The Reason Chinese Wushu Athletes Are So Good (12/18) – Part 2/3
But it isn’t just that coaches in China tend to have those resources, but it is also the resources available to the athlete. No, not the latest Nike
Shaolinquan shoes, or the coolest looking silks, but I’m speaking more about resources through which they can develop an understanding of high level skill.
She Be ModellingMany experts talk about the importance of modeling one’s self after those who are already in the place you want to be. And this makes sense since your development of a skill is accelerated if you have someone to observe who is able to do what you want to do. When foreigners come to China and train next to the pro’s, their understanding of technique improves because they are able to see the correct way to do it, but more importantly they are able to take that observation and immediately work on modeling it themselves.
I remember that it wasn’t until my trip to China in 1999 that I felt I really was beginning to understand the
feeling of wushu. That it was more than the sum of the parts I was putting together. It is like the saying that you improve in something the most when you play against people who are much better than you. It forces your game to raise to a new level.
Now, in China these athletes are in a position where they can constantly model themselves after higher level athletes. The kids in a wushu guan are training right next to athletes who are miles and miles above their own skill level. And they are able to observe and absorb what they see the entire time they are training.
It isn’t just that they are training consistently and intensely, or that their coaches have the latest information, but they can look right across the room and model themselves after the best in the world.
So, thats it, right? You train intensely and consistently for a long period of time, and add to that a coach with resources and the opportunity to model those who are better than you, and you end up with the crazy amazing Chinese professional wushu athlete?
Well, not quite. Because this is where you start to separate the wheat from the chaff and make the distinction between those athletes who are just really good, and those who are truly great.
Between the Ears
There is a reason why athletes in China get weeded down so much over the years. From the 100 or so who might start training together as little kids maybe 40 of them will continue on for more than 5 years. And of those who are there in their tweens, maybe another 15 go on to become teens with talent. But to get to the level of a national champion or someone with world-renowned skill, you have to scale it down even farther where perhaps 1 or 2 out of 100 kids end up really achieving that level.
Cream of the Crop(And to be honest, I think I am being a little generous with those numbers.)
Why is that? Well, to be honest, certain athletes just have a little more going on between the ears.
No, I’m not talking about being “smarter” than other people or having a higher I.Q., but I’m talking about the level of mental energy and concentrated attention that the athlete spends on really understanding the intricacies of wushu technique. It isn’t so much a measure of intelligence as it is a measure of curiosity, because the athlete who is always working to understand wushu and thinks about wushu as more than just a series of movement; who puts together a story with their movements and paints a picture with their technique — then that athlete is at a different level than the one who just copies greatness.
Because it isn’t enough just to model yourself after someone who is amazingly good. In order to achieve that higher level you have to create greatness within yourself. It is the spark of creativity — of creating something unique that has never before been seen in the world — that is the mark of greatness.
And I’m not talking just about choreography. Having unique choreography without having creative intelligence in your wushu is, as Shakespeare said, like a story being
told by an idiot, full ofsound and fury,Signifying nothing. You need to make a statement with your wushu; about who you are and what you understand and what is important. It is no different than writing music, painting a picture or writing a novel. If it doesn’t come from a real place within yourself, then it is just a simulacrum; an empty shell filled with a lack of understanding and too much hot air.
So, we are almost there. But in my book there is one more ingredient that separates many great athletes from the rest of us common folk.
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