Seven years ago, while I was living in the Venice Beach area of California, I had the unique opportunity to teach martial arts on a paddleboard. My classes were particularly popular with several teenagers — primarily due to their lack of fear in looking silly or stupid. But that is another blog post…
At the time, no one else was attempting to do such a class on the water, and I still don't know whether anyone else has been crazy enough to try such a thing. Even though the waters in the Marina were relatively calm, there were days where the breezes would hit 15-20 miles per hour. Oddly enough, I was still able to kick and train even in those bumpy waters.
What few people realize is just how much trial and error went into my being able to throw a simple front-kick whilst standing atop of a floating fiberglass board. I spent at least two days, 3-4 hours at a time, simply falling off of the board as I attempted to secure my footing for a solid kick. All in all, it took close to nine hours for me to throw a single kick without falling into the water.
Rather than attempting to stabilize my movements, I found out that I had to allow for my movement, the movement of the board, and the movement of the water underneath the board.
In other words, I had to learn to navigate by "feel".
Navigating by feel, at least in terms of finding my footing, was an altogether new experience for me. I had to completely update my ideas of balance and learn to work with a foundation that was continuously moving as the choppy waves undulated beneath me. Oddly enough, I found that the more actively I pressed down, the easier it was to maintain my balance and alignment.
It was almost like being on a trampoline.
The more I "pressed in", the more the earth (water), seemed to transfer its energy and "press up" on me. In fact, the harder I pressed down, the more stable and aligned I became. It was almost as though the earth (water) was lending me some of its energy for support — keep in mind that I am describing how I felt here, and not attempting to draw correlations to modern physics. That too, will show up in another post…
For me, this experience with the paddleboard (along with later adventures on the slackline) provided me with a window into an entirely different way of thinking reminiscent of ancient texts on movement and martial arts. When I was in high school I read stories about "earth energy" and how one needed to "press into the earth in order to be lifted up".
Try as I might, these descriptions never completely made sense to me, quite possibly because I was viewing them from more of an intellectual perspective. By working on the paddleboard, however, I was able to directly experience the feeling of the energy as it pressed up from the water that I was pressing into.
I've had similar experiences working on other destabilized surfaces, most notably the infamous slackline, which I'll continue with in the following Movement post next Monday.
Add your comments below and share your own experiences! Happy Monday!