Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Practicing in a Small Space

We should not give up...our goal...But...we should not be discouraged even though we cannot have it. So actually, as long as we are making effort, that is actual goal. – Shunryu Suzuki

If we wait until conditions are perfect in order to practice, we’ll usually find that we’ll be waiting a long time indeed. The perfect is the enemy of the good. Not all of us can set aside a specific time and location regularly. In that case, we have to practice what we can when time and space allows and ask ourselves “what can I do right here, right now to move the ball forward.”

One of the constraints we frequently face is space. I have always liked the standing practice, Zhan Zhuang, because it takes so little space; in fact nothing special. We only need time. Zhan Zhuang is very adaptable to time - if you have less time, you can hold a lower stance.

Practicing the Taijiquan form can be somewhat challenging. The long form covers quite a bit of ground and to set aside a block of 30 to 40 minutes for one run through isn’t always convenient. You can do things however, that are still useful to your development, like isolating and practicing individual sequences and really hone them.

The Five Elements from Xingyiquan covers a lot of ground, too. Each of the individual Five Elements forms can be done as a stationary practice. This sort of practice may not be “complete”, but it’s still useful.

Even the kihon dosa, the basic movements of the Aikido I learned can be practiced in a relatively small space and regular practice of these movements have a direct positive impact on one’s technique.

 Below is an extract from an article at 24 Fighting Chickens about how to practice one's Karate kata in a small space. The full article may be found here.

How to Practice Kata in Your Room
by Rob Redmond - July 12, 2011

Considerable floor space is required to perform a kata. 100 square meters gives one adult male the ability to perform just about any kata without running into a wall. When the dojo gets crowded, though, sometimes some shortcuts are necessary to make the kata fit the room. As you approach the wall, you pull back your front foot and then step forward with your other foot so that you take the next step without actually traveling anywhere. Then when turning back in the other direction, cut the step again to put yourself in the correct spot in three dimensional space.

But what if you want to practice at home? The driveway works well, unless your neighbors are close by and you don’t like them thinking you are a crazy karate sociopath.

So it’s off to the gym for some of you. Luckily the aerobics room is empty during lunch, so a gym nearby the office is a good thing. For students in school, there may be dance rooms on campus to use during free periods. There may be an empty tennis court for those of you in more temperate climates. The tennis ladies may not approve.

Public parks and fields work well for some of you. Others find those places a little too dangerous.

Besides, karate training doesn’t look like tai chi training. Tai Chi, for some reason, gives the impression that you are a harmless hippie best ignored. Practicing karate kata seems to invite a lot of unfriendly attention out in too public of an arena in the wrong neighborhood. A  racquetball court can work – sometimes.

Indoors you go, and your house or apartment is not that big. What now?


Narda said...

I enjoy reading your blog. Thank you for sharing. :)

This post on space is a familiar conundrum. 'Where to practice?' The driveway, an old woman kicking an kia-ing and swinging a bo as the cars pass by, the whole town will talk. Parks - too exposed. In the end, I decided it had to be during the work day, and after much searching DID discover a hidden and unused racquetball court! :) My own private dojo. You even have to bow low to enter through the door. Perfect.

Rick Matz said...

Thanks for visiting.

When I was a young man, I worked the midnight shirt at a hotel, in security. Once the bar closed and everything became quiet (which was most of the time), I found I had empty ballrooms with thick carpeting to enable my practice.

walt said...

"...unless your neighbors are close by..."

When I was young, my work and living situations were quite transient. I was forever looking for some little space "apart" where I could practice. Oh, and level ground.

Zhan Zhuang and Qigong get done in very small areas, but still want to be quiet, and I find that fresh air makes a big difference. Flooding the body with oxygen each day becomes quite an addiction, and needs little space.

Rick Matz said...

I like to practice zhan zhuang in my basement, facing a wall.

RunBikeThrow said...

If we wait until conditions are perfect in order to practice, we’ll usually find that we’ll be waiting a long time indeed. The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Love that. So true.


Zacky Chan said...

Living in Japan and trying to practice forms in my apartments or in empty classrooms has made me incredibley proficient at performing full length forms in crowded mazes. Every aspiring martial artist has to go through this don't they? If you don't, you are a lucky mother I'll tell you that. Now time ... I'm getting better, but that seems to be the real challenge...

Anonymous said...

i like to practice in my garden. Its big enough to not take to many adjustments much like a dojo however I do find the kids next door trying to peek over the fence and copy.

Rick Matz said...

I think that it's good to have to be resourceful.