Trying and Doing

Trying and Doing

Dear Wayne,

There is this very famous Star Wars quote by the fictitious character Yoda, a Jedi Master.

Essentially it means that you need to ‘Do’ and not ‘Try’.

Carelessness

We were concerned about your carelessness which is typical with kids ‘these days’. When you prepare for school, and packing your bag for the day, you’ll miss out your iPad, you’ll miss putting your school pin on your uniform, you’ll miss your pencil case. When you are back home, you can forget taking out your water bottle, your lunch, your dirty P.E. tee, you’ll put the socks with the laundry, despite of me telling you for the umpteenth time not to. Well, the list goes on.

Academically, you are missing out concepts, key words, and things you should know and will impede your progress until you can use them skillfully when tested.

We had a talk and you were quite dejected, citing that there is so many things to remember, and when you try to remember this, you forget that, and you are on the verge of giving up.

Dejected, drop shoulder mood

Giving up what?

So we had a talk, and this comes down to this 2 concepts. Try and Do.

So far, I know you have been trying your best, and despite of that, you are still forgetting things left right centre. You seemed to be overwhelmed by the myriad of things you need to get right for school. it’s just too much!

You tried, we can see you really try. Even in your math or science paper, despite of your best trying, you still got careless.

Wayne doing

Trying is outcome based.

You couldn’t understand the difference between trying and doing. Well, let me break it down for you, trying is aimed at a specific outcome. You will try to win, you will try not to lose, you will try to be careful, you will try to finish your meals. More often than not, the outcome turns out to be a downer. It didn’t usually happen then way you wanted it to, despite of your best effort.

Trying gets worse, when you try to beat the other guy to the first place. You try to sabotage your friend so that you can look better, you try to retaliate.

Trying is fixated on a duality event, either or, you get it or you don’t, more often than not, you don’t.

Wayne doing, with positive vibes and energy

Doing is process based.

This means that the ends justifies the means. Which can be scary when you know you are not good enough yet. so just doing could means that you will screw up, it can also mean that you succeed beyond your wildest dream; and you have no idea why.

You might think that doing and trying is pretty much a word play, it is not, think of it as a mindset. We have seen you do great things, when you put your mind to it. especially when you are playing with Lego.


Lego fun!

We all know Lego is no fun ‘trying’, Lego is all about doing, getting your hands into the little plastic bricks and building things. You like that and you never need to ‘try’, you build it in a flash. doing means you have confidence, knowledge and skill. Sometimes you don’t, and you asked for help, sometimes you make mistakes and you’ll have to tear the bricks down and rebuild it, and before you know it, you’ve completed the model!

Doing is taking it one step at a time, trusting your ability to figure things out, and working the problem, and when you encounter an unknown, you can make a decision, and step by step you get to the finish line. You are aware of the outcome, but not fixated by it. You take the road, and sometimes there is a detour, sometimes, you need to cross a river, or something that is on the ground isn’t on your map and you need to work around it, despite of all that, you still reach your summit. This is doing.

Switching from Trying to Doing would means we can get a better gauge about your knowledge gap, when you are trying, it will be difficult because you are overthinking too much, there is too much gears going in your head, so much so you cannot get it right, and you start to panic. This happens precisely because you want to not get it wrong, and that is exactly what will happen, you get it wrong.

Doing helps us reflect after action as to what you know, what you don’t know, there is a balance between working it out, making mistakes, and learning from it. Doing is often followed by reflection. Trying is often followed by an emotional roller coaster, you did well, WOOHOO! You didn’t do well, bummer…

Easier said that done!

It takes a level of maturity to just do, and get the flow, have the courage to make a decision, and accept it as incorrect later on as you might have a knowledge gap, which upon reflection, leads to a closing of the gap through learning. This doing and reflecting is a constant polishing of your learning and it never ceases, and the constantly doing will lead to a more sustained energy, and of course lead to a wiser, not just smarter Wayne.

What do you learn in an ‘Advanced’ class

For long time Aikido practitioners, it is can be difficult to discern what is a ‘beginner’s class’ and an ‘advanced’ class. Since most of the techniques we do, looks pretty much the same from the day we started training. Unlike other martial arts, where there are advanced katas, or even a special ‘elite’ group within a school that trains more intensively or exclusively for competition.

As far as I know, I haven’t heard of something like this in Aikido, as Aikido predominantly doesn’t encourage competition.

What is prevalent is this ‘advanced’ class segment, and what do we learn?

Same same, but Different

I’m not sure about other schools but for us, we are still looking at doing the same thing, irimi nage, shiho nage, the 5 Principles/ Teachings (一教 to 五教), and the usual stuffs.

The only difference is the movement, our tai sabaki is different, at different levels of proficiency, and years of practice, it will be smoother, more familiar and we are more confident with our positioning and placement. As with conditioning and muscle memory, it gets easier doing these moves day in, day out.

Herein lies the difficulty, when a beginner join us, we are not too particular with the specifics, as long as a shiho nage, looks vaguely like a shiho nage, it will be passable, and beginners are not conscious about ma-ai, stiff and uncomfortable with the movement, proximity and all that. So we would not want to overload a beginner’s sensory experience during the formative years in Aikido.

A similar example will be one of sword forging, a swordsmith will hammer a block of iron, and form the basic shape of the sword, constantly banging and banging until a crude shape of sword starts to emerge. Also removing any excess parts, constantly shaping and shaping.

Good Habits, Bad Habits

As we progress, habits are formed, some bad, some good, but without being too critical, we know what a good clean technique looks like and we work towards a high standards to executing a shiho-nage.

So in an ‘advanced’ class, we are looking to fine tune our technique, get rid of anything extra. like a small steps we take, or an extra back step, the hands might not be optimally rotated. Hips not squared nor centred.

Personally, I don’t prefer the word ‘advanced; Aikidoka, as it robs us of our focus on the beginner’s mind. Advance can distracts us from the reality that we are simply just beginning to discover our own body in relation to the waza. Advance might be a lie that we are closer to perfection, where we are much further from the truth. ‘Long time practicing Aikidoka’ sounds like a mouthful but it works for me.

‘Advanced’ Techniques

Of course you’ll see on social media, dynamic and dramatic high falls, and hip throws, fast and fluid movements in Aikido demonstrations. The reality is these folks trained very long and hard on the basic techniques, there is nothing additional in these techniques. There is no secret to how it is done. These techniques look amazing because these Aikidoka continuously polish themselves, ruthlessly removing any extra steps, deleting self doubts, cancelling out unnecessary movements and filtered down to the pure essence of body movement. They don’t move for the sake of moving, nothing is extra, everything is necessary.

Back to the swordsmith example, once the basic shape is hammered out, the sharpening and polishing begins, and the swordsmith might put the blade through many many rounds of fine grinding and minute sanding to get that shine and sharpness.

Also once the sword is made, and sharpen, it will need a regular level of attention to re-sharpen, for continuous use, fine minute adjustment here and there, regular maintenance of the entire sword, but essentially the structure is already made, it’s just the daily fine tuning here and there.

Aikido in the advance years of learning is the same, in the formative years you build the rough cut of a waza, then as you progress, you’ll make micro adjustments here and there, as you become dissatisfied with your movement, and realised that certain position is not optimal, or your uke exposes a critical flaw in your technique.

Self correct

Similarly, I implore our long time aikidokas to look at themselves to reflect, self correct, and check themselves. An honest and sincere uke is an external instrument to help us keeping ourselves grounded, ensure that we are constantly practicing, polishing and never settles for the fallacy of expert, nor perfection. There is always room for improvements, we just need to clear our clutter.