My teacher once told me about the triangle of learning or the three phases of study. The Warrior. The Scholar. The Healer. I learned it through studying and teaching martial arts but I have seen this same idea transcend art, style, and medium of self expression. It is common in any practice that focuses on self mastery.
The warrior is probably the path most taken; or at least it is where most people begin. This is where most of the physicality happens. If we look at it purely in terms of martial arts this is where punching, kicking, and technique all happen. Students learn to command the body in a way previously unknown to them. Sometime it is focus mitt drills and sometimes it's the animal forms of Kung Fu.
Often that's where the majority of the students' study happens and they may not seek to progress beyond that level. A solid understanding of the mechanics of the body will take a student a long way.
Viewed outside of martial arts, this is where some students first become aware of what their body is capable of. It is an important level of self-discovery that cannot be overlooked. This is where they'll build the strength to handle the second phase if they wish to take that step.
The scholar is the gatherer of knowledge. Information is collected, sorted, and stored. Action is set aside often to ask the more esoteric or energetic questions: "What is the energy of that" and "let me feel when you do it." For a martial artist it comes down to understanding body state: understanding tension and relaxation; connecting the state of mind with action; connecting breath to motion. Many arts have a cultural history of metaphysical energy, including the study of concepts like qi, ki, or prana, and how these concepts effect our body and mind.
Some people start here in this energetic study, but it has been my experience that few people do. Over time students will transition from warrior to scholar in a search to understand what they do on a deeper level.
Each of these are lifetime studies, sometimes done together and sometimes independently. Either is fine. Sometimes being a Warrior is enough for people. Some people are Scholars right away, collecting the how/why and not concerned with the physicality until later.
The last phase few people truly reach: the Healer. The Healer has studied the human body to such a degree, both physically and energetically, that they can help people over their hurdles. This is truly walking the path of complete self-mastery. The depth of understanding both on the Scholar level and also on the Warrior level only comes from seeking mastery in both of these phases. It is the hardest path to walk. It a level of self-mastery that I personally seek.
As a true path of mastery it remains a path, not a destination. The closer you get to mastery the more you retread the Warrior and Scholar paths searching for the understanding missed the first time through. Thus the master becomes the novice again.
It is important to maintain perspective. The only masterful study is an honest reflective study. Drop all pretense and look at the study as at its core and find the value of every phase. A person truly cannot seek the highest level of understanding without all three paths: Warrior, Scholar, Healer. And when you think you have it, start over and look again - there is always more to learn.
~ Sifu David Mitchell