Tense shoulders have been plaguing me all throughout my training. Earlier this month my Sensei said that just like riding a bike, one day I’ll “get it” and I’ll be moving better.
I got a big hint on Jesse Enkamp’s blog. He suggests that if stiffening up is a problem, stop trying to be loose. I’m sure it’s great advice but I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet. I’ll just have to be patient and remind myself to quit worrying. I’m sure everyone progresses at their own rate, and I’m just going to have to trust the fact that the more I train, the better I will get at this art. I just need to have faith that this breakthrough will come.
I was given a tiny bit of insight a week ago. We were working on, well, I don’t know what to call it it was like “pushing hands” or sensitivity drills, except no structure – just free play at close range with the objective of trapping. We started off with just arms and hands. At one point, my partner pointed out, “If you stiffen up, that just makes it easier for me to trap you.” Light bulb! I started becoming aware of tension and releasing it. We moved on to using the entire body at close range. It was a flowing game of evasion, deception, luring, and trapping. Every time I stiffened and tried to defend with stiffness or power into offense with muscle, I lost opportunities and/or advantages.
On the surface, these were exercises in strategy, anticipation, intuition, and working at close range. But I think the Sensei who was teaching us also wanted me to learn loose, fluid movement in a context that would give me instant feedback. I know if I can remember what that felt like, it’ll help my kumite.
I have to admit there are still a bunch of stupid anxieties and worries on my emotional level when I’m in the ring doing kumite. I’ve been a little lax about finding ways of being aware of and letting them go. On the other hand, it’s been quite some time since I last barfed on anyone, so I guess I’ve improved some. That said, performance anxiety, overthinking things (the centipede’s dilemma), and fear of injury are still lurking around. It’s good to know that as of last week’s lesson, I have a positive experience to recall. I’ll try to remember what it felt like to move gracefully, to have those flashes of insight into what my partner was up to, and to execute a strategy successfully.
At one point I asked my partner, “How am I even doing this? It’s my first time doing anything remotely resembling this, and I don’t understand why I’m not floundering.” My partner said I was using my intuition. Light bulb! I need to trust myself. The human brain has incredible capacities – I need to tap into all those wonderful attributes that enabled my ancestors to survive a lot of really tough things like being chased by sabre-toothed tigers.
Now let’s see if I can apply these lessons next time I’m in kumite. I’m hoping this’ll be a “magic bullet” that will fix my problems. Yes, I’m an optimist. But I’m also a realist – I’m human. Maybe I’ll “get it,” maybe I won’t. But I sure as heck won’t undermine myself by groaning in despair, “It’s too hard! I’ll never get it!” That will guarantee failure!
There’s another tournament at the end of this month. I wonder what will happen?