This past weekend was Pilsung’s Annual Black Belt Camp. It was either our 8th or 9th… we are still doing some research to figure out when we held our first!
It just so happened that the camp fell on the first three days of my 100 Days of Writing Challenge. The camp was fertile ground for reflection on how my study of the martial arts has changed the way I live.
Day number one was our “outbound” day. We spent the day getting the school ready to be left empty for 2 days, our gear ready to support 15 other people out in the woods for 2 days and our students ready to go. It also provided a great snapshot of how different people approach preparing for major undertakings and how those methods are mirrored in their sparring.
I found myself relaxing and taking each task in stride, not getting overly worried or harried by the hustle and bustle around me. My approach had been preplanned, I had thought through the steps I needed to take and the order of importance in advance. I knew that I would not have time to do much of the work until the final day so I had spent time through out the week mentally rehearsing my day. I had even put time into planning for “emergencies” and making sure that there was a “Plan B” for those times where the original plan seemed to be falling apart.
As I gave this preparation method more thought I realized it had come from how I have prepared for some of my recent efforts to test for new Rank and how I prepare for sparring matches. I mentally rehearse my plan, my tactics, the strategy that I feel will best end in a positive result. In some cases I have found myself limited in the amount of time I could spend on the mats and would rely on mental rehearsal to get ready for major events.
Perspective was the word of the day. It could be found in every aspect of every activity we participated in today.
Again, the sparring metaphor jumped out at me as the day progressed. We talked about communications and how what works in one instance may not work so well in another because the person we are communicating with does not have the same skills or perspective we do. We often refer to sparring as “having a conversation” when we test, making sure both people in the match have a chance to show their skills. The trick is that we often find ourselves over extending or not doing enough to showcase our own abilities because our perception of what is happening in the match is different than that of our training partner. Worse yet, the judge’s perspective of what is happening is totally different than either of the sparring partners. In one short exchange of techniques and movements three distinct stories are told and three very different concepts of performance are created.
Learning to spar at a high level and be able to not only show my skills, but show those of my partner as well has giving me the ability to see the same action from different perspectives. This ability has transferred into my life through my communication skills. I am not always successful, but I do try to see the other person’s perspective. I approach the communications process as a sparring match in which I want both parties to “win”. This approach has most certainly not always been the case! I used to verbally spar to win, at all costs. Age, and a few beat-downs in and out of the ring, have taught me a better way to approach communications.
Camp wrap up and return home.
The “Lesson of the Day” was easily discerned, starting the night before. Timing was to become a major issue and opportunity in the very same situation.
In sparring we learn three different types of timing. Timing to generate power (useful, efficient motion to accomplish work), Timing to create Harmony (flowing and blending with one’s partner) and Timing to create advantage (disrupting and redirecting an attack). As our Saturday wound down and we were laying final plans for how to wrap up everything on Sunday morning our “hosts” dropped a little bit of bad news on us. We were going to have to adapt to their “timing” and move up our plans a bit (like 2 hours) to accommodate their needs. Let’s just say that did not settle well with our Camp Staff as we rearranged our plans.
What ended up happening worked well. Sunday went very well and camp ended on a high note for all. We were required to practice all three forms of timing to get there. We harnessed “power timing” to realign our breakfast preparations and were still able to enjoy a fabulous campfire breakfast to close out camp. We were able to “harmonize” with the Host’s timing and create a sense of urgency that made the clean up and pack out go that much quicker and more smoothly than it has in years past. And, we were able to renegotiate a bit of the timing that had been “given” to us and create more space and time for our needs by being able to show that their concerns were not nearly as large with us as they might be with other less courteous and respectful groups. We were able to “redirect” their concern and the force behind their desire for us to clear out of our cabin 2 hours ahead of our original schedule.
Yes, there were “hiccups” and things that simply did not go according to plan during camp. That is life. Everyone was able to enjoy camp and in some cases the “hiccups” were not even noticed by anyone but those with the “master schedule”.
The practice of the martial arts has certainly made me more resilient and more flexible. Life’s challenges are seen as just that, challenges to be overcome, not barriers to progress.