Posts Tagged ‘kung fu’

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Philosophy Tuesday

April 11, 2017

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

There’s a distinction that Sifu has brought up a few times in our training I call the “Olympic Distinction”.

Which is to say that at the Olympics, things are decided by the 1/1000 of a second.  That little extra oomph of training and effort often makes all the difference.

In that way it’s not an unfamiliar distinction, and one propagated on countless motivational posters. BUT!  In a very Niels Bohr-ian way, there’s an even more powerful distinction here, especially for those, like me, who can or readily do fall prey to streaks of perfectionism:

“1/1000 only applies at the Olympics.” *

There are many times in life when we can get caught in our own mental traps that drive us to over polished—and ultimately unproductive—excess. We push and prod and try to make perfect and fret and expend time and effort and sweat and oomph and get nervous and distraught and stressed and all riled up and lose sleep and then… either…

never finish the darn thing,

have to cut it short to finish on time thus parts are left ironically underdone,

have to make changes and the extra effort is lost,

or all that extra effort didn’t make a difference in the final result or even in quality.

It’s hard thing to grasp sometimes.  It’s even hard for me to type it out.  It sounds so much like “be sloppy” or “don’t try your hardest” or “everyone else is a fool they won’t notice anyway”, or “cut corners”  or “never improve” or…

But it’s not really that.  It’s a reminder that good enough is still pretty frikken good.  That perfection can be an illusion.  That not everything we participate in is the Olympics.  And above all to be simply present to the cost that comes with perfectionism.

Sometimes that cost is that we don’t even start.  We see the amount of work it would take to reach that level of perfection and we think, “I’m never going to be able to get to an Olympic level to do that, so why bother, it’s not worth even starting.”  And so we abandon all the joy we’d have in the learning, the doing, and losing ourselves deeply in that activity.

We can get trapped on both ends, never starting or never finishing.  We can hinder our enjoyment of the task, and we can hinder our time to enjoy other things as we burn it all into this moment of perfectionism.  And, in the most counterintuitive way possible, it can even hinder the work.

Finding that middle path, and walking it, is where we, and our work, can shine.  We can play full out and avoid the Perils of Perfect(ion).**

And turn out some quite frikken good stuff.

 

* In many ways, this sentiment is also captured in the more common phrase “Perfect is the enemy of good” (or the more original phrase by Voltaire, “Le  mieux est l’ennemi du bien” – “The best is the enemy of good.”)

** Hmmm… Beware the PoP?

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Sabre Fun

January 29, 2017

Some photos from the lightsabre meetup at FC a couple of weekends ago!  Woo!

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Sneak attack to the leg!  Reversal!

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A very fun evening of dueling and geeking out.  Great way to finish off the con.

(Photos by Lostwolf)

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Winter Fu

January 26, 2017

There’s only one thing I don’t like about practicing in the cooler months:  when I begin to sweat.

Not because of the sweat per se, rather, it’s that, given the cool temperatures, my body hasn’t sweat all day.

So when I warm up enough that I need to begin to sweat, every pore on my body opens at once…

… and it feels like a million cockroaches are crawling all over me.

A whole body tingly itching sensation.  That comes on nearly instantaneously.  While I’m doing some drill or exercise.

Urgle…

It is a great test of my mindfulness and ability to be with things!  Still not comfortable at all though.

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Philosophy Tuesday

January 17, 2017

I was practicing Kung Fu with my friend Evan one day, working on one of the opening moves in our Xing Yi form.  He was testing my structure, and I was just not getting it.

He’d push, I’d collapse.

I’d reset, adjust my hips, and he’d push, I’d collapse.

Reset yet again, tweak the position of the arms, he’d push, no dice.

And so it went, over and over, for several minutes.

I was mostly calm about it, remaining present to the moment and letting go of frustration when it arose.  Yet that was not helping my structure at all.  No matter what I tried to correct, the same result would occur:  push, collapse.

Evan took a step back and looked at me as I held the pose once again.  After a moment, he said, “Your thumb is out of place.”

My left thumb, tucked under my right hand, was splayed outward by about an inch.

I chuckled, folded my thumb back into position, and said “Heh, so it was.  But it can’t be the thumb….”

Mid sentence, he pushed.  I held.

“It’s the thumb.  It’s the !@#$% thumb. I can’t believe it.  It’s the !@#$%  &*(@  *&@#$%) thumb!”

To which I proceeded to repeat “It’s the !@#$% thumb!” off and on for the next half hour as we continued to test and as my solidity continued to hold.

Sometimes, the smallest of fine-tuning can have the greatest of impacts.

In ways that are rarely or readily obvious.

We may ignore the little things in our lives, thinking they aren’t worth our attention or time.

We may avoid dealing with something that’s been hanging in our mental or spiritual space, thinking there are greater things we should deal with or work on first.

We may discount certain conversations or getting clarification or apologizing for something or seeking apology for something, thinking they are petty and minor.

We may distain from our little pleasures, or passions, or interests, thinking they are of secondary importance compared to the real, serious, bits of our lives like our jobs or our bank account.*

We may pass over assisting others and lending support, or participating in something, because what could we do, really?  Especially compared to others who have more time, money, knowledge, connections, education, etc…

We pass on, overlook, pooh-pooh, and pay attention to the big bits.

Yet – and this is a big yet – even that smallest bit can cause a profound shift in our lives and the lives of others, profound shifts that open up whole new realms of freedom, performance, and possibility.

Shifts we wouldn’t have seen or guessed before we took the seemingly small action.

In life we have many choices of where to aim ourselves and what to spend our precious time on, and it can become all too easy to become fixated on the large, shining, glamorous, prestigious, important, proper, worthy, momentous…

But there’s an opportunity in letting go of these rigid assessments to engage with all areas of our lives and the lives of those around us.  Within there we may find fourteen things that we can do, that we can take on, that we can transform, or that we can contribute towards, that will quickly lead us towards joy, relatedness, and peace of mind.  Little tweaks that will align our lives and give all of  us what we want.

It really pays to remember the thumb.

 

* Or worse, we pretend they are beneath us to fit in with everyone else…

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Philosophy Tuesday

December 13, 2016

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

There’s a Chinese idiom I learned through my Kung Fu practice that translates to “Eating Bitter.”  Or, more fully, the willingness to eat that bitter.

In order to train and learn and gain skill and ability and accomplishments in the martial arts, you have to be willing to go through all manner of unpleasant periods.

Not every part of training will be fun.

Not every part of training will feel great.

Not every part of training will lead to immediate growth.

No, there is a lot of training that can/will be downright frustrating, boring, repetitive, difficult, painful*, challenging, embarrassing, weird, confusing, upsetting, and grueling.  Physically and mentally and even bits that will directly confront your identity and disrupt your view of yourself and lift up the mask of awesomeness that we all like to hide behind to expose who we are and what we’re capable of.

It doesn’t have to suck – that’s up to us whether we want to turn it into suck – but we aren’t going to be smiling and laughing all the time.  (And if we are, we ought to consider we’re not pushing ourselves enough…)  No, in those moments, they can seem downright ugly.

Yet, after all the training and after we’ve gotten through those sour times, those moments will recede in the background.

Instead, we are left with a sense of excitement and accomplishment, and only experience the newfound energy and freedom that comes from our training.

Most oddly, those blah moments may even become some of our fondest memories.

Kung fu is, of course, not all that different from other areas of our lives.

There are many things we can, want to, or are forced to take on.  Things as equally complex and deep and integral as Kung Fu, things that are physical, or mental, or spiritual, or interpersonal.

Most certainly, when we practice any field of self-cultivation, we are practicing Kung Fu.**

There will be times that are unpleasant, there will be things that confront us in ways we don’t want to be confronted, there will be times (many, MANY times, in my experience) where we will not look good and will be shocked by ourselves, there will be times where we seem to wallow in question and muddlement and sadness and uncertainty and will beg for the insights to come so it will be over.

We don’t have to suffer through that – that’s up to us whether we want to turn it into suffering – but we aren’t going to be smiling and laughing all the time.

And that’s normal.  To be expected.  And totally worth it.

For what’s on the other side is just like all that training in Kung Fu.

Once we’ve gone deep into it and worked through the muck, we emerge with unbridled joy and peacefulness and connection and relatedness and generosity and ease and grace and peace of mind.  There is freedom to be, no matter what the circumstances.

Self cultivation, of course, is also not divorced from the living of our everyday lives.  There’s a parallel here as well.

Live has a tendency to life all over us.  Things go awry.  Plans go sour.  Surprises happen.  Obstacles emerge.  Challenges drop from the sky.

Not everything or every day will be a picnic on the beach.

But if we develop, practice, our ability to eat bitter, and eat our way through all those life situations while bringing to bear all our self cultivation skills, we can ride the unpleasantness and emerge on the other side quickly, with our spirit strong and our experience of life still mighty fine.

And mighty fine is a pretty darn good life to have.

 

* As a martial artist we learn to distinguish between soreness and general ache versus sharp pain.  A good workout will leave you sore, learning something knew might make your shoulder ache, and that’s OK.  But a sharp localized pain equals something bad.  And overdoing it on things that render you sore will lead definitively lead to that sharp pain of injury.***

** Quite literally.  Kung Fu translates roughly to  “skill acquired through effort and time.”  So it doesn’t actually mean martial art or anything similar, and thus you can have kung fu in all sorts of places, such as good kung fu in cooking, in calligraphy, in speaking, and absolutely you can have good kung fu in the art of living peacefully, freely, generously…

***  Similarly, there’s a difference between eating bitter, and situations in life that are unhealthy, destructive, abusive, wounding, etc.

 

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It’s all about the shoulders…

November 6, 2016

When I started kung fu training 16 years ago (exactly 16 years, woo!), one of the first things my instructors told me to do was:  “Relax your shoulders!”

Nowadays I even tell my students, when they start training with me,  “Expect to hear that phrase about 368,422 times over the first year.  It’s just something we all apparently do.”

And so I dutifully tell them, every time I see it, “Relax your shoulders!”

This week, while training, I discovered that on a number of moves, I need to relax my shoulders more.

(!)

I love it.  Even after all these years, I’m still learning and still developing more and more depth of understanding (and feeling it in the body) in even the most basic of corrections.  Something to work on and focus on, until the next thing.  And then the next, and the next.

I’m smiling already just thinking about it.

-salute!-

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Big Rocks

October 2, 2016

The view from where I practiced my Tai Chi this weekend…

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