“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”— Epictetus
One of the plagues that ails our movement culture today can be summed up in a few words:
“oh, I know.”
“I already learned how to do that”
Every instructor has probably had these phrases, or something similar, thrown at them at least once by one of their students. Sometimes you might hear yourself saying it as you brushed off critique from a friend. We are so eager to be constantly learning something new that we become dismissive of revisiting lessons we’ve already heard.
We have entered an age where we are confusing familiarity with a technique or movement with true knowledge and mastery. And, every time we become dismissive of critique, every time we say ‘I know’, we are defeating ourselves and limiting our potential. With every ‘I know’, we declare ourselves superior to practice, we prevent the opportunity for growth, and we project ourselves as not only difficult to talk to, but difficult to train with as well.
I mean, I’ll admit it. Learning new skills and techniques is very exciting. It expands your language, reveals new challenges, and, without doubt, can assist in helping overcome tougher training and motivation plateaus. However, if you think you are only progressing if you are learning something new, then you will never be master of your movement, nor, most likely, are you training in a way that leads to longevity.
Movement is not a thing to be mastered in one day, one week, one year of practice. To truly understand a movement, and to master a techniques, one is required to consistently revisit old lessons and to find new challenges within an already established vocabulary.
The other day I was teaching a few students how to jump. Right away, the students declared that they wanted to do something different because they ‘learned how to jump last week.’ So I walked over to the rail and I asked, can you jump to this? No reply. Can you jump over this wall, and land quietly? Can you jump down on to that ledge… and then up on to that box? Can you jump and land while ducking? Can you jump with one leg? Accurately? Five times in a row?
Needless to say, there were no further complaints.
Often, people will say they know how to do something long before they do. The mind often understands long before the body. It is important to constantly remind yourself, as you train and teach others, that it is not the mind that needs to learn, but the body–and the body only learns through frequent repetition and exploration.