The senior squad had a very busy weekend in Sheffield at the AMA International championships. This was one of the biggest competitions many of them had ever been to and they all did really well. Competitor entries for events ranged from 10 to 42, with almost all of the events for the 12-17 age groups having over 30 competitors. Kata events were held on Saturday with lots of the team making the final 6 but no medals this time. A good lesson learnt in what we need to push for. Kumite yesterday included individual sambon and ippon events and teams. The team all fought well, on many occasions our competitors were making the top 8 having won several fights before being beaten in the quarter finals. Well done to all of you who competed for your hard work and great attitude. As always proud to have you representing our club.
Special mention to Katie Dolan for winning a silver in ladies veterans kumite, Emma Baldry and Isabel Bailey for their silver medals in the team event and Edward van Meerkerk and Harry Cronk for their bronze medals in the team event.
Thank you for celebrating your birthday with us Emma Cronk and for supplying the donuts (you know how to make a sensei happy).
Thank you to those of you who kept me freshly supplied with cups of tea and to Zara for letting me steal her chips.
Thank you to my awesome navigator, Jacey, without whom the team would have had no coach. And a final but very large thank you to Mark, Michelle and Katie for helping with the coaching.
On a final note from me, anyone who’s recently heard me saying I’m ready to retire from competitions I’ve come to the conclusion that I was lying. Having to watch and not participate this weekend due to injury was really frustrating! I’ll be back 😉
‘Yes, but it’s easy for you’ are words I hear frequently when coaching, typically when asking students to challenge themselves with something they cannot yet do. Yes I’m a Kata World champion, European champion, British champion and multiple sports award winner but what you don’t know is what I have had to do to get where I am.
Typically, I don’t reply with anything other than ‘it’s not about me, it’s about you. Keep working on it’. However, next time you think about giving up, or making excuses because you believe that someone else finds it ‘easy’ and you don’t, I want you to think for a moment about this; just because someone makes something look effortless, doesn’t mean it took no effort to attain the skill. ‘It’s easy for you’ is an assumptive, blasé comment which is often said without thinking, to excuse the fact that someone feels embarrassed that they can’t currently do something the way they would like to or because they can’t be bothered to put the required work into developing the skill.
Just think for a second, if you could do something to perfection already why would I be asking you, as a coach, to work on it? Why would I be asking for you to practise and giving you help and advice on how to improve if not because I believe that you can be better, that you want to be better? It is my way of making things ‘easy’ for you. As martial artists we need the things that we practise to come easily to us, if we feel uncoordinated, clumsy and slow in the way we move we will never be able to defend ourselves effectively. It should be our goal to work hard enough to make things appear effortless. As a coach, I do not want to spend my time being impressed by what you can do, I want to be impressed by the effort and attitude you put into what you can’t do.
I’m not perfect, no one is, but don’t ever believe for one moment that just because I can do something and do it well that it’s easy for me. Everything I have achieved I have done because I have worked continuously hard over an extremely long period of time. Every one of us is different; there are things which I have picked up quickly which someone else will struggle with and vice versa. I seek out the best instructors and I take the time to listen to what they have to say, and often what they say is critical. I write copious notes on everything which I often refer to and I put in hours and hours of practise, sometimes repeating individual moves hundreds of times over until I succeed in doing something so that it feels right. I ask questions, I research what I’m doing. It’s important to understand not only how to do something correctly but why it is the correct way. None of this is easy.
Learning is a constantly evolving process. Complacency is dangerous, if you allow yourself to believe that you have mastered something you become complacent and cease to practise with the correct mindset. In this case you are now just going through the motions like a machine; not thinking, not feeling and not intuitively improving. All training should be done with an open mind, ready to change, adapt and improve. As we grow older physical limitations make it necessary for us to adapt. We lose flexibility, speed and strength but at the same time we should be learning how to adapt our movements so we don’t lose the skills we have worked hard to master. People often become frustrated when they find they can no longer train and move the way they did in their youth. It no longer feels ‘right’ which is why we need to be open-minded when we train. What was right when I was 20 is no longer right for me now I’m in my 40’s. I have had to continue to adapt and continue to work hard.
For those who continue to train, to work and to develop their skills, there can always be improvement. These people find that their movements become softer, more fluid, smaller, wiser and simultaneously more effective. At this point many of us look back and wish we had known when we started that things could be gentle on the body and yet effective. This is when, to the novice, things look effortless and ‘easy’ for those who have developed these skills.
Whenever you become frustrated that someone else appears to find something easy when you find it difficult consider that they were once where you are now. Looking at someone else wishing they had those skills, wondering why it seemed so easy for someone else. They are possibly still looking at someone else wishing their skills were at that level rather than the level that they are but, in their case, knowing that this will come with time and work and understanding that this hasn’t come easy – it has come through continuous effort and hard work.
Where I am hasn’t come easy for me, it has come as a result of many years of hard work. I have trained in martial arts for over twenty three years. I train, on average, for twenty hours per week with a mixture of personal training, private lessons, coaching and fitness work. I do more when I can. Just one year after I started training in martial arts I was diagnosed with M.E (also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). As a result this has been anything but easy for me but I have never given up. You never know what anyone has struggled with or is currently struggling with and how hard they have worked to attain their goals and reach their current standard but I do know that with my own achievements I have felt an enormous sense of pride, this is not something you feel when something comes easy to you.
With this in mind, next time that you are faced with a challenge and someone else is making it look easy, ask yourself how much you want to achieve, how hard you are willing to work and how important it is to you to get there. Just because it looks easy for someone else doesn’t mean it came easily to them. Consider and appreciate the effort they have put in and then match that effort with your own.
Two days before Christmas I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon at a friend’s house. Laid out on the table was a jigsaw. The edges were complete but nothing else, hundreds of pieces scattered around waiting to be found and placed in an orderly fashion. As we sat I started looking for pieces to add to the puzzle and quickly became engrossed, all the while chatting, drinking and making merry. It is years since I sat with a jigsaw, but it was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
It got me thinking. Life sometimes feels like a large jigsaw made up from lots of little images, each one representing a different aspect of my life. An image of each of my children and my husband, all looking healthy and happy. An image of my home, warm, clean, tidy, happy and homely. An image of work, busy, successful, productive. An image of my family and friends, keeping in touch, spending time together. An image of myself, living up to the values I hold dear, looking after all those important aspects of my life whilst still managing to look after myself, being the best I can be.
I have an image in my head of the stunning picture it would make when all the puzzle pieces are put together, an intricate web showing life which is serene and organised, everything running smoothly together, happy faces and beautiful places.
However, my jigsaw is far from complete. I stand in the middle of lots of pieces of the puzzle, they are chaotic. A jumbled up intermingled mess which often leaves me feeling like I don’t know where to start.
Sometimes I feel like I am making progress and parts are coming together, the kids are doing well, work is productive, success at a competition. But when I focus too much on one area of the jigsaw, other parts are being neglected. How can I possibly pull this together? It doesn’t take much to make it fall apart again either, the car breaking down, a phone call with bad news, a bill when you have no money and the parts pull apart and I am left standing in the middle of the mess, feeling defeated.
However, here’s what I learnt about completing a jigsaw. Puzzles are fun and they are made for the doing, not solely for completion but for playing with. When a jigsaw is complete all you can do is sit back and look at it, the interaction stops. Sure, you admire the picture, you appreciate the effort you put into the finished product, but then you think ‘what now?’ In time the picture fades and gathers dust, the perfect image becomes uninteresting so the pieces come apart and get put away whilst you fondly remember the fun you had putting it all together. Yes, sometimes it’s frustrating when you can’t seem to finish or find the right piece. Sometimes it’s tiring, monotonous even and feels like you’re getting nowhere. But then there’s the buzz of excitement when you make progress, a sense of achievement in working toward the completed masterpiece and it’s even better when you rope in friends to help you along the way. Sometimes you have to focus more on one area and that’s ok, you’ll be back to the other parts soon enough.
So here’s what I’ll be doing in 2016. I will be viewing life a little differently, not pushing for perfection and completion but learning to enjoy the confusing, messy conundrum that it can sometimes be. Enjoying the moments where it’s all coming together and with the help of those around me working through the times where things fall apart or seem unmanageable. Life is for the doing, not the completion. It’ll come to an end soon enough, there’s no rush to finish. A perfect life soon becomes dull, losing its lustre and gathering dust. Nothing but an image of perfect happiness.
True happiness is found when you revel in the mess, learn to enjoy the chaos and give yourself a pat on the back for those short lived moments where it all comes together.