Karate. I love it. It isn’t easy for me, but part of what I love is the struggle. After all, if it is something you love, why would you not have to, or indeed want to fight (pun intended) for it?
I know eventually things will fall into place, become more automatic, not feel difficult and so cognitive every time. I had to accept that fact on faith at the start, but as time has passed, I have seen it happen; I have felt it happen. At first, pretty much everything was difficult, felt foreign or un-natural to me. I always seemed to turn the wrong way or use the wrong arm or get things out of sequence. Now there are many things I can do with less thought, and in a more fluid or applied context. My body seems to cooperate more often than it used to, and my conciousness feels more part of the movement somehow, (rather than feeling like an outsider trying to programme a somewhat faulty robot to move).
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, given my initial analysis), there have been certain techniques that I have found particularly difficult to get my head (and wrap my limbs) around. A very good example of this would have to be Mawashi Uke (round-house block). I first came across this technique learning my first kata, Sanchin. It has
reared it’s scary head made an appearance in several other kata I have had the pleasure of being exposed to since.
To add further confusion to the mix, before I had mastered the basic technique in my first style, I started training in another style which has 2 distinct versions of the block, neither of which are quite the same as the one I was initially attempting to learn. That concept, in and of itself, was difficult for me to understand at first.
Anyway, I practised and practised; in the mirror, in the shower, opening doors, against walls, in bunkai, in the kata. I thought it was starting to look something like it was meant to, and it felt like I was doing the right thing…..and yet every time I did it in class in my kata, particularly in one of the next ones I learned, (Geki Sai dai ni)…..it evidently wasn’t right at all :(.
I had a lot of feedback on it (some fairly constructive, and some less so), many demonstrations and even hands-on correction, to the point where even I could tell that I was doing it all wrong. Somehow though, my body refused to cooperate and my mind was just totally confused; I just couldn’t seem to get it right at all. I felt bad about that, and I felt frustrated, that despite my best efforts, and all my practice, I still didn’t seem to be getting anywhere.
I (and perhaps even my Sensei also 🙂 ) was nearly at the point of throwing my hands in the air (rather than moving them in purposeful circles, as the name of the block suggests), and was at the point of beating myself up over why I should have such a learning-block about my seeming inability at learning this block, when, there appeared on this dimly lit part of my path, a glimmer of light, that helped me find my way, and (both literally and figuratively) “turn things around”. Someone important mentioned that “actually that particular block is pretty complex”. That small acknowledgement helped me persist.
This did not mean I got it right straight away. Oh No! I said “glimmer of light” not “bolt from the blue”. The remark was probably some 6 months ago! At that point I had been fairly consistently getting it wrong for 12 months. Trying to unlearn bad habits is sooooo much harder than learning something from scratch. The point is though, it helped me be open again to the idea that eventually it would come to me. Patience and practice were all that was between me and mawashi uke.
Today in class I had the opportunity to spend some quality time on one version of the block. I got to have it really slowed down for me, got to watch it, try it, repeat it, work it both sides, apply it, all without pressure, without an audience (except my teacher) and without anyone judging me (especially myself). As a result, I now feel comfortable that I am more or less doing it the right way, at least enough to incorporate it into the kata(s) it fits into. Sure, automation will probably mean I still default to old (incorrect) patterns for a while, but, with enough practice, I will be able to overcome this. It felt really good to be able to self correct when practising at home tonight.
I still have the other 2 versions of this block to conquer, and in time will also need to progress to more advanced ways of doing them all. The main thing is that I now have some sort of foundation and frame work, and nothing in my way. And now that I can more confidently use the version of Mawashi Uke I “got” today, any further learning blocks can be effectively grabbed and pushed aside!