiful...Thanks Rick!