Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hitting the target

This is my second entry today, because I'm going to be on vacation next week and there's something that I discovered a few weeks back that I told myself I would write about in this blog. I'm worried that if I put it off any longer, I won't be able to write as effectively about it because I'll have forgotten the details. So...thus begins entry number two.

Anyone who's been studying martial arts knows that precision and control are key components to executing a technique effectively. Granted, you can't expect to land a good blow if you're focusing only on control and not putting any power behind it, but most people can agree that the hours spent striking targets and body shields in class pay off tremendously in the long run, right?

I like targets. I always (I kind of hate to admit this) want to try harder when there's something to hit. It's fun to do techniques in the air, but at some point it's good to know that you can also hit something that's in front of you. I also really like targets because they give me an idea of how I can improve my striking; what details am I missing? What can I do to make that technique more effective? But most of all, I like them because they don't change or do anything unpredictable. The body shield is always going to be right in front of you and it's not going to move or go anywhere unless you make it happen.

Besides...there's a feeling of satisfaction that I get when I know that I landed a solid strike, right in the middle of the target; right where I wanted that strike to be.

On the other hand, targets can also make things challenging; particularly when you don't land a good hit. Right before my green belt test, I was a little bit nervous about my spinning hook kick, so Zach helped me practice by holding the target for me. I already mentioned in the last entry that my left foot needs work, and since the belt test was about a month and a half ago, the spinning hook was no exception. I landed some good kicks with my right foot, but when that left foot was in the air, I missed...and missed again...and I just couldn't hit that target! We actually stopped for a minute because I was so frustrated with myself for not being able to hit it. I thought that it was nerves that were keeping me from being able to land the kick, but after a few minutes, I realized that I was focusing too hard on hitting the target.

It's hard to do anything when you're thinking too hard about it. So I started again, thinking that if I focused on not focusing on the target, I would eventually hit. Well...that didn't work either, so I got frustrated again and chambered for one more try, no longer caring whether I hit the target or not and...I hit it.

Man, that really surprised me. How was it that the one time I didn't care whether I hit or not, I actually landed a good kick? So I tried again, using the same approach, and landed another good kick. What was up with that? How was it that when I cared and I focused and I tried hard, it messed me up? Wasn't caring supposed to help me?

I think that it's possible to care too much about something and when that happens, you can actually prevent yourself from doing what you need to do to reach success. All that I was thinking about was hitting that target. That's all that I wanted. But while I was focused on precision, I wasn't focusing on technique or speed or power. I just wanted to hit the dang thing. When I let that go and just stopped worrying about it, my mind was clear and my body did what it was supposed to do.

That situation showed me how much influence your mind really has over your body. Hitting the target was really important to me; I wanted to make sure that I was kicking high and far enough to be effective...but I cared so much that I was actually holding myself back.

Having a clear mind is crucial to executing a technique well. Over-thinking doesn't help at all. Perhaps we can train ourselves to not think too much and to just do what needs to be done. Not for every situation, mind you, because many times circumstances in life call for a great deal of introspection. When it comes to martial arts, however, hitting the target is important...but it's not THAT important.

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