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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

What Does It Take to Become a Master?

Dr. Anders Ericsson states that it takes at least 10 years and or 10,000 hours to become an expert/genius in any field of endeavor...More to become world class...

GC is based on the premise that we all have been practicing subtle movement as well as fast, haphazard, strong, sudden, balanced, concentrated movement all our lives just in order to live...All GC movement is is just general movement with some additional applications....The basic principles are not all that hard to develop...It surely does not take 10 years to become an expert...As far as world class is concerned only testing with pre- set rules can be used to measure a person's comparative ability...Some are born with enough talent to become world class in far shorter time...Since GC is formless by definition then it is beyond the parameters of Dr. Ericsson's postulation...Maybe I discovered/developed a training methodology that is superior to any other....LOL...

Can any of you help me understand this better...I read the book OUTLIERS based on his theory and found it not to fit GC...If you have read it and can prove to me that it is simply a matter of practice for 10,000 hours to become a master then I would enjoy the enlightenment..I have proven many times that it takes far less for some to become incredible just by tapping into their natural ability to move without conscious thought....OUTLIERS also states that it is just practice and a 120 IQ that is necessary to be a genius at anything...I guess anyone can be an Einstein with simple practice for 10 years....LOL


  1. From one of our students:

    His premiss is flawed on many levels.
    Does genetics play a part ?
    Damn right it does!
    How about desire? Heart?
    Not quitting? Determination?

    All " X" factors that can't be " fully" quantified.

    In my field of endeavor I've seen many, many with IQ's well above
    140 fail miserably.

    This professor who wrote that article sounds like he's either an "elitist" or an affirmative action baby.

    Take your pick. Same deal.

  2. My original career choice was to be an actor. After college I worked days and spent nights at the best acting schools in NYC. I was almost always the best performer in class. But I found auditions so demeaning and the lifestyle so depressing that I started spending my time in libraries reading about acting until I came across a book that said that the actors that succeed and make a living out of it do so because: 1. It's the only thing in the world they know how to do and 2. It's the only thing in the world that makes them happy. Since neither 1 nor 2 applied to me I gave it up. The book concluded that superior talent had little to do with success--relentless drive was what mattered.--MKovsky

    1. I must assume that the author of the acting book was referring to having at least some talent along with relentless drive...This, I found is the case with some opera singers...They may have a decent voice but have great drive and they do practice endlessly unlike the truly gifted singers who do it easily and always seem to outclass the determined but mediocre talents...JP

  3. From one of our students:

    Master John, another thing is that I heard you often say you’re not a fighter or you've invented GC cause you were afraid?? Or similar?

    I disagree totally.

    Fear is a human "reaction" courage is a "Choice".

    You made a " choice to learn to defend yourself & be pro active.

    Yonkers wasn’t an easy place to grow up in or work in. Brooklyn, NYC, Bronx cannot even compare.

    You know that John. People don't get that.

    Bottom line:

    If you invented GC & it is & was very effective against the craziest, steroid, psychotic animals in Yonkers, it works anywhere in the world.

    John, I been many dif shit holes & I was never intimidated at all.

    That's from GC concepts / economy of motion & techniques I was taught.

    Plus natural genetics & the will to survive. Not start trouble or big shot.

    Survive & come out on top.
    That's the heart & Soul of true GC.

    1. I was fear driven to learn to deal with the street monsters and some family crazies at a young age...It did not take me anywhere near 10,000 hours to get the principles of GC as a working methodology...I did not have the so called proper teachers to guide me on the path but in fact they actually most often showed me the way not to go as in sport or traditional styles....JP

    2. From Brad Steiner (Part 1):

      In my opinion people tend to attach way too much credibility to academic credentials. We forget that at one point in our past (little more than 100 years ago) a gentleman (W.A. Bickerton, Professor of Physics and Chemistry at Canterbury College) holding a Ph.D. in physics declared that it would be IMPOSSIBLE for man to ever travel to the moon. In 1956 Dr. Richard van der Reit Wooley — an astronomer and space advisor to the British government, SAID: "SPACE TRAVEL IS UTTER BILGE". SPUTNIK CIRCLED THE EARTH THE NEXT YEAR!)

      We forget that some of the most arrant nonsense has come out of the mouths of "doctors" of this or that . . . i.e. people who, despite their "credentials" were absurd in their proclamations. (I remember very well reading statements made by physicians that "exercise has no provable beneficial effect on the heart and on one's health". What do the "experts" — the physicians — say today?) In the 1960's, before the American Heart Association "officially" said that exercise benefits the heart, I was telling my students this at the gym where I taught personal defense and physical training! And I regard myself as a high school dropout (having given up paying any attention at all in school, by the time I reached the 10th grade).

      My I.Q. is 158 (determined when I took a test back in elementary school, in the 1950's). I am a clod and a fool when struggling with most things "technical", but at the age of 10 I was reading at the college level (again, determined by test results in elementary school). It took me three years to pass high school algebra 1. And I passed ONLY because I cheated shamelessly!

      People are complicated, different, and we really know very little about them, if we are honest about the matter.

      To state that any arbitrary number of hours is "required" to produce mastery in anything is almost to confess that one knows NOTHING AT ALL about the broad and immensely varying difference between individual human beings.

      I had the personal experience of successfully hypnotizing a subject (a university professor) and within two sessions — one week's time — enabling him to take a plane flight to another city, interview for, and GET a job that he wanted but could not overcome his fear of flying and his reluctance to interview, in order to secure. He had gone to a psychiatrist previously, who could not successfully hypnotize him!

  4. Brad Steiner (Part 2):

    One of my own students — Head of Psychiatry for the UofW School of Medicine — could not effectively hypnotize people (something he had no problem telling me, in a conversation). He was a word recognized neuro-psychiatrist. He had learned hypnotism after becoming a psychiatrist. He gave it up after many repeated failures to use it with patients. (Incidentally, this was also true of Sigmund Freud).


    Formal schooling means NOTHING, except to the most superficial "establishment types" who merit nothing but contempt from the rest of us.

    Some people master some things in record time; and some people break records for failing to master things. Still other people are able to master aspects of certai disciplines, and falter in their efforts to learn other aspects. So?

    We have some excellent technical schools in this world (i.e. schools of engineering, medicine, dentistry, accounting, pharmacy, etc.) but we DO NOT HAVE ANY GOOD SCHOOLS FOR SIMPLY EDUCATING THE MINDS OF INDIVIDUALS. Since the dawn of history ANYONE in any place, time, epoch, culture, nation, or society who became educated did so due to his own desire to become educated, and his own efforts in pursuit of that objective. Public (and even in many instances private) schooling actually inhibits and discourages a child's natural desire to learn. It certainly doesn't do anything good for him.

    Various ARTS — i.e. music, acting, painting, teaching, writing, counseling — are never taught well in formal settings. They depend upon the talents and desires of those who — a) WANT to do those things, and who b) work on their own so as to be able to do them.

    How often do we read of lousy (but credentialed!) "teachers" who told brilliant students that they were not bright, were not "college material", etc. — and those people who were so victimized by those so-called teachers went on to become accomplished academicians, or to excel in other professions; far surpassing the child-abusing incompetents who had presumed to pass judgment on them, when they were children?

    I have met young children who, with NO FORMAL TRAINING OR SCHOOLING, could easily outperform persons in their 20's and 30's (and older!) who had graduated colleges and whose majors — and sometimes advanced degrees) paralleled the subject matters in which the naturally talented children EXCELLED.

    My main point:

    The "professor" who states that it takes 10 years /or 10,000 hours of work to become expert/genius in any field is a professional Drivel-meister.

    Brad Steiner
    President ICMAF

  5. It's always interesting to see how necessity leads to invention!
    I wanted self-defense since the age of seven. Could only — at best — find some of what I was after. And so, I had to build my own System. As you did!
    Brad Steiner
    President ICMAF

  6. Interesting that we lived nearly next door during similar times...You kept the torch of Real Combatives burning especially in the Handgun and Body Building magazines and it was you who inspired me to write even though I had no writing talent...I want to thank you again for your inspiration...You probably don't know how many thousands or maybe millions you have touched through the years...I hope to, along with my students and instructors, keep up the work of keeping people free...Like John McSweeney used to say...First a Warrior or all Else is Folly...I live by that creed...Always your friend, John

  7. John,

    Happy New Year! Far be it from me to extrapolate on what you said but I believed you hit the nail on the head (excuse all of these old when you said "Maybe I discovered/developed a training methodology that is superior to any other and All GC movement is just general movement with some additional applications".

    On a similar note I remember hearing about a test conducted concerning shooting free throws in basketball years ago where a group of men were separated into two groups. I do not remember how many hours or days the tests were conducted but the first group practiced shooting the ball at the basket for the duration of the test while the second group never physically shot the basketball but only mentally thought about going through the motions and while I cannot remember the breakdown of the exact outcome but the bottom line that the group that only mentally thought about shooting the ball did just as well as or better as the group who shot the ball.

    I remember early on in my GC practice when I was away working at the Olympics and was away from lessons for approximately 2 months and did not really get a chance to practice but I thought about doing many of the drills and contact flow in my mind almost daily and when I got back you complimented me on my contact flow and how I must have been practicing while I was away but I was too embarrassed to admit to my lack of practice. What I feel makes the ability to master GC in less than 10 years is the way the mental is in total sync with the physical and when you combine those with the fact that GC is working on a parallel plane which is what enables the unavailable/unavoidable theory (for lack of a better word) to be so devastating when used in realistic situations. Attackers cannot really see us until it’s too late because it is impossible for them to see us even though we are right there in front of them (as I previously stated about my experience on my first lesson in GC when working with Jenny).

    To add to this and this sounds crazy but I believe it’s true but while sitting, standing, walking or sometimes even driving I will envision a physical attack on some part of my body and I will react in such a subtle movement to that area to avoid the attack while encompassing the principles where I am feeling yielding, dropping, and attacking simultaneously but because my movement is so subtle if you were observing me and not noticing what I was doing I would look like a human mannequin in a daze. Whether I am right or just lost it mentally I truly believe it has helped and continues to help my development in GC.


  8. Part 1 from LtCol Al:


    I have read Malcom Gladwell's book which was based on much of Dr. Ericsson's work. And I have to agree with what some others here have said. Most of what "Outliers" says is based on anecdotal bull crap!

    It also places way too much credence on the "education" process which in my view actually has a detrimental effect on people's intellect and stifles critical thinking and creativity.

    Even worse it makes assumptions that the only knowledge that can be learned is through formal schooling or training for a number of years (I.e., pre-k through 12 or College) or approximately the mythical 10,000 hours regardless of what is actually learned. Pulleeze...

    In my own experiences I can tell you that this is not the case and just as you can learn new things through formal training you can also be educated in the "wrong things". When I have conversations with people along these lines I sometimes ask them, "how do we know what we know is true?" Or if they're talking martial arts and tell me that such and such is a 7th, 8th or holder of multiple black belts I often ask, "what are they a black belt of?" Mumbo jumbo fighting nonsense or real fighting? The same is true for almost any field of endeavor.

    I have run into more than my fair share of 50-lbs brains in gov’t who are so caught up in their own nonsense that they can't see the forest for the trees. So to try and distill expertise or mastery and human development down to 10 years or 10,000 hours is insane.

    Certainly many of these people have more than that and yet even in their own fields more often than not their hypotheses when exposed to reality fail the straight face test.

    At least in defense of some gov’t scientists they are willing to, believe it or not, fund research that defies the known laws of physics but many other so called experts are not. Frankly I'm surprised some of these people have kids let alone advanced degrees.

    I call this attitude the "Lucifer Syndrome" in which people get so caught up in their belief that they are so smart, so right by their own bogus arbitrary standards (that they created mind you) that only what they think and say matters because they are intellectually above all others, even God...

    1. LtCol Al Part 2...

      According to the Bible this is what led to Satan's fall and that, "by reason of his brightness..." He thought that he knew better than the God that created him. Even worse he convinced 1/3rd of the angels to rebel with him. Obviously they were not as smart as they thought they were either.

      This same mindset is why so many smart and intelligent people including those in the military and law enforcement dabble in these bogus and occult fighting arts, where they toil for years punching at the wind only to be given a certificate that in reality was only earned because they kept showing up for class (i.e., 10 years or 10,000 hours) and not due to any real mastery of fighting skill.

      As Yogi Berra use to say,

      "The difference between theory and practice is that in theory they're the same, in practice they're not..."

      This in my view is what makes Guided Chaos unique because each training session is a "qualitative test in practice" if you will, on what is actually happening and not what we wish to happen in our lofty little minds. The more you train with an exploratory mindset with your own development in mind the faster you develop.

      This is why we have students who are laborers and house wives with no fighting experience who can and have held their own and defeated violent attackers with murderous intent. This is why we have students with little in the form of athleticism or formal schooling that have a better understanding of the art than people blessed with every physical and academic advantage and credential you can imagine.

      These things can be developed in a relatively short time as we prove everyday in class. Provided one focuses on the right things and not superfluous nonsense that only exists in the minds of pinheads.

      Just my two cents...
      --Lt Col Al

  9. Thanks Al for your experience based insight...Your connections with leading members of the Air Force combatives and Army as well as the Marines allowed me to go hand to hand with their best and learned they did not need 10 years of training to master their fighting styles....I remember general reports from some of your men and how they perceived actual fighting to be...I spoke with Eric H. and demonstrated with him directly and he concurred...At that time I worked hand to hand with some active SEALS while filming for The Learning Channel...Even though the SEALS have excellent training they admit it is lacking in hand to hand and for the most part not a high priority for them...They do have a keen understanding of life and death confrontations and the level of intensity the enemy can bring to bear...Much of this was opened to me by your contacts and is hugely appreciated...The main thing they all showed was that it did not take 10 years to learn their Warcraft...Always, John P.

  10. Hi John,

    You have started another amazing discussion.

    I will do my best to defend the less popular position :). I hope it will stimulate good discussion.

    I can't say if the 10,000 hours idea is "true" or not, but I do find it valuable.

    I have not read the original Ericcson research; I have seen a few works that, like Gladwell, draw upon the research. So I am not the best person to "defend" the position, but I will try :).

    I don't think 10,000 hours of practice automatically gets you to mastery. As one example pointed out, many adults will have accumulated 10,000 hours driving, but most are not master level drivers. You must have 10,000 hours of quality practice. So you can put in 10,000 and not make it. I think the argument is that those who make it need to invest 10,000.

    I'm pretty sure anyone competing in the Olympics has 10,000 hours in. Professional sports stars (Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, etc) have 10,000 hours in. World class classical musicians do (I mean those who your average Joe knows by name: Yo Yo Ma, etc.). Great writers do (those whose works are true classics).

    If you practice full-time (40 hours per week), 10,000 hours takes 5 years. If you average 3 hours a day every day, it takes just over 9 years.

    I don't know when John hit mastery, but here is how I would calculate it: figure out how old he was when his father and uncles started teaching him--5 years old, maybe? Get an average number of hours per day "playing" with uncles, brothers and neighborhood "friends" and "enemies" :). Add in time in active contemplation (this does count if you are focused correctly as is done by Olympians). Add in time studying MA, reading, any participation in or observation of violence, balance exercises, sensitivity, etc. if this number is three hours a day on average, that gets John to 10,000 hours before age 15.

    I would like to guess that those who master GC have put in 10,000 hours. It might not be all GC hours, but those I know of that are masters (as measured by John) probably have 10,000 hours in practicing MA if you include time before they found GC.

    Most of us put in MA time before we found John. My guess is this is also true for all those who eventually master GC.

    I think that GC is unique in the MA world not only because it is so effective in application but also because the way of teaching is so effective and well worked out. But it still takes a lot of practice doing CF and exercises to hit mastery.

    In theory, a person could "luck into" John as a first teacher and get to mastery faster, but in practice, most of us spent a lot of years doing MA before we found GC.

    I think the 10,000 hours includes a lot of time figuring out the "best practice". If you start with John, some of this less-optimal time is cut out.

    But most who did not put in this time won't realize the value of what John is doing and so won't stick with GC practice long enough to hit mastery.

    So, in theory, if John was your first teacher and you were dedicated, focused and could get your ego out of the way, maybe you could become a master in less than 10,000 hours.

    I can think of one person who might be a good test of this theory. I don't think she has a MA background and she has dedication to GC (2nd degree already). If she hits mastery and we could calculate her hours, we might have one example :).

    Has anyone actually achieved this? I mean, is there anyone who is a master in GC with less than 10,000 hours in GC alone who did not hit 10,000 by the time you include previous hours in MA?

    For those whose history I know something about who are master level or getting close (4th degree), I estimate they have over 10,000 hours in.


    "Movement should be approached like life--with enthusiasm, joy and gratitude--for movement is life, and life is movement, and we get out of it what we put into it."--Ron Fletcher

  11. General Wang Ting

    ‘Recalling past years, how bravely I fought to wipe out enemy troops,
    And what risks I went through!
    All the favours bestowed on me are now in vain!
    Now old and feeble, I am accompanied only by the book of Huang Ting.
    Life consists in creating actions of boxing when feeling depressed,
    Doing field work when the season comes,
    And spending the leisure time teaching disciples and children

  12. Thanks Robert,

    Teach the children the way of the conscious warrior JP...Like Krishna said to Arjuna...The Warrior is necessary to allow the growth of the priests and knowledge for the people in a world of barbarians...First a warrior or all else is folly...Then grow old and meditate because you have no course if you are already an ascended master or avatar then this is moot...JP

  13. Permit me to add a bit of material to this wonderful conversation thread.

    When I started working in nuclear propulsion systems on the then-new Trident class submarine, I was hired as a machinist by a fellow whom I gauge to have had a frighteningly high I.Q. He also had - barely - a high school education. Charlie Knapp worked his way up at General Dynamics/Electric Boat from apprentice machinist to Assistant Superintendent of Installation Trades - with responsibility for a multi-billion dollar budget. In addition to the massive duties of his position, he was also the direct supervisor of a sub-group, Outside Machinists (essentially installation mechanics), which was in turn divided into two sub-groups, Nuclear and Non-Nuclear.

    When, as manager of the Outside Machinists, he was interviewing prospective employees (as he did me in 1978), he hired people of all levels, from "sixth step learner" (apprentice) to first grade outside machinist. He assigned the best of the best of each ranking to the nuclear area. He hired me as a third grade nuclear outside machinist, even though I was not a skilled or experienced machinist. On paper, this was a questionable hire. (I later met many retired Navy machinists whom he had hired as sixth step learners.) But I proved him right because the job required outside-the-box thinking. During my extensive interview, he had recognized that I had needed values to bring to the party. I had a good education (City College of New York) and had an eclectic background. I had designed electrodeposition rigs and had been demonstrably successful in sales. (When presenting a completed job to company and Navy quality control inspectors, one was said to be "selling the job" for good reason.) I had been an entrepreneur, and used the multitude of seat-of-your-pants problem-solving skills required. Mr. Knapp quickly promoted me to second grade, then first grade machinist, seriously counter to standard company policy, but well within his purview. I found that every one of the nuclear outside machinists with whom I worked, while rather unique, possessed a few qualities in common: The first was high I.Q. The second was the ability to think his way out of a problem, coupled with the capacity to temper that with a full appreciation of the rule and the spirit of nuclear construction protocol. In many ways, we paralleled the U.S. Navy nuclear crews with whom we worked.

    We were shade tree mechanics, in some cases literally. When one of the guys popped the hood on his stalled Chevy sedan and found that the wire to the distributor was broken, he could have walked across town to the auto supply store. But instead, he simply took one of the six spark plug wires and reassigned it to the distributor cap, and drove to the store. It reminded me of an old story...[continued next post]

  14. [continued]

    A guy got a flat tire on a dark and rainy night. He came to a stop outside an insane asylum, and proceeded to remove the spare tire and jack from the trunk. Then he removed the hub cap and loosened the four lug nuts on the bad tire. After jacking up the car, he completed removing the nuts, placing them in the hub cap, which was lying beside a gully on the side of the road. When he carelessly tossed the tire iron down, it hit the hub cap and knocked the lug nuts out and into the muddy gully. The guy saw that his lug nuts were lost and he began to angrily pace and curse himself.

    From a second-story window of the insane asylum came a voice: “Remove one nut from each of the other three wheels. That will be all you need to put on the spare tire and be on your way.”

    The driver was relieved, but then puzzled. He looked up at the window and said, “Thank you. But you’re an inmate of an insane asylum. How did you figure out what I should do?”

    The inmate said, “I’m crazy, not stupid.”

    We “nukeys” were crazy, not stupid. I find this discussion of ten thousand hours interesting. But beyond the concept of requisite number of hours required to develop an expertise, is the question of aptitude. Matching aptitude to an endeavor is much more important than any specific number of hours. Few of the nuclear machinists with whom I worked at Electric Boat had that magic number. But all had a mechanical aptitude that was off the charts. While few would have thought of themselves as geniuses or scholars, they each manifested an inordinate level of intellectual curiosity.

    I think the best practitioners of GC — or any other skill — bring a similar level of athleticism and other talents to their training. Matching natural talent to the job requirement is the key.

    And, by the way, it took me far fewer than ten thousand hours to become the Saturday morning practice dummy. Just sayin’.


  15. I would like to add one more thing.

    To be a effective survivor of violence you must train yourself to be a effective assassin.
    I routinely practice studying people's body language & movements.
    I see all the potential targets of opportunity.
    Also, desensitize yourself by hitting
    " Bob" type targets to familiarize yourself with hitting & destroying human anatomy.
    Trust me, it's a lot dif then hitting heavy bags.

    Like I said, this is just how I see things