The way to cultivate a skill is through practice, repetition and endless preparation. This means it will take a lot of work to become a skilled practitioner. Whether it feels like a chore or enjoyment, the amount of work will be the same. How you feel about it will be explained in Mastering the Way.
The practice of kung fu, or the practice of a skill is done through practicing the basics. A master is simply someone who has become highly proficient in the basics. The techniques are practiced until they have become instinctual, until they reach a level where they “perform themselves”.
The amateur is good at a technique, but a master is the technique, meaning it becomes expressed through him at the right time. This is the height of developing a skill. When you can reach a level that you are so proficient that it becomes expressed, this is when it becomes elevated to an art form.
In Chinese Kung fu, what matters the most is the practice, the expression of the technique and they look at the end result as "mere skill". This way they are looking at the practice itself as the ultimate aim to excel at, rather than focused on the end result. The end result is still valued, but they put the emphasis on the practice and being able to express themselves through the medium or method they choose.
If you look at art from the west and art from the east, you will notice that it is quite different. In the west, they typically try recreate what they see, in the east they try recreate what they feel.
If you look at a mountain, a western painting will paint the beauty of the landscape in very great detail and it will be a masterpiece. In Chinese art, they will look at a landscape and feel something inside and they will try recreate that expressed in the landscape. This is what you could say, "Being one with nature".
This isn't to say that one is better than the other, it's just pointing out the different aims of art.
This video below explains it quite well.
Calligraphy is a form of gongfu:
A good calligrapher can write very well and have good technique. A masterful calligrapher will express energy into the word, not the mechanical representation of the word.
Calligraphy is an expression. A master calligrapher will express his movements through qi, or an inner feeling.
Cooking is a form of gongfu:
Cooking is the art of choosing, cooking, and eating good food. Chinese cooking revolves around the five elements and so they connect it with five flavors and five basic herbs.
Someone who is a good cook can make a dish, but someone who is a master puts that part of them in it. Hence the expression, "cook with love", because it is the nuances that make a dish go from average to elevated.
Writing is a form of gongfu:
Great writing is about capturing truth and not painting a beautiful scene in flowery language. Beginners use adjectives, great writers use descriptions. It is the details and the verbs that create resonance.
For example, take the beginning of the book, "The Glass Magician":
"A late summer breeze wafted through the open kitchen window, making the twenty tiny flames upon Ceony’s cake dance back and forth on their candlewicks."
The writer describes the scene with vivid description.
Making good judgement is a form of gongfu:
Good judgement comes from a clear mind. A good kung fu master can clear his/her mind to more accurately perceive reality, while the opposite - confusion - hangs over the head like a cloud preventing good judgement.
Sometimes a situation may call for someone to be tough or someone to be kind, but it is knowing when it is appropriate.
Interacting with people is a form of gongfu
Presence is one of the keys to charisma. Through being alert, you are paying attention, listening and understanding the other person. This makes them feel valued.
Learn and look for their subtle behaviors and moods, there is a lot that we miss because we aren't paying attention. Be aware of their subtle behaviors and moods. Notice what excites them, where they get their energy from. Establish patterns about them. Learn to read their emotions. You can also learn to direct a conversation through good questions. From this, you will know how to respond to them. Observe them and you will know them.
Once you have the learn the rudimentary skills, you can begin to elevate them to become your own form of expression. Eventually, you want to get to a point where it become effortless.
Read (1 of 3): The Quest for True Fulfillment
Read (3 of 3): Mastering the Way