Elements are diagnostic because, in some way, they are fractal. (This is my attempt to use a cool word in order to bolster my self-esteem and Internet image. Please, allow me to convince you I’m both smarter and more popular than I really am. How many Twitter followers do I have?) Or, at least, we want them to be fractal. When you play notes in isolation, they become integrated into a full song in the same manner of play.
A fractal is a natural phenomenon or a mathematical set that exhibits a repeating pattern that displays at every scale. If the replication is exactly the same at every scale, it is called a self-similar pattern. Fractals can also be nearly the same at different levels.
The elements scale with complexity. In other words, if you do an element with a certain kind of firing sequence, you’re probably going to see that sequence show up in a similar (yet more complex) pattern. It’s not a guarantee, but the rules of motor learning err to it happening.
- Unconscious Incompetent: you’re doing things wrong and you don’t know how or why.
- Conscious Incompetent: you’re doing this wrong and you know how and why.
- Conscious Competence: you’re doing things right but it requires a lot of thought.
- Unconscious Competence: you’re doing things right out of automaticity.
So if your knees cave in during a squat, they’re probably going to cave during a vertical jump. If your elbows flare out during a push-up, they’re probably going to flare during a bench press. And they’re probably going to flare when you’re in a bar fight, pushing the creepy guy that wouldn’t stop staring at your girlfriend.
The faster you demand your body to react, the more you rely on instinct, and instinct comes from the wiring ingrained within your body.
It takes 0.2 seconds to do a vertical jump. You can’t think about much in 0.2 seconds. You shouldn’t be thinking during those 0.2 seconds. It’s often said that great athletes are hindbrain dominant, which means they’re in a state of flow or “in the zone.” They’re not actively thinking (unconscious competent). They’re relying on reflex and ingrained behaviors—a product of mounds of slow and conscious work accumulated during practice.
Competence unconsciously takes time. One doesn’t simply walk into Mordor. Your grandma knows how to sit in front of the TV and knit her brains off like a hindbrain Herculeus. But if you tried? You’d have holes in your fingers.
Your forebrain is responsible for doing all the hard decision making. Stuff that only humans (it seems) worry much about. (YOU ZEBRA FILLED WITH ULCERS, YOU.) Analyzing and thinking is important when learning a new skill. Part of learning is being in a place just beyond your comfort zone, which means you will make mistakes and you need to mentally take note and adjust.
Nevertheless, relying on your forebrain isn’t something you want to be doing as you inch closer to specific skill mastery and want to perform a skill at the highest levels. It takes a great deal of concentration and effort to Force move the X-Wing out of the Dagobah swamp when you’re just a padawan. But it’s not long before you’re hurling parts of a spaceship at Darth Vader without effort or second thought.
If you don’t want to be thinking about much as a high class knitter, you certainly don’t want to be thinking about much when you only have 0.2 seconds at your disposal. When you call upon your body to do something that quickly, you’ll rely on your current wiring, no matter how big of a dysfunctional kluge it may be.
Next: coming soon…
Table of contents: Terraform