Eliminate Extraneous Movement


From Principle 5 of The Twelve Principles of Temple Martial Arts Training: "Simplify; eliminate the non-essentials, and eradicate extraneous and counter-productive movements."

Ever heard phrases like "He has two left feet" or "I'm just all thumbs"? Most of us have; and, at some point, most us have probably experienced the sensation of feeling like we're stumbling around in either (or both) of the above. Remember trying to hold a pencil for the first time? I do. To this day, I can still visualize the image of the day I picked up that big fat brown pencil in kindergarten (late summer 1970, Cardinal Forest Elementary School, Springfield, VA). I could hardly hold it, let alone write or draw something that could be interpreted the way I intended it to be interpreted. Now, nearly 49 years later, I have no problem holding a pencil, sketching something I see, or writing in cursive any word that enters my mind.

So what happened? Well, over about a 48-year period, I practiced eradicating extraneous movements—those that were either unneeded or discerned to be counter-productive. I also practiced reigning in the unneeded movements of my mind (most of us call those movements "distractions") as my mind attempted to wander from what I was doing in the moment.

To master any kind of physical skill requires tremendous practice in the elimination of the non-essentials. Quite simply, it's the progressive simplification (or reduction) of a set of movements down to their individual, discrete parts. It requires patience, mindful diligence, and a commitment not just to practicing but evaluating each movement in terms of how it looks, sounds, and feels as well how much mental, emotional, and physical effort is being expended in its execution. Eventually, what it looks and sounds like will begin to fade into the background as the "feeling quality" moves to center stage. After a few years, even how it feels will become less and less an indicator of movement effectiveness. This is the point when movement begins to take on a life of its own, nearly separated from the cognitive will of the mover. The mover begins to become the in-the-moment move itself, where it (the movement/action) just seems to break forth spontaneously. In this phase of one's evolution, the mover becomes more and more like a clump of seaweed floating in the ocean. As the waters swell and subside, so too does the seaweed. As the waves crash, so too does the seaweed. And, of course, as the waters recede back to the deep, so too does the seaweed.

This is what it means to move without extraneous movement. Training is the practice of eradicating all uselessness from movement and, as such, leveraging fully that (and ONLY that) which is necessary to execute the move with what I might term an effortless fluidity. Give it time, perhaps forty or fifty years, and you just might start to get the hang of whatever it is you're starting to work on now. Take it from experience, there's great joy and satisfaction to be found in the simplicity of making each move about the move itself, where there's nothing else there except you becoming the unfolding event of the moment.

Peace to you...

Dave

 

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