Friday, February 01, 2008

Little Steps

In art, as in life, your path is often dictated by fundamentals and little steps.

I've written at length about my training issues. After some consultation with Greg and some very wise input from Illka, I've realised that what I am experiencing is simply that my fundamentals were not strong.

Take for example, footwork. Of all the training I've gone through, footwork is the most boring. Yet, so much depends on it. Your distance judgment is based on how consistent you can keep your footwork. Your stability is determined by how solid your footwork is. Your defense is determined by being in the right position at the right time, and that is largely a function of footwork.

Specifically, my footwork suffers because:

  1. When I take a step forward, I stop prematurely, causing my body to jerk forward. The reason for this is that when I move forward, I don't commit to shifting my weight to the forward foot until the very last moment. The sudden rush of forces from this weight transition forces my forward foot to act as a brake, which causes it to stutter. Furthermore, because I'm not comitting to moving forward, the reach of my front foot tends to be shorter than it would otherwise be, aggravating the "stutter". Solution - practice transitioning my weight better. This will cure two of my 5 issues which is the inability to change direction and the inability to range properly.
  2. When I turn, I lead my turn with my shoulders. I know a volta stabile is supposed to be powered from the hip. What I am doing, however, is rotating the shoulder first, to a point where my hips lock, then turning my hips. In that sense, I am overthrowing my shoulder. Solution - I need to work on shifting my weight smoothly from foot to foot, powering the transition with my hip and not my shoulder.
Two very small, almost undetectable mistakes fouled up my footwork. I will work to correct them.


There is a life lesson in this. Very often, it's not the big things that will drive you down, but the small things. A mispelt word can ruin an otherwise polished piece of writing. A misplaced number will ruin accounts.

As in all things, there is no controlling the number and frequency in which a million small things will occur in life. However, what can be done is to control the extent of which these things affect you. We can do so by:

  • being honest with ourselves. We should not have overinflated senses of self, because we wouldn't notice these small creeping errors. Likewise, running yourself down for small mistakes is just as harmful - if your time and attention is on the defensive, you'll never progress, which brings me to....
  • Set goals. Mr Wang has written several times about the importance of setting goals - a person who doesn't set a goal fails 100% of the time. I agree with him. I will also add, setting goals allows you to....
  • Focus on your goal. On top of being sure what you want, you also need to keep your eye on the goal. Small things can detract from this in two ways, as distractions or as flaws in your fundamentals. The former should be ignored, the latter worked on. Either way, the only way to recognise the difference between the two is to understand what you want and to head towards it in a focused manner.

I used to be doing swordsmanship as therapy for loss. It's long since outgrown its original purpose. I want to do swordsmanship now because it's a part of me. In growing my skill with swordsmanship, it causes me to grow too. It's also a wonderful tool for me to understand the interaction between my internal universe and the universe around me.

With this in mind, I can go forward.


Ilkka said...

Very good post. I especially like how you feel honesty to yourself (and others) is important, it is one of the keys to improvement. Accepting a "mistake", or a way of doing something that needs changing, is essential.

What comes to your footwork, being technical is all good, and helpful as analysis of what's going on (instead of feeling that "this just ain't working, you get the sense of _why_ it is not working). But in your case the fix might be on the opposite side of the spectrum. Make your passes more natural: keep your back straight and upright, and walk naturally. Relaxed, as if you were strolling on a street (but not lazily, posture, and lift feet with thighs). Then simply lower the posture as you walk, keeping upright. Lower a bit more, and suddenly you have a very natural, easy to move in guard position.

For the shoulder issue, I'll give you the same exercise as a fix as last time. :) Volta stabiles against pressure by partner, only looking forward. Shoulders don't move, hips just carry them.

Also, make sure you can volta stabile from a position where you are facing a wall, the toes of the forward foot pointing at the wall. When you turn, your heel shouldn't touch the wall, but push forward (meaning away from wall since you turn).

Take care,

Khayce said...


Thanks for all the input. I'm taking your advice and Greg's advice to heart. I suspected that for me, the issue was that I get over-controlled rather than the other way round. I will try what you advise. Thanks!

-ben said...

There is a life lesson in this. Very often, it's not the big things that will drive you down, but the small things. A mispelt word can ruin an otherwise polished piece of writing. A misplaced number will ruin accounts.

I know of a cyclist who went from 68 kg to 83 kg, one brownie, one pig's trotters, at a time.


"A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips," indeed.

Stay well, Khayce!


Khayce said...

Am well Ben. Hope you are too, pig trotters notwithstanding.