The Daily Dozen
Brilliant At The Basics

Whatever Happened to Virtuosity?

CamilleThe concept of virtuosity is well outside the mindset of most athletes.  The acquisition of new and more complex skills seems to be their only goal - that and knocking seconds off of "Fran", "Murph" or any other named WOD that appears on the CrossFit website.  Unfortunately the dogged pursuit of new skills leads to stagnation, frustration and in some cases injury.  It takes a special athlete to pursue the perfection, or mastery, of the basic skills that comprise their sport.  In the case of a CrossFit athlete the number of skills are myriad and the opportunity to perfect them are lost in the (chalk) dust by the pursuit of time or numbers.

Virtuosity is the pursuit and mastery of the fundamental skills and the ability to express them exceedingly well.  In the martial arts realm mastery of the basic skills delineates a Black Belt from a White Belt. Timing, rhythm, stance, breathing, coordination, power are all expressions of virtuosity and the opposite is an expression of insufficient time and effort dedicated to the pursuit of skills beyond the athletes grasp. A Kettlebell Swing is a thing of beauty when done by a trained and seasoned athlete and conversely it can be the opposite in a self-trained (or poorly coached) athlete.  So too can a Push Up or Pull Up - all can be a thing of beauty or an eyesore.

The pursuit of Virtuosity was an integral part of the foundation of CrossFit in its early years.  With the start of the 2014 CrossFit Open I feel that once again the expression of movement will be trumped by doing something that resembles an athletic skill for time.  Always looking for the shortcut (i.e., Butterfly Pull Ups) or the easy way around a fundamental skill will leave gaps in your development, strength and athletic ability. Mastering the basic skills and the requisite time, sweat, blood and tears that it requires is something that few athletes will do; but those that put the effort into this endeavor will reap the benefits.

Take a few moments to read the article entitled "Fundamentals, Virtuosity, and Mastery" on the CrossFit website from August 2005. Then I challenge you to look at the movement baselines from the past several CrossFit Games and see how they have devolved from the originals. Don't confuse the most current versions with anything that resembles an improvement on a fundamental movement pattern or skill - if anything they are cruel iterations and inferiors skills than the originals.

I challenge you to take the time and learn the basics until you can do them with confidence, skill, and yes - virtuosity.


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