Many people, including myself are striving to become the best that they can be in their chosen martial art. And many more are looking for the quickest way to that mastery. I hope to provide you with some insights that will help shorten your journey from martial arts infant to martial arts master. Let's layout a couple of things first:

What is Gung Fu?

Translated it really means 'skilled' or 'hard work'. So gung fu can really mean any area of your life, whether it is martial arts, music, speaking, cleaning, or driving. Gung Fu or Kung Fu was really picked up as the term for Chinese martial arts in the West.

What is a Master?

A master of any skill is a person who has worked diligently to understand the martial art (or other skill) that they have studied. Part of that mastery is becoming aware of their own weaknesses or errors and working to correct them.

A real master also has the heart to show others what he has learned with compassion, kindness, humility and understanding.

So how do you become a 'Gung-Fu Master'? I'm glad you asked. Lets get started:

1) Work the basics: Always go back to the basics, whether that is stances, punches, kicks and stretching. We all forget that these are the foundation of more complex moves. Master the basics and the harder moves become much easier to learn.

2) Practice outside of class: Interestingly enough most people don't train outside of martial arts class times, but still expect to learn something new every class. They sometimes wonder why they aren't advancing fast enough. In many cases, your Sifu (Teacher) is eager to show you new techniques but knows you need to master the basics before you can learn more.

3) Use your martial arts class for instruction: Most people use their martial arts classes for practicing not for learning and correction. For those of you that are learning musical instruments, you know that you practice every day working on what was last taught. So that the next time you see your teacher, you show what you have learned and are then corrected, able to advance futher. The same principle should be applied in the martial arts..

4) Stay humble: How does this apply to martial arts? If you don't know or understand-ASK. Ask your Sifu, or senior student to repeat the technique or explain it again. You won't look silly. A good Sifu is always willing to show you again. Just know what the rules are for asking. Some instructors prefer to teach the technique to everyone uninterrupted, so you can ask when your instructor is finished.

5) Take Notes: It's amazing how many people don't take notes. And I'm not just talking about martial arts. Most instructors don't mind if their students take notes during class as long as it doesn't disrupt everyone else. These notes can be sketches, 'Do's and Don'ts', questions to yourself, personal insights, things to consider, or 'where could I use this technique' tips. I've been amazed how many people have said to me over the years, 'Hey, can I borrow your notes?'

6) Be a Little Vain (use a mirror): No, I don't mean standing in front of a mirror to admire yourself in your martial arts uniform. Do your forms and techniques in front of a mirror. See what your form and technique look like from the front and from the side. If you can be honest with yourself, you'll be able to advance quickly. By the way, this one goes hand in hand with step number two!

7) Be the Snail (Go Slow): Most of us want to go full speed and full power when we learn a technique or form. It might look cool, but you're really not mastering it that way. Do the forms or techniques S-L-O-W-L-Y. Make check points after each step of the form or technique. Look to see that you're right where you should be. Always check that free hand and your stance.

They say that it takes over 25 times before you can learn a technique. Either you can learn it quickly and spend the rest of your life trying to work out kinks that you put into it. Or you can do it slowly and deliberately-and then spend time making it faster, more powerful, more efficient, and more graceful.

8) Grab a buddy or buddies: Find a training buddy or group who are like-minded and want to perfect their gung fu. Spend time out of class training (see step #2). Be honest with each other when you observe each other's forms or techniques. If you're the one performing, act as if you're being graded. Get together and work out last week's techniques, explore new techniques, make up your own drills/games. Don't forget to have fun. Funny enough, you'll be using steps 1, 2, 4,5, 6 (sort of), and 7 when you use this step.

9) Make Reading a Priority: Go to your local library or bookstore and pick up books on the art you're studying. Also look up books on leadership, motivational, fitness, and anything else you're interested in. Did you know that the Japanese Samurai were not only expert warriors but were well rounded individuals educated in such things as etiquette, poetry, reading and writing, calligraphy, leadership, philosophy, medicine and commerce? Anyone can learn to fight, but it takes real skill to learn how to heal or lead or interact with others. Remember that you might only use your martial arts maybe five times in a real confrontation, but you can use all these other skills your entire life.

10) Accept that you'll be learning all your life: A true master is aware that they know only a fraction of what there is to learn. They are continually learning more, researching, and expanding their knowledge. If you can master this point, it's amazing how much you'll advance.

Author's Bio: 

Chuck O'Neill is a Certified Personal Trainer, and has been practicing martial arts for over 14 years. He has had formal martial arts training in Judo, Tae Kwon Do, and Kosho Ryu Kenpo Karate. He also has had training in elements of Western Boxing, grappling, Tai Chi, and Wushu. He is currently an Assistant Instructor in Wing Chun and has been taught directly by Sifu Nelson Chan in the art of Wing Chun for the last 5 years.