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This is a question is the mind of a lot of beginners. Before discussing the issue, let us look at the question itself.
In Chinese language “shortcut for achievement” is in 2 words (characters). One is “shortcut”; the other is “achievement”. Let us look at these 2 aspects.

“Shortcut” simply means a way of shortening the training period. “Achievement” means reaching certain level in Kung Fu. If “achievement” is defined, then the time period required in training could be estimated.
What exactly is meant by “achievement” in Kung Fu? Can a level in swiftness be “achievement”? No, it is because some people were swift without any training. In that case, how do we differentiate “achievement” in Kung Fu? Actually, swiftness is only one of the effects in Kung Fu training. It is rather common that if one’s body is very flexible, he or she would be considered as achieving high level in Kung Fu. This is of course wrong. It is assuming “partial” as “total”.

So what is the standard for measuring “achievement” in Kung Fu? For the established common standard, we have to talk about the “soft” and “hard” in martial art. When we discuss “soft” and “hard”, we have to ascertain the “3 levels” concept. For “high level”, “hard” is achieved through cumulating of “soft”, neither “soft” nor “hard”, both “soft” and “hard”, interchanging between “soft” and “hard”. The opponent was injured without any a clue. For “intermediate level”, one basically followed one’s master but with some deviation. One is strong, “hard” is more than “soft”, unskilful in interchanging between “soft” and “hard”. With proper guidance and training, one might be able to achieve “high level”. However, there would be no improvement if one concentrates in physical power without proper guidance. For “low level”, one only uses physical strength without any proper method. There are no set movements, no synchronizein movement and breathing and no knowledge in “soft” and “hard”. Claiming to be an expert but all he has is his courage and physical strength. This is “low level”.

Martial art is not merely a matter of “soft” and “hard”. It includes, amongst others, experience in free flight, combining oneself with heaven, combination of chiand power, and observation power etc. For “high level”, the internal power is strong but not noticeable, movements are swift, capabilities exceed predetermined guidance, and movements are no longer limited to movements trained, any move is a reflex driven by internal power. Skill and expertise have been developed with the development of the heaven and Earth. Only experts would be able to notice those who had such achievements. < There are not so many who can achieve this level. > For “intermediate level”, those who spent long enough in training would be swift be smooth. While they have developed good skills in martial art, they are still bound by the method/guidance provided by their master. In combat, they might be able to manage, as they are fluent in the learnt movements. Due to various limitations, they have not reached the “high level”. < With suitable guidance and hard training, they would be able to reach “high level”. > For “low level”, they trained in physical strength, lack of experience in combat, know bits and pieces in method, and do not understand the relationship between breathing and power.

Therefore, we can classify achievements. For “low achievement”, it is the basic achievement and fundamental. They would need guidance from master before they can make use of the learnt skill. They must be able to manage the basic concept and compatibilities in body movements. Due to insufficient experience, not fluent skill and not entire understanding of concept, it would take 3 years for achievement.

Let us take a look at the question of shortcut. Kung Fu cannot be achieved in several months. Normally, it would take 3 years for achieving “low level”. In other words, martial art itself requires 3 years hard work. A Chinese idiom is “3 years martial art training is like wrestling in those days, one should not leave without 10 years in Tai Chi”. This is the summary of experience from previous experts. Why is that? Let us try to analyse. When we learn a specific move, it has to be practice over and over again. For the most basic moves, the practice is for the lifetime. With any style of martial art, there must be 5 or 6 basic moves. To be familiar and fluent with the moves, each one would take at least several months. Just to learn the moves would take more than a year. These basic moves are the fundamental and there is no shortcut or easy way. It has to be learnt step by step. For example, when we learn “Ba Gua Zhang”, the basic move is to walk in trigram circle. Just this takes 3 years. Several hundreds of circles were walked in each day. Only then, one would realize the essence and the wisdom. One would be able to manage and synchronize one’s hands, eyes, body, step, goodies, chi, shen and power. Teaching is always move after move. The master would only teach another move when one move has be practice long enough. Normally, the master would not teach more than one move at a time to avoid possible confusion. Complicated concept have to be abided all the time such as “balance between Yin and Yang”, “compatibility of inner and outer body”, “synchronizehand, eye, body and step”, “upper part synchronize with lower part”, ……, etc. During practice, one should also pay attention to breathing, mind control, internal power, …., etc. Not only all these are complicate, they are neither easily understandable nor easy to visualize. They have to be felt by the learner. It might appear to be easy to watch but not so to learn.

It is not an easy task as there are so many details one has to master and understand. Without proper supervision from a good master, bad practice would creep in. This is why the practice could not be speeded up. Without good basic fundamental skills, one would have difficulties in advancing. One may even feel that one is getting worse let alone improvement. This is like row against a current. If the input effort were not sufficient, one would be drawn back. Therefore, achievement in Kung Fu would not made in a year. After all, there is no end and no boundary in Kung Fu.

Kung Fu would improve our physical strength; our health; self-defence and it can also train our mind and character. In order to really get into Kung Fu, one must respect one’s master. One must be whole-heartedly devoted to training and practice, day after day, year after year. In the daily life, one should pay attention to one’s behaviour. Kung Fu should be improved together with one’s conduct.
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