“I’m not good with this technical mechanical stuff!” I shrieked in mock-desperation after a number of flubbed attempts at hand-to-hand techniques (painful twists and joint locks) with my partner. Including my instructor there were only four of us in advanced red and black belt class. It was getting late, and three of us were already worn out from an intense sparring class beforehand, so we were all getting a little loopy and giggly. Throwing in complicated and intricate self-defense work after a long day only fried my brain even more.
As far as martial arts go, my skill with detail seems to be a mixed bag. Thanks to years of yoga and dance training (and classical guitar, oddly enough) I’m very attuned to my body and can make minute and precise adjustments as needed. This helps me with executing kicks that are effective AND look good, and I can bring a form to life with very intentional movement, focus, and breath. I’ve got the art part of martial art down pretty well.
….Not so much with one-steps and hand-to-hand. Maybe it’s because I get tangled up in my thoughts, which are moving faster than my body can keep up. Wait, do I step here and what do I do with my hand? Is it like this or this…or maybe more like this? One-steps and hand-to-hand are very logical, but I’ve discovered that it takes time to build up not only the muscle memory but more importantly the intuition of how to perform these self-defense techniques. It’s not just about a block here or a strike there. It’s about weight distribution, timing, accuracy, force, balance, and a working knowledge of how to incapacitate an attacker as quickly as possible. It’s actually quite interesting but can be frustrating if you get hung up in the details. I can’t even wrap my head around grappling arts. My boyfriend, a longtime wrestler and Brazilian jiu jitsu-practitioner, has taught me a few moves, but it’s all grappling Greek to me. Wait, I move my arm here and turn this way or that way? What do I do with my other leg? Is it clockwise or counter-clockwise? I felt like I was playing Twister, but I was able to choke him out (okay, he let me, but he still had to tap out).
Ironically I was praised by my boss for my organization skills and level of detail during my annual performance review today. My other colleague, who is a P to my J if you’re playing the MBTI game, is amazed at how I keep all my work organized, fine-tuned, and executed while remaining cool and calm. I don’t know any other way to be! Organization is calming to me. I even wrote and conducted a workshop on time management because I love that stuff so much. Details seem to elude me, though, when someone grabs my wrist or throws a punch at my face.
Like my slowly but surely growing intuition with free sparring, comfort and muscle memory with the complexities of one-steps and hand-to-hand will just take time and patience although right now in my head I can hear my instructor protesting: “Complex? How is it complex? It makes perfect sense!” Other physically and mentally-demanding activities I’ve done (swimming, ballet, classical guitar) have all had that distinct moment when everything clicks. I can never go back to a clunky slow crawl stroke and can never un-know the technical tools of the musical trade when I watch a classical guitar performance. One of these days I’ll glide through a one-step flawlessly and throw my partner to the ground before he even knows what hit him.
At the end of class Grandmaster unknowingly demonstrated to me how intuition and precision are the perfect pair. He was chatting with us about some of the nastier self-defense tricks when he gently clasped my wrist, turned my forearm up to face the ceiling, and lightly but firmly pressed his forefinger and thumb into the flesh just below my elbow, smiling innocently the whole time. My eyes widened and I squeaked in pain, not even knowing what was happening. Then, still smiling sweetly, he pressed his thumb into the middle of the underbelly of my forearm, which left me stunned and hoping the feeling in my arm would come back to me some time that evening. He didn’t even have to look down at my arm to know what he was doing. Decades of practice and intuition have made him quick and very effective.
Whatever you are pursuing, you will have that “click” moment. Your intuition will kick in and you will be so smooth and effective you’ll wonder why you ever found it difficult in the first place. You just have to be patient and trust the process.