Posts Tagged ‘kung fu’

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Philosophy Tuesday

September 19, 2017

There are two types of “learning” in the world.*

The first is the kind that things like mathematics fall into.  There is a definite set of processes, rules, procedures, and methods that produce a solid and individual answer.  2 + 2 = 4.  Physics is like this.  Chemistry is like this.  And, in many ways, most of our schooling is like this.  Even the bits that aren’t, the bits that would fall into the second type, are generally taught in the same manner.  Spelling, history/dates, geography/lines on a map, algebra:  all quantifiable and capable of a right/wrong ranking.  You either know it, or you don’t.  You either have it, or you don’t.  And to learn it means memorizing, logicizing, and proper reproducing.**

Which is all fine and good.  Informational learning is important, vital, and can help us do a lot of things.  We want the engineer designing and airplane to know their equations and figure things through.  The brain surgeon should know the structures of the brain and how to diagnose problems, and what remedies to apply.  Statisticians can help us make sense of large sets of data through rigorous procedures.  It’s all great.

At the same time, this early instruction can create a strong context, feeling, and view (read: reality) that this is how learning happens, and that everything in the world can, and/or should, be known in this way.  Outside->In, knowledge based, right/wrong result type learning.  A context which then limits our access to, and comfort with, the second type of learning.

This second type is the kind of learning that is intuitive, fluid, and arises mostly from immediate, visceral, self-discovery.  It is gotten, but it is not fixed; it lives in the present.  It often bypasses the traditional take on what “knowledge” is.  This is the domain of the arts, of all kinds, the broadest casting of arts, the arts beyond that of just aesthetic pursuits.  It is the art of relating to others, the art of living, the art of movement, the art of the cosmos, the art of “emotional intelligence”, the art of mindfulness, the art of expression.   They are the arts that form our experience of life.

These are very important arts.

They also cannot be “learned” like math;  knowledge and examples and techniques can only be lighthouses to guide us towards the moment of personal discovery that makes it ours.  Trying to stick to the rote routines gained by knowledge only leads to stilted outcomes. ***

It can be hard to do the second learning when you’ve walled it off, forgotten and unknown, and haven’t used it for a long time.  Or maybe not.  Maybe all it takes getting and transforming the contextual trap we’ve been in, opening up to the ability we’ve had all along.*****   Let it out, let it exercise, play, explore, and get stronger.

Opening us up to new abilities, greater wisdom, and a plethora of new possibilities for our lives.

 

* Of course, we could probably create many more than two categories, or possibly there’s even a third or fourth category equally large to these two , but for the moment and for this exploration, let’s keep it at two…

** In later schooling, this tends to break open a bit more, such as with essay questions in English class, where a good teacher will allow for many modes of answers to be graded well.  In the flipside, though, even the most open, such as art, drama, music, etc, can get bogged down under the need to rank things.  The technique gets graded – something that feels as though it can be “learned” and demonstrated in a very right/wrong, have it/don’t have it kind of way (and which has much less to do with actual artistic expression).  This further creates the context that can limit being able to be in and play around in the second kind of learning.

*** This post arose from something I’ve been noticing in my kung fu practice recently, which has blossomed into a meditation on the nature of the art part of the phrase “Martial Arts”.  Especially as you delve deeper and deeper into the art(s), and, for me, as I teach others.  Some of my students are caught in an, for lack of a better term, “engineer’s mindset”, a very strong adherence to the first type of learning.  They learn the outlines of the forms quickly, but their progress hits a wall as the detail work comes along.  Trying to do kung fu from the outside->in, coming from memory and reproducing all the correct angles and tensions and body linkages and movements and etc doesn’t work.  The brain isn’t wired to do so, there’s too much there to keep track of and try to figure out or reproduce in the moment.  That first way of learning doesn’t work here. ****

**** This is also starting to intrigue me and make me wonder about those who are “not good at sports” – could this “not good” be caused by the context of what learning is (ie, caught in the context of the first kind of learning)?  It would be a barrier to  being in their body and learning intrinsically… *****

***** Interestingly, it’s the way we all did when we learned to walk.  We didn’t have language then, and thus no contexts and thus no idea of what “learning” is supposed to be… so we had to learn intrinsically.

****** For all of this, BTW, I had to break out of my own type-1 learning context (that, of course, I didn’t even realize I had) (And I still need to practice my type-2 more and more).  My kung fu training accelerated by leaps and bounds once I started my journey into transformation, as that type-2 learning suddenly became available to me.

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Sun Decade

July 14, 2017

It struck me the other day in class that it has been just over ten years since we finished “learning” the Sun Tai Chi set  (we started in January of 2017  and likely it took 5 or 6 months for us to be taught all of the movements).  By “learning” I mean “know all the movements” for that is the remarkable fun and truth… I have been practicing this form, now, for 10 years.  Week in, week out, practice and more practice.  There’s been nothing added, no new moves, no “advanced” form to play with, no other set to move on to.  Same set.  Over, and over, and over again.  And after those 10 years, I know I haven’t fully “learned” it yet.  I am still discovering things about the set, about my body, about myself, and I know there is a myriad of things to still discover.  Still many ways to suddenly epiphany on how much more the body can be linked, how I can embody the core concepts, how I can move and flow and energize and balance and connect and sink and transfer and be.  And I frikken love that.  I totally love this never ending path.  Every time I get something – even if I re-discover it, and even if it feels, for a moment, that I’ve been doing it wrong until now – it’s a moment of excitement and joy.  Pure delight.  I know I will be 99, on the day that I die, and I’ll be practicing my tai chi, that same form, that same one that by then I will have been doing for 66 years, having done it thousands of time, and I will move and my face will light up and I will say “Ohhhh… that’s what they mean by sinking!  I’ve been doing it “wrong” all these years!”  And as I sit down and pass on, I will do so with a smile, delighted as ever to have discovered something new and grown.

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Jedi Thursday

May 4, 2017

I was done teaching.  It was time for some extra practice.  Only one thing would be appropriate for tonight…

How could I not?

Happy Star Wars day!  May the Fourth be with you.

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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…