I have been doing kung fu and tai chi for a little over a month now, and I am picking things up quite quickly (so I’m told). I guess after looking back on my life, I have always had the ability to pick up most things in a short amount of time. However, this was not always the case. When I was younger, I fumbled around with any physical activity. I didn’t really understand kickball until the third grade when I just walked up and started playing despite having heard the rules so many times before. A few years later was when I started to discover how to put power into my kicks and start playing the outfield much better. I never really learned how to ride a bike though others have tried to teach me; I just picked it up and started riding it one day like it was nothing. Learning some basic martial arts during my early adolescent years came easily despite my lack of progression (due to schoolwork). After starting college, playing volleyball came almost naturally. Dodgeball was just pure instantaneous physical reaction often times having me end up as one of the last players to be hit out. For most of my life, I had also played the piano, and my ability grew tremendously. The first time I went water-skiing (basic instruction) in Greece, my instructor thanked me for making his job easier. My instructor on my first driving lesson (in Boston) said he was really impressed. I finished all my on-road lessons and got my license within two weeks. Even simple origami I could master faster than most people I knew.
After evaluating all the physical things that I can personally do well, it seems like I learned how to connect my body and mind to make them work together. Yet I am still limited given how my brain is wired (which is story for another day). Everything that I have learned to do physically is quite static. If I try to play basketball, where the dynamics of the sport are constantly changing, I will stumble around with dribbling, running around players, passing, and shooting. Even with playing the piano, I learned quickly how to play with my first teacher. With my second piano teacher, it was more refining my technique. It wasn’t until many years later with my third teacher that I finally understood that playing and making music is different. That was when she told me to sing with the piano. With all the physical rules laid out for what my body needs to follow, my mind is capable of handling all the stimuli on the backend. When the inputs start changing faster than my mind can process, my body will shut down and become non-responsive.
This isn’t to say that I couldn’t learn certain sports or physical activities at some point in life. I may perceive them as more difficult for me personally, but much practice and hard work can pay off. Something I find easy to do may give hard times for others. The mental-physical connection that I have is a trade-off in my experience. Thinking too much will diminish my physical performance whereas pure physicality results in lots of failed attempts with no understanding why. The “how” comes easily for me, but the “why” is often lost. What I need to do is start to train my mind to take what I know or learn and apply that in more creative and expanded ways. It’s not an easy process being rooted so strongly in rules, but at least it’s a fundamental base to start with as things usually go.