Choking on air, tripping on nothing and falling while traveling up the stairs; are three talents I possess. Grace and coordination somehow never made it into the realm in which I live. I can’t count the number of dirty looks I have received from my dogs because I woke them up as I stumbled and bumbled my way across the living room floor, doing all sorts of crazy “maneuvers” in a pathetic attempt to keep my balance. Fortunately, I have long arms so I usually don’t catch many falls on my face.
Just last week after I successfully navigated up a flight of stairs, I went to make the turn into my office, and walked square into the door-frame. I swear those things will move on you if you’re not careful. We really should start nailing them in place. Dinner conversations at my house are often punctuated with coughing spats followed by gentle reminders that food needs to be chewed. My little lab mutt also scarfs down her food with enthusiasm and vigor. I have seen that little girl inhale a bowl of kibble without stopping for a breath. Perhaps, I shouldn’t emulate my dog’s eating style.
My point is, even before the distractions of daily life, I am a naturally un-coordinated person. Which makes it even more surprising that my athletic hobby is learning the combat sport of muay thai. I decided, based on absolutely nothing, that sports requiring hand-eye coordination (basically, anything using a ball or team members) are not a good fit for me. Soooooo, obviously a sport where I rely only on my lack of depth perception and reflexes is the perfect fit.
In muay thai, like other combat sports including boxing and kickboxing, drills reign supreme when training specific movements; especially those you wish to make automatic. You can drill on a speedbag to improve hand speed, and coordination. Obviously when I started training, I avoided the speed bag like the plague. But over time and watching my teammates have success; my curiosity grew. Really how bad could it be? [Don’t answer that, I am sure there is an entire YouTube channel about how bad it could be.] I embodied a positive attitude and started visualizing myself working the speed bag flawlessly. Just like Rocky Balboa. When I finally got the courage to try for real, I waited for a time when the gym was loud and busy. I carefully made my way to the speedbag, doing my best not to attract attention. I took a couple of deep breaths and went for it. If you have or have not used a speed bag you can imagine, it didn’t go well for me. After my first attempt I said, Mr. Mayweather you can keep this. That beautiful boxing rhythm (dah-dah-dah… dah-dah-dah), was more like flop, flopping, flopped and I hit nothing. Well, I may have punched myself in the face.
I made several more short attempts seemingly making no progress, but I was not giving up. A few weeks into my endeavor I was chatting with Big Chris, the biggest guy in our gym and someone who had many years of muay thai experience. I have known BC for many years. In fact, when I first started training, he would hold pads for me. I tried to punch as hard as I could and he would just stand there with this knowing grin. He would say “you are doing good, keep going”. I would keep punching as hard as I could, and be out of breath in just a few minutes. He would push me on with that same knowing grin. Years later we would spar, and I would try to punch him as hard as I could and even if I got a shot in, he would just shake his head and look at me with that same knowing grin.
One day we were working on the heavy bags doing kick drills and I was frustrated and complaining and moaning that I couldn’t get this speed bag drill and everyone could do it but me. Even more frustrating was the fact, my husband, who “allegedly” had never tried the speed bag before, came in one day and nailed it, first time. Granted he is a drummer and has exceptional rhythm, but in our constant competition, I didn’t like that he was ahead on this one. BC looked at me and said “Your husband is Irish, they are natural fighters of course he is going to be good at the speed bag. Your team mate, Saul is Mexican, they have that natural Latin rhythm, of course he will be good at the speed bag. But you are a German, it just won’t work for you.” and gave me that same knowing grin. Of course I realized I was being ridiculous, and I needed to get out of my own head about the issue. I had spent so much time and energy getting worked up over struggling with coordination I forgot to worry about drilling and practice. If I had spent half the time I spent worrying, practicing, I would have been ahead and probably doing pretty good at the speed bag. He also reminded me that I needed to relax and laugh at myself and the situation.
It is hard to slow down and appreciate the small moments we have each day, to spend time chewing, allowing ourselves to savor and appreciate the meal, as well as the time and effort that went into growing and preparing the food. It is easy to get busy and distracted from the fullness of life and miss the small little moments that really matter. To get so distracted you don’t even notice the stairs in front of you and before you know it you’re falling all over yourself trying to make a simple trip, struggling to get where you know you need to be. If we just spend a few moments in the beginning paying attention to the rhythm, to what needs to be done and let of the issuers that live in our heads, we will be scaling staircases flawlessly in no time.