Friday, August 11, 2006

Kyum Son, Yong Gi, and Self Doubt

Definitely having "one of those weeks," training-wise. I'm kind of unfocused, having trouble keeping the new techniques I've learned in the past couple of weeks straight, and getting myself frustrated in the process. Which, of course, leads to more errors, less focus, more frustration, and so on. Gah.

Some weeks I almost feel like I'm sliding backwards, no matter how hard I try. My energy is off, and I just don't have the clarity I have at other times. It might just be end of Summer burnout -- the kids are heading back to school in just a few days, so the last few weeks have been pretty packed with events and activity as we try to jam in everything we wanted to do over the past few months but just didn't get around to. Hopefully, once our schedules settle back into the nicely moderated school year patterns my energy will come back up to the typical waterline. Who knows.

That said, I'm pleased with some things. For one, Sa Bom Nim commented several times over the past few classes that my kicks were looking really good, particularly from a height perspective. I've been working on increasing my flexibility pretty aggressively for several months now (lots of stretching, lots of warm-ups before working out, etc.) and the results are really starting to show. I routinely kick over my head on my front, side, downward heel, and crescent kicks these days, and my round and hook kicks are easily to chin level when I try.

And I think my technique on several kicks has finally started tightening up some -- my side kick and front kicks feel solid and powerful, my round kicks are finally starting to feel controlled and effective, my downward heel and crescent kicks have solid form (although I feel they are lacking in power -- I've been focusing on getting the technique down, and will work on power later), and I'm even feeling more comfortable with hook kick and spinning hook kick. Back kick still screws me up -- not sure why, but I keep throwing it as a sort of half-assed side kick. I need to unlearn and re-learn it I think. I've noticed that this feeling occurs at periodic intervals -- I think it's a fairly decent measure of advancement in my own skill. Realizing that the way I've been doing something is not the right or correct or best way, and then kind of breaking my technique, getting frustrated with it, and then re-learning it again.

My balance is also really coming along as well. Lately I've been working on lots of balance exercises while at home -- sometimes just standing on one leg with the other foot hooked in behind my knee, other times, holding one knee up in a side or round kick prepare position, typically trying for 30 or 60 second intervals and then switching legs. It's damn hard, but I've really noticed a difference in the way I hold my weight and balance during training these days.

I've also been working on some strength and flexibility stuff -- my favorite being standing on one leg while holding the other leg out straight to my side as high as I can for as long as I can (typically I can hold it at about a 90-100 degree angle for about 5-10 seconds, tops), and then switching legs. Not as directly practical as some of the other balance exercises I've been doing, I don't think, but it looks damn cool and it definitely builds strength in those outside hip muscles. Plus my thigh muscles look freakin' amazing when I'm holding that stance -- training has given me some pretty great definition in my quads and whatnot, and those stances really accentuate it.

But I'm not vain. Nope, not me.

But again, as usual, I can sit here and rattle off a list of things I know I'm doing very well, acknowledge the advances and accomplishments I've made in my training, and still feel like I'm failing. I really wish I could just kick myself in the ass and get over these bouts of self-consciousness and self-doubt. I'm doing well. I know it, intellectually. But there are just days when I can't feel it. I need a really good class, where I just feel that I nail a lot of stuff and walk out feeling solid and sure of myself, to clear my head. It would be so much easier to just accept that I have some off days and not sweat it so much.

In considering this weakness (and it is a weakness, especially in that it tends to undermine my resolve to train through the tough times) I've begun to think that it's associated with two of the eight key concepts of Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan: Yong Gi, which is courage, and Kyum Son, which is humility.

The Yong Gi connection is obvious -- when I get these bouts of self-doubt I tend to feel the way I did as a 10th gup, frightened and embarrassed. I find myself apologizing for my failures, feeling as though I'm wasting the time of my partners, peers, and instructors as I flounder through my lessons. It would be so easy to quit, to listen to that voice in my head that whispers "You look ridiculous. You're a foolish man, approaching 40, trying to act like a teenager. Give up your charade, stop being a cliche, and quit." Ignoring that voice is perhaps one of the most continual tests of Yong Gi I've encountered in my training. Luckily I can look to several peers and dan members my age or older and draw strength and resolve from their accomplishments.

The Kyum Son connection is perhaps a bit more subtle, a bit trickier, and maybe a bit more insidious. I think that some of this hypercriticality of my own abilities is grounded in a sort of prideful hunger for recognition and approval. I want so much for people to tell me I'm doing ... not just well, but better than others. On some level I have to admit that I want to be recognized as more skilled than so-and-so, stronger than this guy, faster than that guy, and so on. It's not enough to improve myself -- some part of myself wants to show up others. It's pettiness.

I work my ass off training and practicing whenever I can. Most, nearly all, of this effort is an honest attempt to get a firm grasp of my techniques so that I'll be prepared for testing. But I also want to show off a bit, to compare myself against others and be compared and praised. It's far from my first impulse -- I'm not an arrogant or boastful guy. But if I were to claim that the opinions of my peers and the approval and praise of my superiors didn't matter, a lot, I'd be lying. And this seems, to me, to be a sort of failure of humility, a sort of pride that undermines my focus and resolve. A need for the spotlight and the applause that, when I don't get it, makes me feel like I'm failing.

Sigh. I have so far to go.

Mood: Pensive
Now Playing: Sarah Brightman, "Harem"

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