Writing With Movement

I’ve  not heard of this gentleman, Christopher Poindexter, but his words remind me so much of being on the ice, or in a ballroom.

To dance or figure skate is – to me – like transcending spoken language, and speaking with the fluency (and vocabulary) of all the ages. It is as though I have the freedom to fly, though I haven’t (visible) wings with which to do so. And yet…it feels nigh impossible to share that “feeling” with those who haven’t felt it too.

As an Empath, I often question whether verbal language contains enough “words’ to capture emotion – for me, it falls short at times. Frequently, even…

One cannot capture the true and undiluted essence of flying with a pen (though if anyone would desire the ability to articulate such feelings accurately, I. . .and possibly Mr. Poindexter. . .would.)

I suppose that means we just have to be willing to fly, lest we not know the feeling of a movement that can – truly – set us free.

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The Life Lessons Of Competitive (Performing) Sports – OWN It

There are countless benefits to participating in competitive and / or performing sports, but one of the best lessons therein embedded is the idea of “owning it.” 

What does it mean to “own it”? Fear, anxiety, self-doubts be dammed, you walk on the floor or take the ice like a champion, PERIOD, as if you know you’ve already taken first place.

At first blush I thought that concept was not only egotistical, but also downright rude – I (I know – GASP!) actually cared about my competitors, and felt it was important never to seem cocky or rude, or even a hair too self-confident. It felt wrong to me, as if I might offend someone or be misconstrued as an insensitive person.

Really!?

Competitive sports are just that, and I’ve witnessed such an array of absurd / inappropriate / infantile behaviors over the years you wouldn’t even believe them…not only on the part of my fellow competitors, but their parents / significant personages in their lives. There’s plenty of “ugly” going on behind the scenes and perhaps for that reason I felt particularly compelled to rise above it and ensure that people knew I was a good person who sincerely wanted us all to succeed. 

 

 

Well…no one really cared WHAT I was thinking or how I came across! I wasn’t that important in the scheme of things (as it is said, no one is paying attention to you because they’re too busy with / worried about / preoccupied with themselves!) Yes, I’m the INFJ queen of reading into things and I was certain that I might offend someone if I acted a little too sure of myself…

But, as the Grinch once said, “W R O N G O!”

I learned very quickly in my competitive and performing career that my attitude was always VERY apparent – not only to my partner (in the case of dancing), or to my coaches and family, but to every person in the audience…and the judges. If I wasn’t 1,000% confident, it was visible – it is no matter who you are. How, you ask…?

When our self-confidence falters, we don’t carry ourselves the same way – our self-doubt often manifests as over thinking. And OVER thinking causes a host of physiologic changes in our body, posture and movement:

  1. We become more rigid, less fluid and flexible in our movements, as if they are contrived and strained
  2. Our breathing becomes shallow and we are aware that we might be sweating…
  3. Not to mention the torrent of butterflies that decided to stampede the “calm” within us right at that moment. Sigh. Nice timing!
  4. We also show it in our face…we lose the smile or seem overly concerned, so much so that our expression can be easily misconstrued as something negative by anyone observing us. Never a good thing when performing, in an interview or presentation, meeting someone for the first time etc….

It is therefore CRUCIAL that we pull it together and act AS IF (article here). As if what? As if we know damn well we are going to win, wow the crowd, have the desired result we want etc…

That doesn’t mean it’s easy because some of us may not totally have that self-confidence. YET. Owning it is very much a “fake-it-till-you-make-it” thing…and that’s okay. You have to PRACTICE.

You have to push the discomfort to the side and recognize that your internal “stuff” is going to show externally. People will also FEEL it, so if you want to come off as a shining star, you need to be sure your energy is aligning with that vibe. When you “own it,” you help to get the brain on the same wavelength as what you are aiming for, and that will make a world of difference in how you are perceived.

Remember, owning it doesn’t mean you are cocky or rude or anything else that may feel “negative” to you. It’s about acknowledging all the asweomeness you have to offer, and ensuring that others catch a positive vibe from you. If they are wondering what your problem is, think you aren’t taking the opportunity seriously, or that you don’t’ believe in yourself, they are going to reflect that in the scores / in their response to you (or your performance.) If you want to bait them hook-line-and-sinker, you want to be absolutely certain that they know you feel confident in your abilities, and that you KNOW you have value. It will be clear in every aspect of your behavior and physicality. 

So next time you have to get out there…shake your tail feathers, smile a huge smile, and say to yourself, “I OWN this. I already know I have the result I want because I have all the tools I need to achieve that, and the hard work and talent to back it up.”

Go GET IT!

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Martial Arts Tips – The 5 Rules Of Fighting

 This image crossed my path the other day and though there’s never an end to “tips,” especially in this arena, these are five solid goodies to start. They might apply to a professional fighter, but they also make sense in a self-defense scenario.

NEVER MOVE BACK IN A STRAIGHT LINE

When you get “offline” (for example, at a 45% angle), you are forcing your opponent to slow down. As he redirects to refocus his energy on you, his strikes become weaker, and a window of opportunity opens during which you can retreat to a safe direction, strike back if still under threat, etc.

Moving straight back can also have you backed into something (or on the ground!) pretty quick.  A stagger is a stronger base from which to work, keeping you on your feet….where you need to stay.

 

NEVER SET

Keep moving! A stationary target is a lot easier to catch and strike. Movement also makes it easier to catch your opponent by surprise – a strike from a stand-still telegraphs your intentions much faster than if you are dodging about.

 

REDIRECT

Along with number one… When the opponent has to shift his focus, he also has to shift his weight, balance, and strength, giving you the upper hand.

 

FIGHT YOUR OPPONENT AS HE FIGHTS YOU

You never know what a person’s background is, or necessarily their style of fighting. In the heat of the moment, it’s hard to observe, but try to pick up on what he is…and isn’t…doing…as well as what he has in his arsenal. A knife fight when you aren’t armed means you’ve got a bold opponent fighting you (think: lunging slashes and stabs, unafraid of being cut in return.) If you happen to have a knife also, his movements are going to become a lot shorter, hesitant, and self-protective.

Stand your ground as much as you are able, maintaining that you are not a victim or someone to be pushed around.  The more calm a person can be (and it is a challenge, assuredly) the more nerve you will evoke in the other person. Chip away at the opponent’s self-confidence and he’s going to be a lot easier to get away from, or submit (obviously depending on the circumstance.)

 

PLACE YOUR OPPONENT WHERE YOU WANT HIM

If you are fighter by sport or profession, STUDY…and study hard. Observe what you can before hand.  If you have no ability to do so, test him to see which strikes he’s resorting to, or whether he wants to stay standing vs get you to the ground, whether he baits you, prefers kicks to punches, and which kinds…  When you understand what you are working with, you know where the weaknesses are.  

If in a self-defense scenario, you aren’t going to have time on your side. Do your best to note the person’s movement, as it is guaranteed to be either: their natural movement (and going to occur again), or their preferred movement (and going to occur again.) Being aware of the other person’s overall body movement can also keep us focused, giving us less time to panic.

 

Obviously, there are a slew of techniques and tips and methodologies out there…but these are good tidbits to keep in mind.

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When Nothing Goes Right…

I love what the “…go left” in the original version of this quotation stands for. . .but I *also* love the gym-rat-edited “…go LIFT” one, and not because it’s gym-leaning.

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Exercise is, 1,000%, a proven de-stressor (that happens to have added health benefits, vs. other known de-stressors, like comfort foods, binge eating, alcohol consumption, body-harming vices of whatever design…)

I think a lot of folks who haven’t had the opportunity to be (or exposure to being) active don’t know what they are missing. Whether it is lifting iron in a gym, taking a jog, or just dancing like no one is watching as fiercely as you can, physical movement and engagement can turn a very BAD day (or series of events!) into a much more positive one.  It’s not only for your heart and body, but your mind and emotional state too too… 

When nothing goes right, give your body a chance to work out the aggression, frustration, disappointment, whatever. . . It really doesn’t matter if it’s jumping jacks during commercials, going to a barre class, or playing in a soccer league.  ANY movement helps.

By changing your direction and focus, and letting your body do what it was designed to do – move – you can alter not only the tone of the day, but your mood with it.

Win, win.

Volunteering

This past weekend I had the wonderful fortune to work with children with disabilities doing an activity close to my heart – Taekwondo. ❤  My background is predominantly in dancing (classical ballet and ballroom), as well as in figure skating, but being a Martial Arts practitioner for many years, and an instructor, has proven to be not only incredibly fulfilling, but also life-changing. 

I moved to a new state some months ago, leaving behind a job teaching children Okinawan Karate.  I was eager to find an opportunity in which I could work with children again, specifically doing a physical activity.  I believe that movement of any kind is incredibly beneficial (for countless reasons!), especially for children, for whom creating this healthy, lifetime habit comes more easily. (If you are an adult who began fitness, for example, later in life, you know what I mean – if we start early on, embracing exercise as a positive, FUN activity, it is more likely that we keep up with it as we age.)  Learning spatial and body awareness, as well as how to interact interpersonally and physically with others are valuable life skills – Martial Arts definitely cater to both.  

I am blessed to be able to assist both at a Ninjutsu Dojo and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy, where I am also a student – working with children is always eye-opening, and I find that they teach me just as much!  That work aside, I was also eager to find a way to volunteer to guide those less able to participate in such activities – I don’t like to see ANYONE left out!  It is easy to take for granted that many of us CAN do sports…  When our routine takes over, we almost run on autopilot, dashing from one class to the next, sometimes even begrudgingly!  But. . .how blessed are we?!  For some individuals, the process of making a fist with which to punch a target may take many weeks of practice!

The disabilities this particular organization – KEEN of Greater DC – works with (for the Martial Arts Program) range from Autism, to Echolalia, to Cerebral Palsy – so the group is mixed, requiring different levels of guidance and instruction.  Though my background is not specific to disabilities, I find that working with these children comes very naturally – their genuine enthusiasm, eager curiosity, and love of playtime is absolutely contagious!

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(My own photo)

The activities we coached the kids through ranged from running about the room holding hands, to simple stretches, to punching and kicking targets.  We also hauled out an enormous, thick mat onto which they jumped from a mini trampoline – it was tremendously crowd-pleasing! 🙂

For a few of the children, these activities are “new” each week – they might need us to form the fists for them with our own hands, or have us demonstrate a couple of extra times.  For others, you can see exciting improvements over the course of the class (and over time.)  In both instances, though, you see a LOT of smiling, and hear a TON of giggling. ❤

The experience is so richly rewarding, I’d be hard-pressure to measure, or describe it! What we “get” from coaching is as much tangible as it is not – there is no recognition, nor compensation…but neither do I (nor any of the volunteers) want any such reimbursement.  There is, instead, a profound thankfulness that seems to fill each cell to the point of overflowing.  As an Empath, I cry as much for joy as I do sadness – I was moved to tears by the elated shrieks when contact was made with a target…or my extra “that-was-AWESOME” high-five! produced a flood of smiling.  How can you put a value on something like that?! 

The absolute jubilation that is felt all around makes every moment worth it.  These children face physical and mental challenges that most of their peers are unfamiliar with entirely  – the burden is a heavy one, and it prevents them from taking part in many school sports and extracurricular activities.  I was so delighted to find an organization that caters to allowing individuals with disabilities to experience the same fun and enjoyment with exercise and physical play.  Keen, incidentally, has only three main employees. . . and yet making a difference is SO important to them that they manage to offer twenty-seven programs!  

I will definitely be back for the next round – how precious a gift were the smiles and laughter.  Add to that the grateful nods of parents able to take comfort and joy in their child’s participation?  True blessing.  And then some.  

 

Martial Arts and Movement

I personally believe that any activity in which we gain body awareness is of use to us – in any kind of situation, whether a precarious one, or slipping on ice in winter.

I’ve known some people who feel their Art is the proper one, “the most effective in a fight,” the most comprehensive…  I often wonder in such a case if they’ve ever pondered that each of us are different, with different goals, limitations, strengths, weaknesses…?  

What of an individual’s needs, desires, spirit, physiology..?  

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In my own mind there is no RIGHT way, no BEST art, because all of those things must, and do, factor in.  Each is to be respected, and honored, no matter if it is not the right “fit” for us individually.  We all bring something unique to the game, and we will all (inevitably) have blind spots that we need to strengthen. 

The wonderful thing about the Arts is that there are SO MANY.  There are standards and protocols, postures, exercises, and lessons specific to each of these Arts, of course…but there is such a breadth of styles and focus that there is something for everyone.

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I may be embarking on a few new Disciplines of my own, and I am terribly excited! – the more we know how to move, the more vocabulary our body has with which to “speak” and react, the better.  

Each of the Arts can benefit us on the whole – there is no “waste” in the learning.

 

Muscle Does NOT Mean Inflexible

I know a lot of ladies (in particular) who are afraid to lift out of fear that they will gain too much mass and look masculine, or that they will lose flexibility and movement.

Well…neither is true!  

We women don’t have the level of testosterone needed to GET there (there may be a very select few who do, but it is FAR from the norm, rest assured – you would know it by now if that includes you!)  

Lifting will not cause severe bulking.  It won’t even cause serious definition if that’s not what you want! – varying rep, set, and timing schemes can help you achieve a toned looked, or a ripped oneyou have control.  You can choose what works towards achieving your specific goals.  But lifting in and of itself isn’t going to morph you into a monster!

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The other important factor is flexibility – you aren’t going to lose it.  HEAVY lifting can make it tougher, because your muscles are tight – that’s where proper stretching comes in.  Stretching will keep you limber while you lift…and if you are troubled by it, just lower the weight.

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As a dancer, stretching and movement have been hugely important to me – not only from a physical standpoint, but a mental one.  

It makes me HAPPY.  

I feel good when I can dance and move…so I keep it up.  

A fun song comes on, and I’ll jam…yes, even right there in the gym!  And you know what?  My lifting and my muscles do NOT prevent me from being ABLE to…

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If you keep up with your stretches…and busting into movement if you feel like it!…I’m pretty sure you will find you look just as feminine, and move perfectly well!  

Lifting is great for your bones, your body, your mind and your spirit…and it won’t suddenly limit you in your ability to stay flexible and fluid and feminine. 🙂