Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Small Degree of Hesitation

One of the items I am trying to become better at is the observation of people - not just for the practice of learning to observe but for the practice of trying to learn.  I have learned one of the most challenging items of observation is one's own children, because knowing both their history and their environment it is very easy to track the root of many of their behaviors and actions (too often that root runs directly back to me, their parent).

The incident in question occurred last Saturday at Nighean Dhonn's soccer game.  She plays defense almost exclusively, her job being to cut off the offensive players moving down the field with the ball and either force them to make an early choice or drive the ball back. As I watched this particular day I noticed something which I assume was always there before but just became apparent:  as a player advanced down the field she looked at the player, stood for a moment as if making up her mind, then drew herself up and advanced to where the player was.

Once I suddenly realized this was occurring, I started watching for it - and the behavior repeated itself a number of times.  A few times she would just go - and the play would be more likely to be stopped.

I pondered and wrestled with this following the game.  Look, Make Up the Mind, Go.  Look, Make Up the Mind, Go.  There was something here, something that really applied to me in far greater detail than it did to her.

What I came to realize is that the "Make Up the Mind" step was really a hesitation, a hesitation in which she was making the decision "Should I go?  What should I do?" - then, deciding what needed to be done (run to cut off the play), she went.  The problem, of course, is that the offensive player had no such hesitation and so advanced a great deal farther than she should have if the hesitation had not occurred.

I also realize that I have precisely the same issue.

We train in Iaijutsu in order to gain muscle memory, to remove that moment of hesitation and thinking "What should I do?" and replace it with instant action.  Attacks are varied and repeated in the theory that no matter what attack comes, there is an automatic reaction.  I should not think if an overhand cut (a kirioroshi) comes in; I should just react in one of three ways to block, move, or counter attack.  But this same logic of physical actions are not often applied to other parts of our life.

When I hesitate - when I try to make my mind whether or not do something - I miss a valuable opportunity to instantly act. When I fail to instantly act, I lose something - time, position, initiative - that passes to the situation or the other party, something that inevitably would be of use to me.

Is this the same as acting without thinking?  That is not the intent.  In the example given, my daughter knew what she should do.  It was not the course of action she was determining or even the rightness of it - the knowledge of the game of soccer she was playing and the nature of her position - it was "Should I do it?"

And so with me.  Too often I know what I should do, the rightness of what I should do, perhaps even the positive outcomes of what I should do - yet I hesitate, holding back for fear or concern or even second guessing what I am doing.  And in those moments, I lose something - not just the time or position or initiative mentioned above but something greater:  the ability to build the confidence in myself of ability to action and ability to succeed.

In Iaijutsu the symbolic meaning of drawing the sword quickly (which is the true spirit of the art) is once you have made a decision, to act immediately without hesitation.  Deciding is the time ponder, to think, to take the time to weigh the options.  But once the deciding is over - the decision to participate, the decision to engage, the decision to move forward - hesitation provides nothing but the ability to lose, never the ability to win.

I want my daughter to learn that in any sport - and indeed in life - instant action when you know what to do is more effective than reconsidering the action before doing it.  More importantly, I need to teach myself the same lesson.

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