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As I’ve mentioned in a few blog posts, I’ve been working on the third Dan taekwondo form Pyongwon. It’s a short form, but it’s powerful and grabs your attention, plus it’s really fun to do.

Recently my Master told me I was rushing the snap kick/back kick combination a bit. I was moving so quickly that it looked more like a sparring combination than poomsae. This is the only kicking combination in the form and punctuates the beginning and end phrases, therefore it draws a lot of attention if done incorrectly.

After she left me to work on it by myself I realized that yes, in fact, I was moving into my back kick before I had even finished my snap kick. My front foot and hip were turning ever so slightly (and a beat too early) as I executed the front kick. I ran the risk of looking sloppy, unclear, unintentional. What I needed to do was rechamber my snap kick while still facing towards the left, then plant my foot, then pivot on said foot, and then….only then…execute the back kick.

And what do you know, both kicks were stronger when I slowed down and gave equal attention to each one.

Practicing poomsae is an excellent way to practice presence, and it also presents a challenge to the thoughtful martial artist who is multi-tasking memorization, pacing, technique, the balance of strength and softness, eye focus, and breath. The black belt (or color belt) must map out the entire form mentally without getting ahead of themself.

I’m a planner. I like to stay one step ahead, five if possible, ten ideally. 🙂 In some cases, being a few steps ahead is an advantageous strategy. Slowing down and focusing on each step can sometimes be tough for someone who wants to Get. Shit. Done. But as I learned while working on Pyongwon, getting ahead of myself can slow me down in the long game.

Am I contradicting myself in all these posts about setting goals but staying present, playing the long game but slowing down? No. I’m exploring the balance we are forced to find between the two. If life is a big chess game, we still need to put gallant effort into each move. That makes the game so much richer.

I know how the form Pyongwon ends. Now I also know that paying attention to each piece is what makes the sum of all its parts so great.

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