And this isn't some sort of false humility or attempt to split hairs. It's truly how I feel. I work hard at learning my techniques and polishing my skills, but I don't for one second feel that what I do is art, yet. Some parts may approach art at times -- I think I bring something special to my forms, on occasion, that elevates them to something more than just a series of movements, for example. And there are times when I'm training, typically when I'm alone, that I feel a sense that I'm just starting to ... grow in some way.
But an artist? Nope. Not yet.
So I got to thinking, if not now then when? When does this transition from practitioner to artist occur? And I remembered something that Kwan Jhang Nim taught us when he came to Texas and taught some clinics a few weeks before Christmas last year. He was talking about the things a person must do in order to actually learn, the 7 stages of learning. As best as I can recall, they were:
- Look with the intent to learn.
- Listen with the intent to learn.
- Record and remember what you see and hear.
- Imitate what you remember seeing and hearing.
- Practice. Practice. Practice.
- Gain a higher awareness.
- Create something new.
I've really started spotting this when I practice forms by myself. I've heard forms referred to as "moving meditations," and I think I'm beginning to understand what that means. Sometimes I find myself thinking about something completely separate and distinct from my form, and yet I continue to move and do the form's techniques without thought. Other times I'll be training with friends in a less formal setting and we'll begin chatting about movies, or music, or the news, while we're in the middle of forms practice, and we'll just continue doing the forms , conversing all the while.
Sometimes it trips me up, sure -- I'll get distracted, or suddenly I'll just go "ummm... wait.. what the heck am I doing again?" But mostly the practice I've engaged in has wired the movements into my muscles and as a result my mind is more-or-less free to go about other business while the form is being performed. Sometimes my mind just sort of disengages altogether and all I do is move for a minute or so. No real effort to think at all. Now, this is by no means how things are all -- or even most -- of the time. I don't have anything even remotely resembling the mental discipline to do this consistently. But it just sort of happens, on its own, on occasion.
I also really noticed this effect during my last couple of gup tests -- particularly in last Saturday's 3rd gup test. During line drills and forms I just sort of go ... blank. I just listen, and then do, and then move on to the next thing . It was odd -- I was talking to Sa Bom Nim after the test and I asked how I looked out there. He gave me some praise -- not so much as to give me a swelled head, but reassured me that I did well that day. And I told him that I honestly couldn't recall much in the way of specific moments during the testing until I began interacting with a partner. I have some sense of things from when I was doing forms with Kayleigh, but they're mostly impressions: getting out of breath. Slowing down and speeding up to try to maintain a good rhythm and stay as close together as possible. Being happy with my kicks at several points. But overall I was just ... moving ... without much thought. Even then, with the pressure and stress of testing. However, once I began working with partners on one steps, wrist grabs, etc. I have far more recall.
But anyhow, I think this means I've, after over a year and a half, begun to touch on the 6th stage of learning. I think this sense of separation, of detachment while training, describes "higher awareness" pretty well. Of course, figuring out what to do during those moments is another story -- I imagine that will occur over time. And I suspect that creating, true creation, comes from harnessing and using that higher awareness.
And that, of course, is when one becomes a martial artist. A practitioner practices, but an artist creates. So, I suspect I'll be practicing martial arts for a long time to come.
But my goal, someday, is to be able to call myself, humbly and sincerely, an artist.
Mood: Ready to go home (early day, I've been working for about 10 hours, and I can't leave the office yet -- have to wait for my ride...)
Now Playing: The Hold Steady, "Boys and Girls in America"