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Day Seven: Sunday, April 26

Music
none

Mistakes

  • Pyung Ahn Ee Dan (distracted by a particularly good side kick, self-congratulation led to immediate mind blank)
  • Taegeuk Ee Jang (conflated with Sam Jang and switched entire last segment)
  • Dan Gun (mind blank after downblock/upward block combination)
  • Joong Gun (did one too many suto block/upward block combinations)
  • Hansoo (did uppercut after diamond block instead of reverse punch, as in Pal Gwe Pal Jang)

Conclusions

If this were a Hollywood movie, this last day is where I’d miraculously get through all of the forms without an error. Nope, it was the messiest session since Wednesday. I didn’t choose a set of parameters for this practice, just thought I’d be natural and empty, use natural power and pace, drink water if I wanted to, repeat a form after an error if it felt important, or skip it if it didn’t.

Some sitting meditation is structured, like the sessions guest instructor Andrew Benioff leads during summer special training. In other types of Zen meditation, it may be almost entirely unstructured: just sit. The idea is to breathe naturally, not in any kind of artificial structure, and to release everything extra, including conscious Ways of being. That was the feeling I sought today: to just do a form, exist, avoid thinking about anything too much.

I made a lot of mistakes, but I was also able to feel how natural and confident I was throughout. The best benefit from doing so many forms over seven days was that I could really tell how much I’d improved in several specific ways. I could clearly remember mistakes from previous days—exactly how my body or mind had felt, a day or two ago, to do the wrong thing—and how satisfying it was to relax and allow the correct thing to happen this time. When I made mistakes, it didn’t matter, because I know I’ll have plenty of time to get better next time and the time after that.

After seven consecutive days of doing every form I know, I’d given between eight and eight and a half hours to a single theme. Where last fall, I sometimes had to check reference books or videos to make sure I was getting certain techniques or sequences or nuances right, I developed certainty of action and authority in all of the forms. This is far from the mastery that is my longer term goal, but it’s an essential first step, and I was surprised at how little time it actually took to climb a full rung or two up the ladder of competence.

When I resolved, in late 2019, to pursue mastery of every form I know, I was sometimes disheartened by how shallow my understanding was of a few of the less familiar. The kind of improvement I’m looking for doesn’t come quickly, and there are no shortcuts, but I think this 8.5 hours set a strong foundation for the slow accretion of understanding that will come over the next weeks and months of doing the forms less often, but building on the depth of knowledge that this crash course instilled.

Which of your medium- to long-term goals could benefit from a boot camp experience of intensive foundation building? How would throwing yourself into a project with everything you’ve got change the process?

Post Series: Solo Poomsae
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