pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
A conversation I had at a dojo party, with a senior student who was on break and had never trained with me:

him: I can kick above my head.
me: That's cool. I can't anywhere near high.
him: yes, you can.
me: no, I really can't.
him: not if you think like that you can't.

now, what I meant was "if you tried to move my leg that high right now, you would tear several muscles in half and I would be crippled for life." And what he meant was "you might be capable of kicking that high, but you'll never achieve it if you convince yourself your current state is your limit. stretch frequently and with the expectation you will do better every time, and who knows how far you'll go." They're both true statements, but the form of them that came out was not productive.* This is only the most obvious example of a conversation I had a lot at the dojo, in which someone told me to be more flexible while never ever considering that something besides me should change.** It went beyond fighting fire with fire and all the way to attempting to teach an object it was not immovable by being an irresistible force.

I would believe that there's a personality type this works for. But it's not mine.

*Just to be clear: this was his fault. Not mine. His.

**This was not unique to me. I was profoundly uncomfortable with their habit of telling tween girls that if they relaxed and stopped fighting push ups, they would enjoy them.

Commitment

Sep. 15th, 2012 02:21 pm
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Martial arts, like every other sport, yelled at me to "commit" to it a lot. Committing simultaneously a completely undefined concept and something everyone knows when they see it. I really want to dissect it until I prove it isn't real, but I also know damn well that committed more to jumping kicks than I did to the same kick on the ground, and was more awesome at them even when you remove the awesomeness of jumping, so I am forced to conceded that commitment is probably actually a thing. A frustrating nebulous thing that it is not helpful for people to yell at you about, but a thing.

I think I have finally figured it out, and it's all thanks to toddlers and tiaras.

Compare



Apparently you can't embed and mark time, but skip to 29:00, 30:05, 31:00, 32:15 to watch them in rough order of increasing commitment. These girls simultaneously are not good at dancing, not committing to the movement, and don't want to be there.



This girl, Eden, is an excellent dancer and is having fun or reasonably good at faking it. She's far more fluid than the girls in the candy pageant. And yet, she's not quite there.

Then there's Madison.


(skip to 32s)

Madison fucking owns it.


A couple of key differences:

  • She looks genuinely thrilled to be there, the entire time. More impressive when you saw how miserable she was backstage.
  • Madison's motions are much, much bigger than everyone else's- even the girl doing the backflips (Eden is somewhere inbetween).
  • Madison clearly believes she has all the time in the world for each movement (see especially the thumbs up around 1:30).
  • Madison's much, much more fluid between movements (Eden starts fluid but gets increasingly stilted as time passes, even though her smile gets bigger).
  • She's much more fluid across her body within movements. Compare Madison's shoulder shakes (1:38) with the girl in the Mickey Mouse dress in the first video (29:15), or Eden's at 0:28. She's getting way more movement with way less muscle because the movement is transferring through other muscles rather than being stopped by them.


I think the muscle thing is key. Committing is when you set up the initial movement and then just let it flow, rather than making constant course corrections. This explains why little kids are not nearly as good at committing as you would think, given their total lack of shame: they're still sort of crap at using muscles. Every agrees that fluid, committed motions look better than precise but rigid ones, so why don't people commit every time?

Because you look like an idiot.

Take a look at this guy, who I actually thought was pretty good when I watched it through the lens of commitment, but the judges absolutely crucify for having the audacity to audition.


So this is pretty much the physical manifestation of the punishment for presumption. You had so much confidence in your initial motion you didn't feel the need to correct it, and you were wrong and you much be punished. This is maybe what I was getting at with this post. Confident fat people do better than unconfident fat people, but fat people are punished way more for perceived-unmerited confidence than otherwise identical thin people would be.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
So I quit martial arts last week, but this has yet up with my brain calendar, which still thinks Saturdays and Wednesdays are SACRED and anything I want to do must be considered in terms of what classes I would miss. My brain is also perpetually confused by the fact that I'm not trimming my nails to the quick every three days.

Semi-related: if you call a school for sick children and tell them you can tutor high school math and science, they will call you back very quickly.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
One thing instructors at my martial arts repeat a lot is the idea that how hard they hit us lower belts is controlled by how hard we hit them, because they're just reflecting the energy back. This makes my inner scientist/statistician freak out, because while it is certainly a thing that is happening, it does not account for all of the observed variation. If it's just my energy reflecting back, why do some people hit me so hard relative to others? And why do those same people have a reputation for hitting everyone hard? Yes, expectations can be self-perpetuating, but that is a *lot* of variation to explain. In addition, you will observe local spikes where everyone rates person A as hitting harder than usual or otherwise deviating from their routine, generally because A has had a tough week.

The actual lesson here was (as far as I know) "this is the only you can control, so pretend it's the only thing". This is neither the first nor the last lesson karate has tried to teach me of this form, and it always ends with making little charts in my head about all the things their model is missing. I feel like a pessimist being taught happiness strategies by an optimist, or an introvert being taught socialization by an extrovert*: I intellectually understand why their strategy works and that I would be happier if I followed it, but it is fundamentally incompatible with my personality.

But.

Three weeks ago I had a breakthrough. I went to sparring, and sparred the man we will refer to as Exhibit A, because he is my number one of example of how hitting very softly sometimes still ends with me getting hit very very hard. And one time, vomiting, although other stuff was going on that day. Anyways, he was still doing what he does, but it didn't hurt as much. I sparred him again two weeks later, and it didn't hurt at all. That same class, I acquired a massive bruise on my hamstring. I've had people deliberately go for tendon bruises before, and they *hurt*, and then they hurt more because they get in a bad feedback loop with muscle spasms. And that did in fact happen the next day, but I didn't notice it at all at the time, to the point I don't know who did it.

I got body work done on Thursday, and it was more productive that usual, but that's not the interesting part. On the way out, I hit my toe on a chair. I do this a lot. I'm a consummate toe stubber. But this time I was aware of two things: 1. It didn't hurt, and 2. My hip flexor was stretching. It's like my upper body kept going but my foot stopped as soon as it hit the chair. And all the previous toe stubbings were a result of my tight hip flexors forcing my foot to keep up with my upper body.

My favorite instructor says I'm learning to process the good parts of the experiences in sparring and ignore the bad parts. I don't like that word choice, because I've repressed pain in the past and it has gone *poorly* and I would like the phrasing to reflect the fact that this is something different. But the overall point is quite possibly accurate, and I'm curious to see where it goes.

*fucking extroverts
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
I always got angry watching movies claim that the heroine could win in battle against much larger, stronger opponents because she "used their energy against them." That is bullshit. Training is useful, but given equal amounts of training, the stronger person will win. It turns out I was wrong about this (although I was right that for the movements they were showing, size would be the deciding factor). What I am learning now is the subset of martial arts movements for which 1. if you do them perfectly, relative strength is a complete non-issue, and 2. long limbs are actually a disadvantage. Which is awesome, because I am female and no matter how hard I work out I will not be getting any taller, nor will my muscle mass surpass any but the weakest man. There's a reason not every short person is doing this is that you do have to do the techniques perfectly, and they're pretty difficult.

When I learn these, my training partners of course make it easy on me, mostly by not struggling out of it when they could. It would be impossible to learn if they didn't. I've just reached the point where I'm maybe actually doing some of them properly and in combat-useful time. Except I can't know for sure because executing them properly feels *exactly* like my partner just giving it to me. If you're doing it perfectly, they either literally can't offer opposing force because of the position of their joints, or don't want to because it would seriously injure them. A properly executed take down feels like nothing. I was reliably dropping a 6'+ 220 pound man without any effort, and he assures me there is nothing he could have done to get out of it*, but it doesn't feel like I accomplished anything because it doesn't feel like I did anything.

Also, there's a subset of techniques that can only be done against people with longer limbs than you, to which I say SUCK IT TALL PEOPLE.

*On the right side. On the left, it took me a while to set up.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
"I like sparring with you because it's a reminder to protect my groin."
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
My tiny ninja's are exclusively female and fall in the 11-14 age range, but recently I worked with a different class that was mostly male, ranged from 6-13, and probably had a lower average SES. This has led me to the realization that martial arts is good at teaching kids two very different things: how to find their voice/stand up for themselves/assert that they deserve space/have self confidence/leadership/etc, and respect for authority/how listen to orders/temporarily subsume their individuality to a larger cause/how to respect when others take up your time/sit down and shut up/followship/etc. You have to admit, that's a pretty neat set of life skills for one activity to teach, especially when you consider that we're also teaching them left from right.

Individual results may vary, and I'm working from a small sample size, but I'd say I do a lot more voice finding in my middle school girls' class, and a lot more respect mah authoritay in the elementary + middle school co-ed class. I find the voice finding way more rewarding, but I think everyone enjoys coaxing a kid to kick harder over yelling at a kid to stop kicking other children in the head after class. You don't have to be all mean, and success is more tangible.

But it still makes me nervous. To explain why, I need to take a major digression to A Song of Ice and Fire, of which I have just finished book two (A Clash of Kings). One of the main characters is Arya Stark. I started disliking her fairly quickly early on because we're so clearly supposed to love her. Arya is awesome and eats bugs and plays with swords, unlike her helpless sister Sansa who only cares about romantic stories and dancing and marriage. Sansa is clearly a stupid girl and we hate her.

But I think Arya's sheer awesomeness may be blinding people to the fact that she, for example, has people who annoy her killed. Or casually kills a guard who was on her side in the war, but would have stopped her from stealing some horses. If one of the not-awesome male characters killed someone on their own side, we'd find them monstrous, but it's Arya, so it's cool.

The thing is, given the choice, I'd much rather be Arya or have her as my daughter, than be or birth Sansa, who is an idiot.* But as a teacher, I seem to prefer teaching the Sansas to fight to teaching the Aryas to seriously, stop stabbing people, or at least do so more strategically. Which is, in some ways, reinforcing the value of being Sansa. Having spent some time complaining that my high school resented me because they had a saving people thing and I didn't need to be saved, this feels hypocritical. I worry that I enjoy teaching my girls violence because they're so cute when they do it, and that by teaching them a skill that requires cuteness to be socially acceptable, I'm inadvertently reinforcing the cuteness>

Digression the third: One of my mom's better parenting moments was when she told me (age five or six) that you don't get strong, assertive women from cute, compliant girls, and my parents were going for the strong assertive woman. I forget what the context was, my first guess is I mouthed off to a teacher, and I think but don't remember for sure that the lesson was "seriously, don't do that one thing you just did, but keep the spirit that led to it, and if you screw up again, no biggie." Seven or eight years later she added some subtlety to this, noting that the costs for being too assertive are immediate and obvious, but the costs for not being assertive enough are dispersed and delayed. So better to start off too assertive, because you'll correct faster and suffer less in the long term, even if right now it feels like you're being punished.

So I want to create an environment where my students can not only become strong and assertive, but one where it's safe to overshoot, while at the same time remembering that assertiveness and aggression are not the same thing. Without letting them hurt their fellow students, physically or emotionally. And still be fun to teach. While coping with the fact that they still don't know left from right.


*This is false. Were I an actual noblewoman I would undoubtedly prefer my daughter be like Sasnsa, because the culture will crush Arya and she would bring shame upon our family. But as a modern woman, go Arya!

real life

Dec. 4th, 2011 12:34 am
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
The Amnesia developers made a number of unusual design choices, the biggest being that death has no consequence. You don't lose any progress (although you also don't gain back any resource you've used up), you just show up in a new room. You'd think this would make the game less scary, because the monsters are essentially threatening you with teleportation, but what they found was that it enhanced the fear by 1: ensuring you weren't doing the same thing over and over again, which kills the fear and 2: freeing up the brain resources that would otherwise be devoted to remembering where shit was so you could do it again. It makes it more realistic, in that you're not living in groundhog day, but less realistic, in that death has no consequences. In some ways, it reduces the game to a really interactive movie. I'll admit the game was really scary, but I was unconvinced that this decision made it scarier.

My dojo's tests aren't really tests: you're not allowed to take them until they know you'll pass, and you can't fail for technique issues. And the more I think about it, the more it seems Amnesia like. Instead of scaring you with the possibility you'll forget something and fail, they give you techniques you've never done before and complicated combinations. Large parts of the difficulty of the test come from the sheer effort of maintaining that level of physical activity for that long.* And I have to say, it works and I like it. The tiny ninja's tests work a little bit differently because we're on the school calendar**, and while they're guaranteed to pass, it is possible for a truly exceptional student to gain more than one belt level if they perform well enough. I didn't like the tension this created, and it's not even my decision.

So it appears you can make things feel more real by making the consequences less real. Brains are weird.

*Other parts stem from the fact that people are hitting you in the face.

**I keep having to reminding myself that we're a gym class that is supposed to serve the school and not the other way around. Because honestly, we could turn these kids into much better ninjas if the school didn't keep taking them to science fairs and field trips.

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