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Learning the Unlearn (a student's perspective)

(This post written by Agata)

I could say that I started practising Kung Fu about two years ago. I'm a freelancer, my life is spread out between various projects, so the lack of continuity and regular rhythm can sometimes be very difficult to maintain. When I started training I didn't have any ambitions, I just wanted to get moving. In the beginning it was just something I could call a hobby, and only later did it become something more, and this is the moment that I will consider as the beginning of my practice, the beginning of learning, and thus of unlearning, that is, of pushing out all the patterns that the educational system, and the capitalist modern world, instilled in me from an early age.

What does it mean to learn in the context of Kung Fu practice? This is where the first unlearning begins. Although we have a teacher accompanying us in Kung Fu training, the learning process is not the same as in the regular education system. Different schools have shaped the way I think about the learning process: there is a teacher who tells you what to do, there are students who follow obvious patterns - who will be better, faster, who will learn more efficiently. Kung Fu training opens up to a different understanding of time, and therefore of the learning process. Of course there is a teacher, but to the same extent that you listen to the teacher, you also listen to your body and the knowledge that comes from it. You go through "forms" - that is, you gain skills, you become better, your practice develops, but as much as you learn a new form, you always stay with the first form in a living dialogue. Each form teaches you something different, there is no hierarchy between them. You practise all forms with the same patience, the same commitment and attention. The forms teach you continuously. Forms are not like levels in a video game - you always return to them with curiosity as if you were performing them for the first time.

Another issue is competition: here is another step of unlearning. When you practice, you are busyonly with your practice. You don't look at your colleagues practising something else, perhaps more advanced than you. Meanwhile, the Western world has so scrupulously taught us that competition is the greatest driver of development, with success and therefore failure. In Kung Fu, you cannot succeed and neither can you profit from it. Kung Fu practice teaches how to unlearn these mechanisms, how to remain humble in the face of the knowledge, in the face of the practice and in the face of the practices of the colleagues with whom I share practice.

This brings me to another issue: time. Kung Fu teaches me how to accept my own time. As a freelancer, I travel a lot, for residencies and various projects. Sometimes I can't attend training with the group and the teacher which makes me feel guilty. In Kung Fu I am learning to accept that my time is different, it doesn't make me less committed to my practice. It's just that my life has a different time to the normative one, and so instead of feeling FOMO, I'm learning how to weave Kung Fu practice into my work and life rhythm. Kung Fu is not a practice for days or months, it is a long-distance practice. It is not about a quick result, but about time committed to the practice. The more of it you give to the practice, the more you sink into it.

I have been a practitioner for some time, Kung Fu accompanies me on the daily basis not onlythrough physical exercises but mostly through the process of learning to unlearn my expectations, my desires to be fast and effective. I am learning unlearning and it is very hard work. Very hard as well as very exciting!

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