Not quite interested in letting a good subject die, I have a few further thoughts on the subject. The first being that there seems to be a disconnect between the differences between 'training' and 'practice'. Many of the comments on the other post are far more applicable to the repetition of an already understood ideal, for the purpose of being better at that ideal ... i.e., controlling one's body so as to perform the desired action perfectly. When the Bride is beating her hand against the wood in Kill Bill, she is NOT training. She is practicing.
Part of the misconception arises from the selling of martial arts as a product, which recognizes that people are prepared to pay hundreds of dollars to be 'trained.' As such, it has entered into the western parlance - an invention of the 20th century not recognized by the originators of the art, who regularly 'practice' without the need of any other participant. But practice sounds like something you shouldn't have to pay for, so the schools use the word training and the stooges line up. Guess what ... if you do understand a martial art, you're an idiot if you're still paying to practice while being watched. Which was the point of the previous post.
I have, however, an entirely new perspective for consideration. Mind you, it does require another metaphor, which is intended to convey the message. Let's give it a try.
While it was never my prime interest, for some twenty years, I performed on stages as an actor. I began in high school, and picked up roles now and then when they presented themselves, usually by way of friends who were interested in making films or who notified me of casting calls. You could say I trained, in that I took a number of courses and learned from some directors who were brilliant. I would say that more of it was practice, in learning lines, in repeating lines during rehearsals or for auditions ... practice is what it all about.
My last gig was 2002, but the four years leading up to that were good ones. The summer of 1998 was a turning point for me, and here is why.
I was performing in a very large cast ensemble play intended for one of the larger fringe festivals of the continent, a play that began with a seven-minute monologue delivered by me. The monologue was coming out very badly, and I couldn't identify the problem. Neither could the director. I had beaten it into the ground, repeating it about a dozen times a day at least, but it wouldn't flow. The director and I had both gone over the words, but there was nothing wrong with them. The problem, I felt, was definitely in me - I wasn't breathing through the character.
I want to emphasize: practice wasn't helping. If you have any sense of the theatre, you'll know that there's no special kind of training that will work.
The director was on the edge of cutting the monologue somehow, and I was very down about it and telling a friend in his living room ... a friend I knew from working on the university paper. Ken was a photographer and graphic artist, and had a video camera. So I suggested that he film me while I did the monologue, so I could see myself how I was fucking it up (this was before motion photography became uncommonly simple).
He pointed the camera, I did the monologue, and he agreed as we watched the video that I was shit. But Ken had an idea. He had known me for many years, and had known what I was like when suddenly inspired to rant - a practice I take up in speech as well as in text. So we made a plan. I would stay on the stool where I'd delivered the monologue and he would keep the camera on me. We'd forget the camera and talk about other things, giving Ken a chance to get me rolling on something. When I really got going, he'd surreptitiously flip on the camera and catch it.
Took 90 minutes. And yes, he got me in a five minute monologue about the government or stupid people or something. Bang. What an eye-opener.
It took all of ten seconds for us to identify the difference. When I was ranting, I didn't move. At all. It was almost creepy. It was also overwhelmingly powerful, for my eyes carried the emotion. Then I tried the monologue without moving a muscle and it worked.
That wraps up the relevant point of this metaphor, but since I've started I've got to finish the story. The next day I showed up for rehearsal feeling like I had a loaded gun. I took the advantage before the rehearsal to relate to the director every problem I had with the production, particularly his control-freaking attitude (I called him a Nazi at one point) - and this started a fight that lasted about 45 minutes, outside the theatre with the cast listening through the back door. When the rehearsal started, the director had decided to fire me - he didn't do it at that moment as he reasoned it was logical to have me play the part to make the rehearsal go, and replace me before the next. Smart fellow. But I'd always known that. The cast, I'd like to add, were ready to see me go.
Then I blew them all away.
I had the character nailed down and the director had no interest in firing me when it was done (he is to this day one of my closest friends, occasionally mocking me by saying 'you called me a Nazi'). The cast forgave me, and I was transformed as an actor.
The realization of how to be that actor happened in the space of about one minute. The scales fell from my eyes.
The argument goes that 'sudden' transformation of a character from this level to that level is 'unrealistic.' I dispute that. I think that we fail to recognize that at profound, singular points in our lives we undergo an epiphany that reorders the way we look at the world - where our actions the next day are NOT the same as they were, and NOT due to either training or practice. It is a staggering moment - but anyone who has suddenly seen through an insurmountable problem, only to wonder why it was insurmountable, will understand what I am saying. Archimedes had his Eureka moment in a bathtub. Galileo as he peered through a telescope, Siddhartha underneath a tree. Alexander cut through a knot, and then he cut through a continent that couldn't be conquered. It is the quinessential moment when you realize how you've done it wrong, and how to do it right. It is gaining a level, clear and simple.
For you and I, mere peasants, it may happen once, maybe twice in a lifetime. For characters, who are unusual, it can happen a dozen times ... and each time, it is the conception of how to do that spell now when before it was impossible, because thinking and puzzling it out all through the previous level has now, finally, made it come together in the magician's head. How is it done now when it was not done ten minutes ago? Thinking, my friend. Using the old noggin.
Why does this seem so strange? It seems strange because we are propagandized to believe that it isn't possible to think your way through something, that you need to beat yourself against that wall until you're bloody or else you didn't do it fairly. It is a protestant effort to equal everyone onto the same work path ... while to the left and right of the hard straight and narrow are those who jumped the queue and became insanely wealthy or powerful by skipping the wall-beating process. If you can't see how this can apply to characters ranging over a vast world, gathering experience in the face of a dozen dangers, you must have your head down and blood in your eyes.
Try thinking it through.