Up and down, Up and down, Up and down, every time a bit more nimble, a bit faster and a bit more confident. Today I'm looking after my 18 month year old daughter, Maude and watching her trying to master the art of step climbing, my mind naturally turns to Tai Chi.
Young children don't mind repetition but adults often find repeating the same movements over and over, tedious and frustrating.
Last summer I remember sitting in the park watching a guy twirling some kind of circus pole. He kept up the same pattern for over an hour which really impressed me. I remember wondering how good my Tai Chi would be if I practiced silk reeling as relentlessly as that! The difference though is that an hour of non stop silk reeling would probably render me unable to walk.
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote that 10,000 hours of 'deliberate practice' is what's needed to become a master in your chosen field. I'm not sure how scientific this claim is but in relation to Tai Chi it's a good number to aim for. I wouldn't say that after that amount of time you'll be a Tai Chi master (For that you probably need another 10,000 hours) but you might develop a very good level of skill.
It's interesting to note that a common Tai Chi saying is 'practice 10,000 times and skill will naturally emerge'. Obviously there is such a thing as natural talent but I think Malcolm Gladwell's point was that greatness is a combination of talent and an enourmous amount of practice.
So after watching Maude's relentless efforts I am doubling mine. Frustration and tedium be damned! As soon as she goes for a nap I'm practicing the form another 10 times ( well, at least 5 ).