Spent the morning today out in the shop, instead of writing a blog post. It was brutally cold…just a smidge above zero, with hints of snow showing up amongst the wind and rain. Chris and I headed out nice and early, fortified with enough to coffee to get started. He was working on preparing some sword blades for fitting, and I was going to do some overdue jewelry work. I’d been planning to make new wedding rings for Courtney and I, but time had been hard to come by.

It didn’t take long for the cold to really seep in with the garage door open. You don’t notice so much while you’re working, things just get a little harder to hold on to, and you get a little clumsy. I was sawing away at a tiny little sliver of silver, and blowing the powder off every few moments as I cut, so I could follow my scratched-in marks. I didn’t really pay much attention to the cold until I noticed the silver fogging up every time I blew on it. I broke a couple of saw blades trying to overcompensate for the odd misdirections that resulted from that…Had nothing to do with me having to take my glasses off to work close enough that I could see. Honestly. I suppose I should have brought my reading glasses out with me…

The pain in my hands didn’t kick in until I started to file in earnest. When you think of metal work, you tend to think of hammers and forges. The reality is the same, though, for steel as much as for silver…the real  tool is the file. The file does the shaping, the smoothing, the corrections…even the polish. Working with jewelry, it’s a small file, and a small piece to work on. Still takes lots and lots of time, though. And a good, strong grip. And constant repetitive motion. Which is where the pain comes from.

The constant back-and-forth while bearing down on the tiny piece of silver was making my thumb, fingers and palm ache. At first I was doing what everyone does…shaking my hands out, stretching my fingers, trying to find some relief. It worked, for a moment or two, and then the pain came back. It took me a few minutes to realize I was a martial artist, and what that meant.

It meant that I knew how to master my body. First I start by analyzing what I was doing, and then applying one correction after another. Breathing first…always breathing first. I was holding my breath as I filed, so I started to slowly breathe out while I worked. In and out, slowly and smoothly. Once that was taken care of, I started to work on posture. I was hunched forward. Partially it was because of the cold, but mostly because it’s something you naturally do when you concentrate or put effort into something. I didn’t straighten my back out, though. I moved my weight a little until my upper body was correctly centered over my lower body, and then I started to make sure my hips…my psoas…were properly open. That brought my body into a better alignment. My shoulders opened a little, my breathing got a lot smoother.

I was still hunched over, but it was a stronger curved hunch…an arch, not a dropping of the upper body over the awkward hinge of the abdomen, pulling the whole body down. My grip became smooth, the pain lessened, and the silver started to file easily and quickly. I was done in no time.

All in all, not a bad morning’s fencing lesson.