Following my “New Year Advice” post, Andrew commented. ”The big question is why are so many of us unable to change?” and added a number of well thought out reasons why it is difficult to alter our behaviour. I also think that many of us do not like change because it takes us out of our comfort zone. Andrew’s contribution re-opened what for me is an interesting area of discussion as I am currently trying to change my own kendo.
Last year Sumi sensei suggested that I should try to move less after hitting. This advice is not relevant to everyone, but increasingly appropriate to someone of my advanced years. To hit effectively without going through, requires full spirit and control, so I need to work hard to get it right.
Like most people I am better at giving advice than taking it, and although I am keen to change, force of habit frequently overrides my good intentions. As I see an opportunity to strike men, I push off from the left foot, hit, and keep going until I reach the wall-bars. To be honest, I enjoy steaming across the dojo as if I was still 18, but I am invariably rewarded the following day with aching knees.
So as it is the time of year when we focus on doing all the things that we did not get around to last year, hitting correctly and then stopping on the spot is my New Year objective. For all of us though, kendo is about constant change, so the point I am slowly getting round to; is how can we effect change in our practice? We have looked at this many times before, and the obvious answer is to stick with kihon drills so that we are not distracted by our competitive instincts. There are times however when we need to make changes through our jigeiko. When you consider that keiko should be approached with an ”unfettered mind”, this is not easy.
The phrase “The paralysis of analysis” comes to mind from some long forgotten piece of management training. If you apply it to kendo there is a real danger that if you think too hard about what you are doing, you become unable to move. Instead I like the approach that I may have inadvertently borrowed from Timothy Gallwey’s “The Inner Game of Tennis”; of planning what you are going to do before the session, practicing without fixing your mind on a single issue and then reviewing how you did after training. The key is not to beat yourself up for making errors, but rather reflecting on what you did right.
I am in the process of trying this out and will be interesting to see whether I make any progress, or if my good intentions go the way of the January detox and diet.