Listening for performance

I made the big switch yesterday. I moved from regular pedals to clip-in pedals with proper cycling shoes. The transition was unpleasant. I’ve only been using the bike on the 12km commute to work for about three weeks, but apparently that was just long enough to build up some body habits. I’d already noticed that I was starting to monkey-clutch the pedals with my toes in order to secure my grip. Switching to the new pedals showed me I was doing a few other things. The first thing that threw me off was a maddening desire to turn my toes out. I felt like they were being squeezed in, and there was a very uncomfortable pressure on my knees. I looked down at my feet while pedalling to check my position, and everything looked fine. My feet were parallel, my knees tracked correctly in line with my toes, everything was…

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The Flat Spot: Plateaus in training

I can’t figure out why my mind makes the decisions it does. I know my problems, and they are many. My body is not only broken, but misshapen. Scoliosis, a curved back, is only one thing that prevents me from doing what others find are simple actions. Even so, I have a lot of experience. I know how to overcome my flaws. I know the technical steps needed to get better. I know the drills it will take to reprogram myself. I’ve done those and more, but I’m still faced with the question of why I don’t get better. Everyone goes through plateaus. We learn something new, we get better, and then we stop getting better and just get stuck for a while. Then some sort of eye-opening breakthrough happens and we get better again. For a fencer, it’s often a literal eye-opening experience. About the two or three year…

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It’s okay to suck

One of the more valuable lessons you can learn in martial arts is that things are hard. New things are difficult and awkward, and you will feel like a fool as you learn. It’s unavoidable. Sometimes you look like a fool even after learning something. I remember when I finally nailed the jump-spinning inside crescent kick. The kung fu form I was learning at the time required me to execute three of them in a row with no pause. I received zero instruction in how to do it. A senior student demonstrated the movement precisely once, and told me I wouldn’t learn anything else until I could perform it. It took about a week…15hrs training time. I moved from awkward hops and flailing to a sharp spin, jump, and quick kick. Land and repeat. Easy-peasy. Then I got cocky. I started to pick the speed up. I tried for more…

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Letting go: Martial arts mind

A few years ago I was lying on my back, on the cold asphalt ground, screaming, staring at my right leg in utter disbelief. A moment before I was happy…confident. I knew the future precisely. It was unfolding in front of me with a smooth ease. The student was doing the hip throw incorrectly, and I knew why. So I partnered with him and showed him how I could stop him from throwing me by centring my weight down. Showed him what I expected from him, and asked him to try again. He kinda waffled through it, looked a bit hesitant and nervous. I told him to really put some oomph into it. I wasn’t going to let him go until he performed at least the lift part of the throw correctly. I was prepared. I expected a strong sweep and twist of my upper body. I would lift my…

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Wednesday WTF

Well, I’m in a quandary today. I’ve been looking forward to a good rant on this fine Wednesday. I knew the internet would provide some lovely health or fitness related tidbit to get me all riled up. Sadly, I think I went to far. Dr. Oz… I promised my fiancee I wouldn’t fill an entire post with profanity, and now I’m not sure what to write. No one should be required to use so much self control. It’s not healthy. Bust Your Butt Fat! Right there on the front page of his website. I clicked on it. Some average Americans in shirts and underwear, weeping about how their giant asses snuck up on them out of nowhere. Sorry, I stopped watching at that point. I used to watch Oprah during the summers when I was kid, I know how the emotional appeal formula goes. Instead I chose to look at…

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Nutrition for swordplay: training and competition

You wanna fight, you gotta eat. Swordplay is a power sport. You need to generate a ton of speed in very little time, and you need to do it again and again. One to three pounds of steel need to be accelerated to maximum speed…and then rapidly have the brakes put on so you can make a nimble change in direction mid-lunge or mid-cut. This takes some serious muscle, and some serious fuel. Your overall diet should be rich in nutrients. Strongly coloured veggies should be a staple of your diet. Every single meal should include something from kale to blueberries. Dark coloured, leafy. A variety is essential. Next on the list would be multiple sources of fats. Olive oil, fish, avacados, nuts, seeds, whole cream. Again, a variety is important. You want to aim for an equal balance of the three kinds of fats, and that can be tricky…

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