Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Week 2 - Who's in charge, here? (she said to her limbs)

Turns out, there's actual hitting in kung fu. Who knew?

Well, I knew. Intellectually. Up in my higher brain functions where I do things like on-the-fly calculations to double a cake recipe. But apparently the notion of sanctioned, controlled violence didn't soak all the way through to the lower levels, where my brain keeps the machinery that runs the reflexes.

Seems I have this instinct to not hit people.

Maybe it’s a deep subconscious conditioning that can be traced back to pre-school, when Toddler Me took a swing at some other kid and brought down the hellfire wrath of Mommy. Maybe it's a lifetime of never once throwing a punch or catching one, presumably with my face.

Whatever it is, every time Simo tells me to punch her, I hesitate. Which is ridiculous. It's not like she's asking me to maul her face off; in training, any punches that don't get smacked neatly aside will, at worst, land a solid thump to the center of the chest. It's harmless. It's an excellent basic skill to have, in or out of kung fu. It's consensual. And it makes a really satisfying sound. 

So I shouldn't hesitate. I don’t want to hesitate. I tell myself that on the next reset of the drill, I won’t hesitate. And then I do.

Block, block, pause … 


... punch-punch-punch.

I scowl and set my jaw and ultimately do punch her, and sometimes I even extend my arm all the way (which is another issue I’m working on), but that hesitation? That refusal of my limbs to do what my brain is telling them to do when my brain is telling them to do it? Bugs me.

It doesn't help that my left hand is a sullen teenager

No matter what I ask my left hand to do, it does the opposite. When I say punch, it says taan sao. So I say okay fine, taan sao if you want to taan sao, and my left hand says NO, I want to punch and YOU CAN'T MAKE ME taan sao, and then it stomps off to its room and slams the door and listens to moody music at top volume.

I’m a little grumpy about my lack of coordination, is what I’m saying.

The only thing my left hand has ever been asked to do with equal skill to my right is typing, which it does very well. It typed at least half of the letters in this blog post. But ask it to do anything more complicated than Hold A Thing, or Sit On Hip All Sassy, or Just Hang There, and it gets confused. Then I get annoyed. Then it gets annoyed that I’m annoyed, and down the hate spiral we go.

Sifu gave me some exercises to work on getting both halves of my brain to speak with both sides of my body without the conversation devolving into gibberish. The simplest of them goes a little something like this:
  • Hold out your fists, thumbs on top. 
  • Shift your left thumb in between your index and middle fingers. 
  • Now, switch: left thumb on top of the fist, right thumb between fingers. 
  • Switch back. 
  • Keep switching until it doesn’t make your eyes cross to do it anymore.
The exercises are helping. I might actually have a shot at winning over that cranky left hand.

This kung fu business is finding all kinds of rewiring to be done in my brain. Move the left hand. Be willing to strike another person when I need to. Wires are being uncrossed and soldered into new connections, little changes that will gradually alter the overall circuitry of my cerebral motherboard and wow am I ever beating this metaphor to death.

Basically: change is happening. Good change! But change is hard. Grumble whine mutter.

The real ongoing issue is going to be my physical endurance. Lupus puts a hard limit on my energy. Once I’m done, I’m very very done. The decline from normal to exhausted is a steep slalom through Tired And Increasingly Sloppy. However! Last week, I lasted an hour and ten minutes before I had to call it quits. This week, an hour and twenty. Measurable improvement makes me happy. Turns out, doing siu nim tao at least once a day, every day, actually does pay off.

I suspect that the key is going to be taking more frequent, shorter breaks. Which is logical, but logic has nothing to do with how much I hate having to throw up the cross-arm and call a halt. Making my partner stop their workout just because my silly lupus-brain is getting too foggy to punch straight gives me a serious case of the guilts. I’m going to work on getting over myself on this one, because everyone at this school has been nothing but respectful of my own knowledge of my body’s limits.

Lupus also threw me a curve with a mini-flare of my right sciatic nerve. It happens sometimes, when my roving immune system decides to pick a fight with an innocent bystander, and the nerves in my hips are common targets. Standing in horse stance did a remarkable job of relieving the pressure on the nerve itself, so hurray for less pain. But after not much work at all, my right leg felt weak and numb to the knee, so boo for questionable balance.

But hey! My legs didn’t shake this time, not once. Victory is mine!

Bonus epiphany:

I'm finding little moments throughout my day to incorporate VT. For example:

Pour a fresh, steaming hot cuppa coffee.
Play through Siu Nim Tao three times.
BAM! Coffee is now the perfect temperature to drink.