Pai Mei and the Perfect Practice

Have you ever needed to practicing anything in your life? You have!? Then read on!

You’re not alone! Most of us have had to practice something physical in our lives, whether learning a new sport, a musical instrument, or the 5-point palm exploding heart technique. Sure, there are hundreds of “books” out there on the subject but are you really going to go to Chapters, Amazon, or the library to pick one up? Didn’t think so. So save yourself the time, gas, and late fees and read on for my “Busy Persons Guide to Practicing Anything, … But Mostly Music.”

1. Where Are You Going With This?: It always helps to know your destination before setting off on your “journey” so create goals for yourself and write them down. How to create goals? Try thinking “What is the best possible way I can envision myself doing this thing I’m practicing? And don’t start off with reason because your reasoning might just hamstring your potential. Just for the hell of it, start off by creating an unreasonably positive and enjoyable scenario. Then tailor it with a little reality to fit your needs/time. Maybe you don’t wish to pursue being a world class guitarist but you can visualize yourself being able to play 10 songs effortlessly and with great joy. This will shape your practice routine and clarify what your priorities are along the way.

2. It’s “Hot-tub Time!”: Substitute hot-tub with whatever works for you, we’re talking about high relaxation levels here folks. I’m no biologist but I know that muscle memory seems to really kick in when the body is relaxed. So, whenever I practice I like to remind myself of that. “How relaxed can I be while playing this? Am I at “hot-tub” relaxed yet? No? Let’s try again!”

3. Slow, Slow, Slow, Slow, Slow, … Fast!: This was how my old clarinet teacher Richard Hawkins explained his approach. He would learn music much faster than his peers just by taking more time in the beginning to practice challenging passages slower before eventually speeding them up. This also goes hand in hand with practice point #2, it’s easier to stay relaxed when you’re practicing at a slow, comfortable speed.

4. Weekly Goals: In practice point #1 I mentioned the importance of goal setting on a grander scale but it also helps a great deal to have weekly goals to work towards. The best way? Take weekly lessons. If not lessons then just something that involves another person, perhaps this means jamming with a fellow beginner friend or having a workout buddy. Whatever, as long as it involves more than just you and your resolve.

5. More Often vs. More Time: This applies to practicing anything, physical or not. It’s a simple rule that gets results: Practice every day for a little bit and you’ll see greater improvements than if you practice hard for a long time once a week.

6. “What would Pai Mei do?”: Well, he’d probably beat you senseless until you showed him some Kung-fu master respect. But in the end, unless you’re living with a wickedly relentless task master with wispy grey eyebrows, the only person who’s going to keep you on track and working towards your desired vision is you. So try different approaches as often as you need to, eventually you’ll find the best approach for you!

Now, … go practice something! See you next week.

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