Each Thursday night we would hold stances, the foundation of lower body strength and footwork in Kung Fu. With military elocution Sifu Mohr would bark out each stance, hold to the right, then hold to the left and then rotate from side to side on his count. Once we had class outside, and as we held the stances, thighs parallel to the ground, a minute per side the heat and sweat rose from us like steam into evening’s air.
Some classes he would call out hundreds of side to side rotations. Staying low, tennis shoes squawking in the pools of sweat collecting beneath us, we would rotate in place again and again until the world was merely the fire, the agony in our legs and Sifu Mohr’s voice. More than once I was among those whose legs collapsed, or cramped forcing us to stand, stretch and then drop back into the stances.
Once after a grueling session as we shared hot tea Sifu mentioned perseverance. Improvement is not incremental and steady. Plateaus are part of the learning process. We plateau when we have not fully assimilated the techniques necessary for the next level which might be footwork, or strength, or mental understanding. So we practice over and over feeling like a failure. In fact most people quit when they hit a plateau, and it is often just before a breakthrough to the next level would occur. That practice is not wasted, it is part of the assimilation of new abilities. The thought proceeds the action, but after a thousand repetitions the thought becomes the action.
May you always persevere, a thousand times if need be.