Doing A Hard Thing (A martial arts post)

This is about martial arts and my own personal development, which may be of interest to you if you're curious about who I am and my thought processes. Skip ahead if you're here for my VSB-related posts.

I had a hard practice at swordfighting last week. I joined the one-hour Practica session with Provost Clinton Fernandes, which consisted of nearly an hour of slow-sparring with a few variations in rules. The main point of the lesson was to find opportunities of attacks, and in one variation, develop the self-control to not take them.

It was a frustrating hour for me. Not only did I feel like a pin cushion as I suck at sparring to begin with, I couldn't spot opportunities I felt I was supposed to, or I'd spot false ones and then run into my opponent's sword. I was constantly misjudging my opponent's and my own measure and tempo.

My logical brain knew that it is a matter of practice and body shape disadvantage. My "peers" were higher ranks, with many more hours of sparring under their belts. I'm also some 8-10 inches shorter, and 20-30 pounds lighter. I haven't learned how to fight with my disadvantages yet. That would come with time. This is sound logic.

And yet, I was almost crying on the floor after a 3-minite spar with the Provost, where he didn't do the weird stuff that blue cords were doing and gave me obvious cues, and I still felt like I was getting maybe 1 out of every 4 cue he was giving me.

Mike Panian talked about shtuff (he used a different word) that comes up in the heat of battle, and how warriors and knights of old would train their minds so that shtuff didn't bother them when their lives were on the line. Boy did a lot of shtuff come up in my head when I got struck over and over and could not find a way in. Weirdly, I was embarrassed about my emotions. I felt doubly weak for having negative emotions, when I'm normally fairly open about them off the floor.

I realised that being perceived as weak (and small and short) was a sore spot for me. I was driven to practice martial arts to feel stronger and more empowered -- I wanted my gentleness to be an active choice, not a default. My internalised-critical brain was essentially gloating that it was right all along and I was still weak.

I'm pretty proud of what happened next though. I compartmentalized these for dealing with later and focused back on the Practica. Afterwards I reached out to my swordfighting group on WhatsApp and asked for external validation, which they were more than happy to give. And I'm dealing with this shtuff now so when it comes up again in a fight, I'll be better inoculated against it.

I'm a bit more mindful at tough times during my meetings too. Lots of shtuff comes up and I try to work through them on the spot, but sometimes they just need to come back on a different night or find space to get digested on this blog.

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