In my first Kung Fu Wing Chun class five weeks ago, Sifu explained the rules. He would never punch me, but I would punch him….just not in the face. He told me he was conditioned to handle these punches and he needed to feel the punch to give me feedback. The problem was… I had never actually punched someone.
In Shao Lin Kung Fu, we punched. We held pads for each other and practiced hitting those pads back and forth across the classroom. I came home and practiced on the body bag down in the garage, trying to put all of my weight behind those hits. But never, once did I actually hit another person.
By the second or third class, Sifu told me I needed to hit him. If I couldn’t actually hit, we would be wasting our time. I told my husband I had to be more aggressive in class. He said, “You said the same thing last week. You need to just do it and quit talking about it.” This was where the rubber had to meet the road.
I questioned myself. Talked to myself. On the drive to the next class I carried on a serious debate with myself. How on earth did I expect to learn to fight well if I couldn’t muster up the nerve to practice hitting a real person?
That was the class I finally hit Sifu. It wasn’t the best punch, but I had punched him. We went through the drills again. He threw something at me, my job was to meet it and attack whatever was open. His stomach was open, I punched. His ribs were open, I gave them all I had. His head was open. I threw a solid hit to the right temple. Oops. He took it well and kindly reminded me not to hit the face.
The point is, I am a better student because I know what it feels like to practice a proper punch on a real person. I could have spent the rest of my life punching a body bag but it might not have prepared me for a real fight. I had to overcome the mental block of hitting a person as hard as I could.
I liken this to a chef that never cooks a meal for another person, or a football player that always sits on the bench – never gets put into the game.
When I play the piano for someone, other than the dogs, it creates a unique kind of stress. A stress that causes me to miss notes I would not normally miss. But it also causes me to stretch myself. I am more conscious of my performance and I must learn to relax under the pressure of performing. I was a much better pianist when I played for an audience every week.
So, if you are a runner do you need to race? No.
You would be a good runner if you never stepped a foot on a starting line and never felt the exhilaration of crossing the finish. You would still be a very competent runner if you never day dreamed of throwing your arms up as you rush through the finish barely beating your opponent by mere seconds to the cheers a crowd.
The question is, could you be a better runner if you ran a race?