The practice of 100 days of study is a tradition that has been passed down for generations in our lineage. The student uses this focused practice to broaden their understanding of the material and become more intimate with its intricacies and nuances - to start to get to know the spaces in between.
A student may choose any piece of their curriculum they wish - though, especially as a beginning student, requesting guidance from your instructor assures that you move in a direction that is beneficial for your overall training.
My teacher always recommended students choose something that is simple but that they find challenging. In my mind this points in the direction of core fundamentals as a fine option for your first 100 days. Horse stance, Zhan Zhuang ( "holding post" ), "isolates" of forms ( isolated portions of form work that are slowed down and done in focused fashion ), or exercises which are physically challenging and need refinement all make excellent areas of focus for intensive study.
I have writtent this article both to impart an important training device for those who may not have the benefit of training with a teacher and because I would like to share some thoughts that may be of use to those moving forward with such study:
In my work with the '100 days' practice I have often been reminded of a phrase burned into my head at an early point in my training:
"Invest in a Loss"
This work, as is true with all our efforts in gong fu, is not about perfection but about process. In the beginning you may make errors. You may miss days. You may doubt the purpose of the work you have undertaken. One of the greatest gems in continuing with '100 days' practice, especially over many years and multiple cycles, is in continuing after failure and figuring out how to make it work. Do not give up because of small errors. Instead, return humbly and with humility to the path you have started and continue walking. This trains a different type of fortitude into our practice - one which has deep value which can and will apply itself to all aspects of life.
Secondly - find times in the day to make this practice fit in a way that affords clear intention and focus and still allows it be manageable with the rest of the moving pieces of your life. As life moves on and becomes fuller it is more challenging to find these open spaces to bring a daily practice to - and I believe it makes the work all that more important. It is a refinement of the training which requires appropriate time and energy management - the creating of sacred space within the movement of the storm which is our day to day existence as people with jobs, families and many responsibilities.
Lastly - it is often counter-productive to treat these types of studies as monumental. They needn't loom like monoliths in our practice. It is a form of study with specific focus - a slow process of attentive and mindful work over time. There is nothing mysterious. The more weight placed upon it the heavier it is to carry it forward. This is only a discouraging distraction. Just find the time and space where it fits comfortably and appropriate to the seasons of your days and begin there. If the work is nourished and attended to properly the practice will expand of it's own accord.
Still interested in a 100 day study?
Choose your material. Think fundamentals. Manageable over a long span of time. Appropriate for daily practice. Not sure? Ask your teacher. Don't have one? Get in touch with me and I'll see if I can help get you started.
Make the space. Find a place in your life that this work fits. Bring it there. Try not to let this practice fall in to the last part of the day as an afterthought. Little is gained from training at the tail end of a long day when the energy and intention is minimal.
Invest in a Loss. Learn from your mistakes. If you miss a day try and identify what got in the way. Be mindful of the habits that derail your efforts. Then let it go. Continue.
Learn Something. This is a place of study. You are making a space to get in touch with the lessons that are inherently in the movements and postures - the lineage that rests at the heart of our gong fu. Pay it respect. Bring something worth sharing to the lineage each time you practice - even if it's small. Think of the work your doing as both training and an offering. This is how we nurture the practice, align our intention and "polish the brass" of the space we have created to do our work.