Taekwondo students pass though four levels as they gain competency in their techniques: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence.
Unconscious incompetent people are students who are not aware of what they do not know. They have no experience in the Taekwondo skills they are learning, so they are incompetent, even though they do not realize it!
For example, new white belt students are often introduced to punching during their first class. Advanced students are aware of what is needed execute a perfect punch, such as forming a proper fist and retracting the non-punching arm. However, beginners, even though unaware of these aspects, feel competent at punching.
Unconscious incompetent students may not progress until they realize that there are many things they do not know. Until this occurs, learning cannot begin.
Conscious incompetent people are students who have realized what they do not know. They now have the knowledge, but not the skills. They are incompetent and they know it!
These are color belt students who realize that there is much more to performing proper Taekwondo techniques than they initially thought. As in the punching example, this is a student who now knows all the elements needed to perform a perfect punch, but has not yet trained enough to be a proficient puncher.
Conscious incompetent students are now in a position to become truly proficient. All they have to do is practice!
Consciously competent people are students who have the knowledge to perform particular skills, have extensively trained at performing the skills, and are proficient at the skills. However, the skills do not yet come automatically; they still require conscious thought to perform correctly.
These are senior color belts and junior black belts who have trained enough to be confident in their ability to perform techniques properly, but still have to concentrate to perform the techniques properly. Still using the punching example, some aspects of their punching technique have become automatic, but they still need to think about some things, such as hip snap.
Consciously competent people need years of intense training to move to the next level.
Unconscious competent people are students have developed their skills to the point that they can perform them without conscious thought. The skills have become instinctive.
Unconsciously competent students are senior black belts who have years of training under their belts. They instantly execute technically perfect punches automatically without thinking about the process. They have achieved the "do" of Taekwondo, the true goal of every black belt.