Monday, October 16, 2006

Deceiving oneself

I've been contemplating many things during karate class lately. Perhaps that is just part of walking along with a black belt around your waist that you can stop for a second and assess what is happening around you.

I've noticed that many of us deceive ourselves as we train. For example, I've seen some students jump the instructor's count. They anticipate the upcoming number, and already send their strike before he/she actually counted. The result is that their strike is finished far before everyone else's. The sad thing is that this gives an inaccurate training result. First of all they will develop improper timing. Also, they are not training their fast twitch muscles to react quickly. It would be far more helpful to them if they waited for the sound of the count, and THEN reacted.. as if the sound was an actual attack.

I've really come to a full circle when it comes to how I tie my belt. There has been a silent struggle within my mind as to which height I should tie it. I would attempt to tie it down on my hips ( as has been tradition). The result would be either that the belt would pop up to my waist on it's own through movement, or it would fall down to the ground. Now I have come to the point of realization: a) It's MY belt, and my karate. I can chose as to where I wish to place my belt upon my body.. as long as it does it's job of holding my Gi closed. b) Practicality dictates that I place the belt just above the navel at the curve of my waist ( not below). Since I am a woman this area is the most curving and most condusive to having the belt out of the way of my kicks. c) If I ever had to defend myself, it will not matter as to where I placed my belt upon my body. My skills will be as they are.

Many of us like to deceive ourselves as to how hard we train in karate. It reminds me of how my children will bring home their homework, sit down for about 10 minutes, and write a paragraph of information. Then they will spend half an hour complaining to each other about how much WORK they had to do. I believe that we tend to exagerate that which we consider difficult. I have been quite guilty of this type of building up of experiences. Similar to how a fish that wasn't caught grows three sizes, I have sat there telling my friends of how I ran at least 25 laps around the gym last night, although in reality it wasn't that much.

Today, I have learned that karate is just part of life. We train our bodies for our continued health. Everyone needs to exercise to maintain strength, flexibility, cardio, etc. Our bodies are designed to move, and it sickens when it is kept laying still. So.. I have chosen to move my body in the form of kata, kihon, and kumite while someone else may enjoy tennis, swimming, or other physical expressions of themselves. Now that I think in that way, the few laps around the gym are not much in compared to a marathon runner, the few push ups that I've done are nothing compared to what some military soldier needed to do today. I'm not saying that I should belittle my achievements, but more that I have learned to see them in perspective. This is the path that I have chosen to live.. I train each class to be the best that I can be at that moment.. so if I can only do 5 laps around the gym due to my state of health.. then good for me. If I can run 150 laps.. good for me. It is nothing to be exalted about, nor to push aside. It just exists as part of my life.

18 comments:

[Mat] said...

Hey there,

"The result is that their strike is finished far before everyone else's."

So often it happens. Again to those, I ask : why are you there, to learn to count or learn speed, good movement and good body mechanics?

"I've really come to a full circle when it comes to how I tie my belt."

Funny, these days, I wonder what to do with it. Cool to know that it'll come together. in the end.

"It just exists as part of my life."
Now, I get that tiger looking over the valley comment. You've killed a big part of ego, I think. Great!

Read you soon,
Mathieu

Becky said...

The jumping the count thing happens in our dojo too. Mostly it's the boys wanting to beat each other at having the fastest punch. Sometimes, when doing basics, sensei will count a few times, then stop just to see who punches anyway. There's always at least one.

Colin Wee said...

"I've noticed that many of us deceive ourselves as we train. For example, I've seen some students jump the instructor's count. They anticipate the upcoming number, and already send their strike before he/she actually counted."

Fighting and training with a person allows you to know them in a way no other person could. Similarly, a dojo environment having a collection of different people allows you to see differences and commonalities in how everyone thinks. At this stage you can use this developing understanding to help you apply your technique. Successful application is not always about having 'the best' or 'the most powerful' technique - it is about landing the technique despite having the opponent opposing you. :-)

Colin

supergroup7 said...

Mat, I do not think that it is wrong to have that Tiger within you encouraging and motivating you to higher levels of training. I think that it is part of the journey. For me, my tiger is satisfied.. it does not hunger for anything other than just enjoying the art as it is. I don't know how this reveals "ego" or not.

supergroup7 said...

You know what, Becky? I've noticed that those who are jumping the count are very tense. You can see them all tight, and convulsing with every sound that comes out of Sensei. Therefore, if Sensei starts commenting on something, you will see these students surge forwards and strike because they are so wired to "GO". That whole demeanor goes against good sparring skills.. our desire is to be relaxed, and to react to the moment.. not to anticipate, or tense up and burn all of our energy. In my opinion, they are actually going against their desire for speed by their very actions.

supergroup7 said...

"Successful application is not always about having 'the best' or 'the most powerful' technique - it is about landing the technique despite having the opponent opposing you. :-)"

I really like this sentence, Colin. It brings many thoughts of "why do we train so hard?" into my mind. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, it's all about what YOU want from your journey.

The tiger within searches for power and strength.
The dragon searches for fluidity in movement.
The leopard searches for speed.
The snake searches for the inner strength.
The crane searches balance and grace.

"I train each class to be the best that I can be at that moment.. so if I can only do 5 laps around the gym due to my state of health.. then good for me."

I feel the graceful touch of the crane and the wisdom of the snake here.

I tend to always do the maximum that I can do in the present time and place. No point in lying to myself. As for what others are doing, I don't know... If they want to lie to themselves and they are happy, well who am I to tell them differently.

Marc

supergroup7 said...

"If they want to lie to themselves and they are happy, well who am I to tell them differently."

*Applause* That is so true that it made me laugh.

However, I have been asking myself this question ever since I started training: Does the attitude, and actions of others affect how I train? At first I had convinced myself that it will not affect me, so live and let live. Now, I'm not so sure about that.. I have found that it is difficult to train with someone who jumps the count especially when we are doing any kind of sparring exercise together. I find that I have to adapt my response to the exercise to meet the irratic behaviour of this person rather than focus on learning the "lesson" contained within that exercise.

Anonymous said...

"I have found that it is difficult to train with someone who jumps the count especially when we are doing any kind of sparring exercise together."

My father always told me that my freedom stops when it affects someone else's freedom (it was on one of those days, you know, teenager vs parental oppression :-) ).

In that case I will be happy to explain to that person what he/she is suppose to do. Like when you practice a technique and, instead of punching you to the head your partner punches you to the plexus and follows your movement (because he knows what is going to happen). The next time the technique is called out, I don't move, let him punch, take his hand and place it at the position it is suppose to be. "Next time put it here."

With time, you know which one of them you do not "connect" with. Either you choose another partner or you adapt to the "lyar". But I know you already know all of this :-).

Take care,

Marc

Anonymous said...

Jumping the instructor's count. Isn't that annoying? That's pretty common though.

As for achievements, if you're doing one extra pushup today that you couldn't manage yesterday, you're on the right path!

be the best that I can be in that moment... Well put, I like that.

supergroup7 said...

Marc, I really liked that statement about freedom. It has given me inspiration to more contemplation. Thank you.

Yes, I've had partners punch to the wrong level ( sometimes by mistake, sometimes on purpose) I decided to learn from that moment. I want to improve my ability to "read" the body language of others, so I am attempting to feel the level of the punch by how their arm moves. I'll adapt my defense to match what my opponent is doing, and try to stay as close to the exercise that Sensei prescribed as possible while still defending myself from the improper height. This is always a nice mental challenge. So .. in a way.. I'm grateful for those moments wherein I have to "be creative" on the spot.

supergroup7 said...

You know what John? I'm guilty of "jumping the count" once in awhile myself. I think that it is a normal human tendency to either anticipate, and prepare, or robotically assume a pattern of movement.

I believe that as martial artists we have to focus on the moment, and treat each count as it's own space in time.

Consistently "jumping the count" is bad training. It's like cheating yourself on your stance, or doing only bopping head push ups. Instead of benefiting from all of that effort, you end up damaging yourself.

Colin Wee said...

"You know what John? I'm guilty of "jumping the count" once in awhile myself. I think that it is a normal human tendency to either anticipate, and prepare, or robotically assume a pattern of movement."

It's easy to do. I make sure that this doesn't happen too often in my class. If it does I switch counting from sequential (1,2,3...) to left-right (1,2,1,2,2,1,1,...).

Where does jumping the count happens most often? In aerobic studios! They don't really jump the count, they tune out and go with the rhythm. The brain switches off and the body continues to move rhythmically. This is not good for martial arts. Every move should feel like you're on that starting line, ready to speed off.

Colin

supergroup7 said...

" If it does I switch counting from sequential (1,2,3...) to left-right (1,2,1,2,2,1,1,...). "

Colin, I really enjoyed the refreshing "alertness" that you have to keep up when you are training in the left-right manner. There was always that fun challenge of discovery, and surprise with each count. At first, it was pretty confusing, but once I accepted that I had to wait for the sound of the number to tell me which side to take off on, I started to really enjoy the moment. It's so true that you cannot turn off your mind and robotically perform during that kind of counting.

However, I would like to add the thought that "robotic movement" has also been used as a tool in our martial arts training. At least it seems so to me. I believe that those moments where you stand in one place and do 300 punches, or kicks in a row helps you to learn to breath, keep stamina, let your mind relax and go blank, and cement permanent muscle movement paths into your muscle groups.

Colin Wee said...

"However, I would like to add the thought that "robotic movement" has also been used as a tool in our martial arts training."

This blog was started as a way for you to share your preparation for your shodan test, is it not?

Drills are great for beginners. You are not really a beginner any more.

Colin

supergroup7 said...

Ah Colin, you send such a wonderful challenges to me! I could just hug you!

Yes, the blog started in that manner, but has grown, and expanded on it's own.

"Drills are great for beginners. You are not really a beginner any more."

I'd just like to present this thought:

My husband has been playing guitar for over 30 years now. He is a professional guitar teacher, and has amassed many skills. Yet, I can hear him practicing his chord progressions, and musical scales for long, long periods of time. Why? Surely he has learned them well.

My thought is that there is a certain inherent merit to drills: certain muscles get exercised in a bigger way, and neurons get fired in a certain order. What once was a foreign set of movements to our body becomes as natural as breathing. My husband no longer needs to think when he wants to hit a G chord on a higher fret.. his fingers go there almost of their own accord. Now, he can use his mind to think about adding accents, harmonics, timing changes, etc.

I believe that drills would become a larger part of a more experienced artist's training... because now they know what they want to achieve, and can fine tune the movements to reach their goal. As a beginner in karate I only desired to get my arm out to the right target level, and to twist my fist properly. Now, I am aware of other little things that I would like to see diminished, or added. For example... I want to keep my body perfectly still and relaxed between strikes to minimalize announcing my attack to my opponent.

Colin Wee said...

"Ah Colin, you send such a wonderful challenges to me! I could just hug you!"

We train on the varandah of Hollywood Primary school Thurs 8pm and Sat 8am. Western Australia. Please come.

"My husband has been playing guitar for over 30 years now. He is a professional guitar teacher, and has amassed many skills. Yet, I can hear him practicing his chord progressions, and musical scales for long, long periods of time. Why? Surely he has learned them well."

I also do my line drills. Surely after 23+years I am not a beginner anymore. But they are a good form of exercise - so long as they're not abused. Let your mind relax and you might as well be wearing lycra and doing Taebo.

Colin

supergroup7 said...

You know that I would be there in a heartbeat this Thursday if I could find the means to get over there in a quick inexpensive way, Colin.

" Let your mind relax and you might as well be wearing lycra and doing Taebo."

Ha ha ha.. Cute comment, Colin.

By the way, I've done Tae bo.. and it is nothing to scoff at..... The cardio work out in Tae bo is something else! The intensity of the demand was really up there! What I liked about Tae bo is that I could substitute my own martial art style of technique for the punches, and kicks that were on the video. It was an enjoyable 30 minutes that left me breathless, and exhausted.

Mr. Billy Blanks is a black belt in Tae Kwon do. He mixed together boxing moves, martial arts techniques, and dance moves together to form an exercise system to help build speed, and cardio. The main goal of Tae Bo is better health, unity of mind, and body, it is not centered in self defense.

You are pretty accurate in seeing Tae Bo being closer to it's cousin exercise Aerobics.