An optimal wayJune 4th, 2011
Having defined our set of basic elements, let’s move on to the concept of the optimal way
The concept of the optimal way is central to the AOV.
In everything we do, there’s an optimal way that gives us maximum returns with minimal effort.
Take a mountain spring. If you put all kinds of obstructions in its path, dam it up, and divert it, it will not run optimally.
The same is true of our body. If we put all kinds of obstructions within it, tense it up, force it to move in rigidly prescribed ways, it will also not work optimally.
To achieve virtuosity, it’s critical we find the optimal way, the way that encounters least resistance and that utilizes our resources to the max.
The problem is, it’s impossible to define what the optimal way is.
Not only does it differ from person to person; within the same person, it differs from technique to technique.
On the guitar, playing scales will have a different optimal way from playing tremolo. The hand positions are different, the ways of plucking different too.
So how do we find this optimal way?
Through practice. As I’ve mentioned before, practice is self-exploration, finding out what works, what doesn’t. It’s basically getting the body to teach itself.
However, for practice to be effective, you have to do three things:
First, make sure all the basic elements we’ve talked about earlier are in place.
Second, make sure there’s no bias in your approach. In other words, don’t start with any preconceived ideas about how to perform the move.
And third, trust your instincts. Your instincts will tell you if you’re on the right track or not.
The optimal way explains the many contrasting styles and approaches between different players. Segovia, Williams, Yepes, Barrueco – you can’t find four players with more different approaches and yet, each one of them has found a way to make it work, and achieve incredible virtuosity in the process.
The optimal way means you have to take responsibility for your own learning. You can’t base your playing on someone else’s playing, you’ll have to find the way that works best for you.
The great thing is that when you do discover the optimal way that works for you, you will know it right away.
Because it feels so right, so completely natural. It feels like you were born with it. There’s no strain, no struggling, no need to keep checking whether you’re doing it right or wrong, you just do it and it’s done.
I’ve stressed the importance of skills in virtuosity.
In a way, finding the optimal way is finding the skills to work with your body. It’s understanding all the latent potential within it, and working in a way that optimizes all its possibilities.
Going back to our friend, Cook Ting, when you find the optimal way, you wouldn’t be hacking away at the ox anymore, you wouldn’t have to sharpen your knife every three days.
Because you know all the best places to cut and because those places offer so little resistance to your knife, you never have to sharpen it and nineteen years after you bought it, it’s still as sharp as the day you bought it.