Tuesday 21 August 2007

Following the difficult path

I find it hard to be told what to do. My daughters would probably find that a bit rich as I dish it to them (but they are under 6!), but I think it's hard for most people to accept criticism or a comment which flatly tells them: you are wrong!

I was faced with this is in iaido training this week. A sensei pointed out (in a very pleasant way I must stress) that what I was doing was fundamentally wrong. As I have already mentioned this smarted a little, but I embraced it. I had to! I knew if I was to get better: if my technique was to improve I had to heed sensei ("one who has gone/lived before". The term seems extremely well placed here. The implication is that this person has been there, done it, fallen over, got back up again and been allowed to wear the t-shirt). So I listen to these guys: they have a lot to say which I can learn from!

This also has implications for life in general. As a young man I tended towards the path of least resistance. I studied hard, don't get me wrong! Got good grades, future was bright and I'm content in my place. But frankly if it was a bit too difficult I'd find a shortcut. Or a way out, or do it, but not quite fully. But I know that if I don't do it properly it'll come back and bite me later. Maybe I'll have to redo it again (properly!) or in not choosing the hard path I won't have learned! So this may seem abstract but if I give you a couple of examples, it may be clearer what I mean....

I enjoy cycling home and sometimes my route takes me either up a hill or round the back. I usually end up slogging up the hill because I know it'll help my conditioning, make me sweat (and if nothing else feel virtuous! :-) It makes me stronger thanks to that little bit of effort! And I feel good after doing it. If the job is worth doing- it's worth doing properly!

Of course there is a counterpoint to this: why stand up when you can sit down? And yes of course efficiency of movement is essential in the martial arts. In an ever developing and inquisitive mind, though I find it helps to push myself in order to improve within training. Ask those difficult and embarrassing questions because if I don't....I'll never know the answer! Push myself a bit harder because if I don't, my technique will never improve. If you feel tired and want to sit down for a cuppa, do 5 more repetitions and see how it makes a difference!

Monday 20 August 2007

Same, same....but different!

Shorinji Kempo tonight was, well: same, same but different! When I travelled to Vietnam with my wife we encountered many excellent salesmen all selling very similar items and each one wanting you to buy from them rather than their rivals. As a result, if I asked if something they were selling was the same as the one sold in a shop I'd seen or by another vendor they would reply: "Yes, yes. Same, same....but different"!

I have studied martial arts in one form or another for almost 20 years. I started with Goya Ra Ru at university (now split into Tetsudo and Goya Ra Ru), then started Tang Soo Do when I was living in Belgium. I started this based on the leaflet that came through my door at the time when I was thinking about continuing my martial studies. The leaflet said: "Venez vous entrainer, sans perdre la sourire". Excellent philosophy I thought!

And this brings me to Shorinji Kempo: also a striking art with elements of locks, twists and throws. Same as Tang Soo Do really? Erm, well no. My point isn't to highlight the differences, just that tonight whilst practicing moving kihon (joined moves of blocks, kicks and punches) I found it hard work! Mostly because everything I knew and had trained hard for during many years was very similar....but not quite what was needed. The movements felt right but I executed them clumsily. Thinking too much. The sensei emphasised the need for good flowing attacks, not stilted 1-2-3 moves. My partner obliged and finally it started to flow. His point was that your if the attack is fast, flowing and determined, then your reactions take over and this can in fact help refine your technique.

I got a lot from tonight's training: after being frustrated because it was similar to what I had known but different enough (in terms of focus and strategy) for me to stumble through the first exercises, then through a slight moment of clarity when it flowed as it should...

Training week...

Back to training after the holidays is always a good feeling! You might say that there is never a 'holiday' from training as it is a constant process. I did indeed pick up a bokkuto over my break and slipped in other elements of my training, but I enjoyed kicking back and pandering to my children's needs!

So back to it!

Monday was Shorinji Kempo training which was a good learning session! I was injured slightly on my thumb which is a pain (in more ways than one)... as I'm constantly reminded by the niggling pain in my hand when implementing the techniques and I think my practice suffers somewhat. I try to push it out of mind in order to get a full training session.

We white belts were spoiled to have a Japanese Dan grade take us through our syllabus which is:

-Uchi uke zuki
-Mae ryusui geri
-Ushiro ryusui geri
-Uwa uke geri

-Kote nuki
-Yori nuki
-Gyaku gote
-Ude juji

I don't know what it is about languages. I'm really a good linguist: I speak fluent French and have good working (basic) knowledge of Dutch, German and Swedish but when it comes to plugging in a Japanese name to the correct part of my brain which tells me what those moves actually are I seem to undergo a short circuit! I know the techniques quite well but fire the name at me in Japanese and I stumble and stutter! Well I'll just have to comit them to memory. The solution is to reinforce these names over and over again till it's second nature. I don't want to get to a grading and show myself and my teacher up so I WILL learn them. I know people who, for example, say: "I don't do DIY because I'm no good at it". That's rubbish frankly. We're not born with a predisposition for or against something. Some people may have a natural ability for that subject but in the face of a difficult subject that has to be conquered then applying oneself thoroughly and systematically will help! To give in and say: " well I'm no good at it" is just laziness. Work hard at it and it'll come.

Hmmm, let me see. Free Japanese lessons.......