Self Critical

Q: What is the something you are self critical about when you are training?

Nearly everything. I’m not a natural jumper, runner, or tumbler so I’m not critical in those areas. I have limitations due to my age, the age I started training, and my injuries so I let those go, but I will always be my harshest critic. I get frustrated with myself and my banana slug paced progress.

There’s not enough time to train. I’m here full time, how can that be possible? There’s so much depth. Lifetimes upon lifetimes of training and experience passed down to each generation. Five years is a drop in the ocean. Between physical training, learning theory and analyzing, Retreat Center-related work and chores, personal work and projects, teaching, rest, and recovery time, there’s not as much time as one would think.

Grandmaster Cheng once showed Dr. Yang how much he learned from Grandmaster Jin. He held up his hand and blew across it to symbolize dust. How much did Dr. Yang learn from Grandmaster Cheng? He’ll hold up his pinky, meaning Grandmaster Cheng’s knowledge was represented by the entire body. So much was lost in one style within two generations. Think about the history of martial arts as a whole.

These thoughts come up once in a while, particularly when I’m frustrated or down, but I try not to dwell because it’s a waste of time. You can only go as far as your lifestyle and situation allow, so don’t compare yourself to anyone else. My life has been completely different from Dr. Yang’s, and his to his teachers’ and grandmasters’.

Back to self criticism. On Friday, I recorded my 51st rep of Taizu Changquan and watched it. There were probably 20 things that were building up and I had a minor snap. I was disgusted with what I saw. It was after an hour of sequence training, which is a legitimate explanation for the crappy performance, but not for me at that moment. I got angry and did it again. Then, I was supposed to work on fighting forms and reaction with partners but I wasn’t in the right state of mind. I was afraid both sides would get hurt. So I ran to the gym to punch the bags. After tiring myself out, I saw three mats piled up on top of each other and I normally don’t think I can jump that high, but I said to myself, “(blank) it, I can do this” and I did.

It’s not the first time frustration or anger drove me to do something I thought I wasn’t capable of doing. It doesn’t seem like a healthy way to push myself, but sometimes it works. So do I just make the most of it when I feel that way without forcing those emotions? I’m not recommending that anyone do this. When I get a surge of negative energy, I don’t listen to my body as much and it can lead to injuries.

I sat on top of the mats and looked down at the bags and weapons hanging on the walls. I wondered, “How was I ever satisfied with myself?” Nothing I’ve ever done has ever been great, but there were moments when I was satisfied with myself for all the work I put in up to that particular point in time. I think we all need to feel that way sometimes. Be proud of our accomplishments but don’t rest on the laurels. Continue working the next day.

I never feel that way anymore. Even if another student or my teacher tells me I’ve improved, I feel kind of good for a second and then it goes away. It’s a good thing because you keep pushing yourself.

I guess that’s it. One long negative and self deprecating post that ends with a truth.

The next day, I shot Taizu Changquan #53. It’s still crap, but it will improve. It’s one of my new favorite sequences and the second advanced sequence in the Long Fist curriculum after San Lu Pao.

7 thoughts on “Self Critical

  1. what you are learning in 5 yr you will refine and improve for the rest of your life. 20 yr from now you will be awesome. every time i see your videos i see improvement. rooting and flow much improved this time.

  2. What other women are in your current program? You have accomplished great things already. Be patient and accomplishment will come through your efforts.

  3. When I was learning tai chi, I became quite upset at my slow progress, and the seeming endless plateaus in my practice. One day, I asked my teacher whether she had ever done a perfect set of tai chi? Without hesitation, she replied, “No — but I intend to.” Big lesson in there, for me.

    Just finished my first trip through Dr. Yang’s Neigong dvd. It conveys some of the “depth” you spoke of, and even some of the intensity of the training. You’ve chosen a steep path up a high mountain — truly extra-ordinary.

    • Thank you Walt. You and the other commenters are right, I’ll keep working at it. Even though I know I won’t ever be satisfied :)

      This is an extraordinary experience that I intend to share with as many people as possible. I just came to the realization that even though I have my own limitations, I’ve had a taste of it and being here with my teacher, fellow students, and visitors allows me to share all of our experiences as a collective. I can’t do everything I want to, but my future students can still learn how. Thank you.

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