Friday, April 29, 2011

Basic practices to REAL gongfu improvement

Understanding the principles and philosophy underlying your practice(s) can be the most impactful and meaningful activity when embodied within your daily life, one’s gongfu, and also with the practices of Wujifa. Having a process for simply noticing real opportunities for improvement that are both congruent with your personal and global goals is key. Then the real question must be “What are some of these opportunities, processes, practices, and principles we can use for improvement?”

In the early 1990’s I met and had a chance to study with W. Edwards Deming. I had read and studied his books and now I was lucky enough to be able to spend a few days with him at one of his 4 day seminars.  Being a student of quality improvement I considered it an honor to have had a chance to study with this “Master.” So, of course I highly recommend anyone studying gongfu of any type and all practitioners of Wujifa to take the time to read and study any of W. Edwards Deming’s books.

PDCA cycle

PDCA cycle of W Edwards Deming seems simple enough. The basic concept is to "PLAN / DO / CHECK / ACT" and then simply repeating this cycle over and over, discovering more opportunities for improvement. In the practice of Wujifa we say “The method is not the truth…” and “You are where you are and that’s where you start.” Practicing blindly (except for some specific training purposes) violates the concept of knowing where you are, that is where you are starting out at. The next step would is to know why you're doing something. Knowing the reason for training or the purpose for training is an example of understanding the basics. These basics are whats needed for making good plans.

Making a "Plan"

When making a plan one important step is purpose as we said before. Also, as you learn and grow so will your purpose develop with time and the functional experiences gathered over that time. But the question begs to be asked, what might be a good purpose for developing a plan? In the beginning one very good purpose would be to "discover opportunities for improvement." Another could be defining a set of functional “basic” exercises with a simple targetable result like the Wujifa practice of “Side to Side” and learning how the kua or inguinal crease area moves.  Another purpose might be to "verifying or discovering problem areas or opportunities for correction."

One thing for sure “keep it simple.” Over the years I have notice that people will try and tackle a number of issues at once or at the same time which become almost impossible to functionally track and realistically trace your results as you practice. Take the time to understand, ask questions, and analysis what the first basic result or purpose for a practice is before you start. An example might be the Wujifa “Side to side” practice as mentioned before and the goal or purpose being simply to understanding how the kua opens and closes or even more simply said “moves.” 

What to “DO”?

So you have your purpose in mind. Now the question of what to “do” arises. The first step maybe getting you in alignment with the basics form and function of "the plan" one has set out on. Knowing and following the parameters of the basic plan and goals. Using the methods set forth in a plan or practice. In the example of Wujifa “Side to side” this could be knowing where the feet should be, how a relaxed lower back, and the femur heads operate together, and personal limitations and functional movements in the process of this or any practice.

Time to “Check” the results!

Once you have a basic understanding of what you are doing and have done it’s time to check your work. Taking an assessment of what you have done compared to the results you had in mind. This could be another example of what they call learning to eat bitter.

Taking an honest look and compare your results to the results you set out for in your plan. Did you follow the parameters set forth in the plan? If not, did you understand what those parameters are? If you did understand the parameters, did you identify possible trouble areas or areas that fell outside the limitations of the practice? Is there something you may have overlooked and have become aware of now that you “Checked” the results of the plan and what you are doing? This concept of “Checking” has a lot to do with awareness and the development of awareness as one learns to follow the process actively.

What to “ACT” on?

Now you have checked your results and have gained clearer insights to trouble areas, opportunities of improvement captured and noted, and insights gained, now it’s time to "act" upon them. Based on the insights gained you can use these to insights to set up “Best Practices” or standards to shoot for at the current level of understanding.

Take the time and note what these opportunities and best practices are and your insights. In Wujifa I suggest keeping a note book of one’s practice and writing down notes on the opportunities discovered so they can be captured and used for future plans and practice.

Rinse, Wash, Repeat

The PDCA cycle of W Edwards Deming is a repeating cycle.  The foundation of any REAL gongfu practice is this PDCA cycle. I would suggest reading more at Wikipedia on the PDCA cycle. When you build your practice on solid ground and functional principles and practices you have a much better chance of getting the results you’re looking for.


  1. Interesting, never heard of this guy, but sounds like a good method for learning. I notice, in my practice, that working with something simple for prolonged periods of time and dedication, such as the shoulders, has gotten me the best results also. Some of my my most memorable learning experiences have been from delving into something simple with an almost obsessive, yet playful inquiry.

  2. Cool, Trevor and Wujifa! Trevor, I especially like what you said about the obsessive, yet playful inquiry. Important to keep things light so we don't get bogged down, but also to be serious.