Yeah, no updates lately. Honestly, things have been so crazy busy since the week or so prior to the last gup test through the week or so since that my creativity seems to have opted to take an extended nap. I've found that this is a typical pattern that I fall into. Pre-test anxiety and excitement gives way to a sort of post-testing intellectual torpor. Like my nerves, which had been so stimulated by all the adrenaline and energy and focus of the previous couple of weeks, need to go dormant for a little while to recharge. This usually brief recovery period combined with a) the weather (unseasonably cold and rainy mostly), b) the professional limbo I've been in for a couple of weeks (looks like I'm getting promoted, which is awesome, but until I see some paperwork with my name on it I really can't talk about it or act in my new role), and c) the huge flurry of activity associated with helping my kids wrap up their advanced study projects (Miranda's is on cryptozoology, Trevor's on carnivorous plants. Man, my kids are so damn cool...) has left me feeling a bit out of sorts.
To top it off, I managed to strain a muscle in my upper back a week or so before the test, but ignored it while prepping for the test, taking the test, and participating in Master Riley's guest-teaching classes a couple of days after the test. So now it's KILLING me, this bright blossom of pain just above my right shoulder blade that stretches up into my neck whenever I move just ... so. I've been taking it easy since lat week to try to give it a chance to heal, and it's getting better, slowly. But it's making it hard to train, and to sleep, so no fun, there.
We have a tournament coming up at the end of the month that I plan on attending with Miranda -- Master Riley's Texas Tang Soo Do Classic, down in New Braunfels -- and as a result I am getting force-fed both of my new 4th gup hyungs so I can choose one for the competition. I learned the last of the Pyang Ahn forms (Pyang Ahn O Dan) pretty well last week, and just learned Chil Sung Il Rho last night. It's presented a strange quandary, though.
I'd really like to try to compete with a Chil Sung form this time out -- last time I competed at a time where I could potentially choose between a Chil Sung and a Pyang Ahn form (at last year's Texas Tang Soo Do Classic, when I had just made 8th gup) I had to compete with Pyang Ahn Cho Dan as I hadn't been taught Chil Sung Ee Rho yet. It's typically considered better to compete with Chil Sung forms, as they offer more opportunity for variations in performance style -- lots of pauses and tempo changes, lots of breathing and relaxation intermingled with explosions of energy. They're very dynamic. Plus, they are the forms that were created by Grandmaster Hwang Kee, and therefore hold a special place of significance and honor in the Tang Soo Do Mi Gu Kwan that obviously appeals to the judges.
Chil Sung Ee Rho is the first Chil Sung form we are taught, but it typically isn't taught until 7th gup, so as an 8th gup I had to compete with what is considered a "lesser" form for competition purposes. As it turned out, I won with Pyang Ahn Cho Dan anyhow -- I typically do well with forms, as long as I don't get too nervous and forget parts of them. But this time out I'd like to compete with one of the forms that we consider the heart of Tang Soo Do. So, the choice would naturally be Chil Sung Il Rho.
The trick, however, is that Chil Sung forms are characterized by their peacefulness and a sense of relaxation and regeneration. They are slower, less forceful. Beautiful, really. But as I've said time and again in this blog I have problems with relaxation, with shin chook. The Chil Sung forms truly benefit from shin chook on the part of the practitioner. It took me months to achieve something approaching relaxation in Chil Sung Ee Rho. Conversely, the Pyang Ahn forms are forceful, almost brutal. Hard. Methodical. Intense. And Pyang Ahn O Dan is perhaps the most forceful of them all -- hard and fast blocks and strikes, smooth but rapid transitions between stances, elbows and kicks and spear hands all over the place.
Which leaves me in a quandary. On the one hand, Pyang Ahn O Dan seems to be the most sensible choice for me, for competition. It's a fantastic form, and one that plays to my strengths (I'm big, I'm strong, and I can come off as very intense when training/performing) while camouflaging one of my primary weakness as a martial artist (it has few if any movements that really require me to appear relaxed). I think I could, with a bit more practice, really slam dunk this form and compete very well with it. On the other hand, though, as a martial artist I feel like I should focus on the form that presents the most significant challenges for me, and as a member of the TSDMGK competing with a Chi Sung form appeals to me as an opportunity to embrace a portion of our traditions in spite of the fact that it may not be the easiest choice.
So, I'm kind of stuck. The biggest trick right now is that Chil Sung Il Rho includes lots of arm movements that really seem to activate the muscle in my back that is messed up. As a result, I can't really even try to relax while doing Chil Sung Il Rho because whenever I do it I wind up wincing and gritting my teeth in pain. Obviously, this makes that whole "relaxation" thing pretty tough to obtain. If my back doesn't settle down in the next week or so, I think that will make my decision for me -- I won't try to compete with a Chil Sung form unless I actually feel I've managed to at least touch a minimum level of relaxation and confidence in it, and that will take a couple of weeks of serious focus and discipline in practice. I need to at least be able to practice it without pain for a week or two to feel ready. I have less than three weeks until the competition, so if by Saturday I'm not back to normal then Pyang Ahn O Dan will almost certainly be my only acceptable choice.
Sigh. We shall see.
Mood: Pretty OK, all in all
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