Cooking is a craft, and like any craft, in order to be great you need practice, practice and more practice. The heart of culinary technique lies in knife skills. Someone once told me that a knife is the extension of a chef's arm, whose movements are deliberate and effortless at the same time. Anyone who has observed a professional chef at work, knows that this is true. Conversely anyone who has observed culinary students in their first days of class, is aware of the gaping difference in knife skills.

In Level 1, we learned the traditional taillage (basic cuts) we can make:

Jardinière - thin sticks, 5 mm square by and 4-5 cm long
Julienne - very thin sticks 1-2 mm square and 5-7 cm long
Macédoine - small cubes 5 mm square, cut from jardinièred strips
Brunoise - very small cubes, 1-2 mm square cut from julienned strips
Emincer - thin slices, usually cut from an onion
Ciseler - fine dice, usually from onion, shallot or garlic

Here's a picture of my taillage plate that I submitted for examination in class

Ciseler (top left), emincer (top right), jardinière (bottom right)
julienne (bottom left), bruinoise (center)

Learning to be comfortable with your knife and executing the same exact cut each time takes practice, so I bought a large bag of carrots and practiced and practiced until my hands were orange.

Julienne (left) and jardinière (right)