Perfect Conditions For Perfect Practice

Every summer the gym that we are so very fortunate to get to use at the Range Center for Haidong Gumdo class is closed for a month or two. They do this so that their awesome clients can use the space to create amazingly creative things out of clay. During this time, we hold our classes mostly outside. This normally surprises newer students when they arrive. The reason for the surprise is because they have become accustomed to having practice and classes in an area with a level, clean floor in a building that is temperature controlled - the perfect conditions to ensure a perfect practice session. Or is it?

I asked myself this question while watching my fellow students during one of these classes. I also wondered why are they struggling to perform as well
outside as they do in a gymnasium? I asked the students to see what they had to say. Their answers were really not all that surprising:

  • The ground is uneven.
  • The grass is too long.
  • It's too hot or too windy.
  • The insects are distracting.
  • The sun was in my eyes the whole time.

Are these the answers to why they are struggling, are they just excuses for poor performance, or is it simply a lack of experience?

Have you practiced Gumdo in the water? How about in snow up past your knees, or on a frozen lake? Have you tried in the middle of a thick forest, or in the middle of a swamp? Have you practiced high in the mountains, or in the desert? All these locations have their own learning experiences and unique challenges to overcome. 

Some Gumdo practitioners have their first real experience with sword work outside of class or in their backyard be in the water about knee high. We can find that there are a number of things we can learn from this experience. The most obvious is that you don't move as fast in the knee-high water because of the water resistance coupled with sandy or soft ground. Did you come up with a solution for this problem while you were practicing in the water? Then there's cutting with a sword in the water. How you want to end your cuts or transition into to your next cut above the water line? There are several variations you can consider, but maybe a limited number of them will work for you. Did the things you pictured in your mind actually work in real world application? Those are only two obvious examples, but there are many more things that can be taken away from just this one experience alone. What happens when the water is up to your waist or deeper? Will it be different from practicing in knee-high water? What solutions can you come up with to make this extremely challenging situation work for you and in your favor?

Not having perfect conditions to practice in is not the only excuse for poor performance! I've also heard students say they need to be in perfect health and physical condition to perform the best that they can. I can certainly understand this way of thinking.

There is nothing more I enjoy than grabbing some fast food from my favorite restaurant and wolfing it down right before class. I love that my fellow students always comment that I'm stuffing myself with greasy fast food right before a rigorous workout. Sometimes I happen to attend a class white as a sheet after a long weekend of being a sound and lights man for a local rock band - having enjoyed far too much merriment the two nights before our Sunday class. This usually gives my fellow students a good laugh throughout class and, of course, it instantly puts a big smile on their faces the moment I step on to the floor knowing that our master is going to work me super hard this class for showing up in such rough condition... and yes, believe me, I do suffer! They truly see this as a punishment, but is it really? I personally feel as long as I'm not infectious I need to attend class! If I have injured myself (and have consulted a doctor for an okay) or even if I'm just sore from overdoing it, I still go to class. (Note: In no way is training like this for everyone!!)

One of the great things I feel about investing time in a martial art is that we learn what our physical and mental limitations are, and how to push past them through patience, practice and perseverance. With this in mind, can you see the benefits of training this way? All of this helps improve your understanding and progression to mastering self and the way of the sword. Say you find yourself in a situation where you have no choice but to use your training to defend someone or yourself. You will not liekly be in a climate-controlled gymnasium and in perfect physical and mental condition at the time of the conflict.

When we challenge ourselves to push our limits that's when we grow not only as a martial artist, but also in our day-to-day life. How do you know of what you are truly capable of if you don't push past your comfort zone or at least take a step out of it?