Learning, always learning

Next month, I will have been training at FWC Kung Fu for four years. In that time, I have changed quite considerably, while still, obviously, retaining the very heart of me that is *me*. If anything, the me has come out more strongly than ever – certainly people have told me so – and that can only be a good thing.

In March 2008, I had just moved to London, and one thing I said I was going to do when I got there was look for a good kung fu club. What I found as I browsed the internet was, though I didn’t know it then, the best club I could have hoped for. The most extraordinary instructor (Dave Courtney Jones), along with some of the best people I’ve ever known for kung fu brothers and sisters, have gone a long way to helping me start to achieve my full potential. I’m not saying I’m anywhere near that yet, but after four years of training, I’m a lot closer than I was before I began.

Now that I’ve started learning fourth pattern, and have been practising the others at home as Dave told me to do, seven times a day, I’ve got renewed enthusiasm. Not that it ever waned, not a bit, but it’s exciting to learn something new and patterns have always been my favourite thing in kung fu. As you learn a new pattern, you learn a few moves that are new to you, so you practise and practise and practise until you’ve done the pattern a thousand times (am I exaggerating the number? I’ve never counted, but I seriously doubt it) and then your body knows it even when your brain messes up. It’s happened to all of us at one time or another: you’re practising your pattern in class, something enters your head and then when you become ‘conscious’ of thinking, you stop and forget where you were. But you know the pattern, right? Of course you do. But with your mind interfering, things don’t go as smoothly as they should. The lesson in this, of course, is not to think too much. Your body learns the pattern, goes through it without any need for intervention from your brain – so just switch off.

I’m restricted as regards space, so I adjust my feet, especially when turning in third pattern, and make a note, knowing that when I’m in class I can practise just fine (the only issue then is if there are so many people in the class, it’s hard to find a suitable space!).

You may ask where this is all leading, and you’d be right. It isn’t just about kung fu. It’s about my whole life. Since I changed my diet (dramatically), I have indeed noticed a change in my training, so I’ve got more excited again, there’s more power in my moves (it’s not just me noticing this, Dave has mentioned it, too). With that excitement has come renewed enthusiasm for other things: my writing, Plot Bunnies, work (yes, even that), and the only possible downside of that is I seem to have more to do and less time to do it in. That’s OK. I’d always prefer to be busy than idle, even if that means I have less leisure time. Again, flipside of that is I need to find time to watch Red Cliff (yes, I did say ‘need’), as it’s kind of kung fu homework. Research, learning from ancient generals, watching others do kung fu on screen – yes, it’s research, so in the next couple of days, work or not, I will be sitting down to watch this film. I’ve heard it’s brilliant, and I’ve no doubt it is, so when I do curl up in front of it, I’ll be gripped.

I’ve discovered something else in the last few days. I started reading George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, just because it’s something I’ve been meaning to read for years, but part of me was put off by having read George Eliot’s work before. Daniel Deronda I found to be a hard slog, but only a few chapters into The Mill on the Floss and I started to laugh, because the way she’s written Mrs Tulliver’s overbearing sisters Mrs Glegg and Mrs Pullet is truly hilarious. No one tells you at school or college that some of these books are actually funny, and it leaves people with the impression that they’re dry, fusty and boring, when some of them are anything but.

So, here endeth today’s lesson: try something new, because you might find you like it.

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