Monday, 23 February 2015

Fail succeed fail succeed

Plenty of articles and books are given over to "how to succeed", "the truth about success", "why failing is not a bad thing" etc. I've read lots of them but have, ironically, failed at putting into practice the lessons. Why is this so? Because to learn about anything you have to do it.

This blog post is my scribblings on what I gleaned from learning a new activity. Perseverance and practice are the ones that stand out most for me, as well as not being too proud to ask for help. I'd be interested to hear what lightbulb moments you have had when learning something new.

How I'm learning capoeira. 

The above picture is me and my fellow beginners after we got our first cords. This means you're on the first rung, you've passed your first test. Even though I am still rubbish at capoeira, it was a great feeling of accomplishment to have got so far. Capoeria is something that is quite outside my comfort zone and I often questioned why I was doing it. So, I thought this was a good subject for analysing how and why I stuck with it. Here's 10 things I deduced from the whole process. I reckon these can be applied to lots of other things in my life too so it's been a useful exercise.

1. Practice
Practicing every day helps build skills and maintains momentum. I liked this table tennis video which shows exactly that in 5 minutes

I learnt the ginga, the au & all the moves from constant practice at home. Hard practice was the only way to do it. Try again & again, fail again & again. Even at work I would try a move in spare moments to see if I remembered it. So not only practice at the designated practice time - always be thinking about it.

The Mestre at the Batizado got me to practice the negativa move twenty times in a row until I got it. It was embarrassing that I kept getting it wrong, but hard practice was the only way I got it right.

2. Put things in my terms
Sometimes the tutor’s explanation did not make sense to me. I had to go through it in my own mind and find my own way of remembering it.In the au move, realisng that you need to point foot forward. And that the standing foot must kick hard to give you the lift
In the meia lua de frente, my left was way better than my right. I realised that this was because they were like football free kicks. When I play football I am all left footed, so my left side must be completely dominant.

3. Perseverance
You cannot learn things overnight. For some moves I had to literally slow help videos down to a crawling pace to understand how they did even very simple things like left and right, and how to mirror someone.
At times it felt like I would never get it. Many weeks I felt like skipping class, but my mantra became "Just do it" and I always felt better for doing so

4. Praise
Even the tiniest praise works wonders. Even if you sense it is not really justified the fact that someone says it is a massive tonic.
1. Josh helping me out each week and being positive and friendly about it
2. Andreas wishing me well before the Batizado roda
3. Lara, Geo & the whole Senzala group creating a positive, friendly environment

5. Pride
If you do not understand it you have to say. Even if you seem slow or foolish. Otherwise you will slip under the radar sneakily and not actually learn the technique properly.
Too many times I was embarrassed to admit that I didn’t get very simple things for fear of appearing silly. The result was I never learnt things properly. The longer you leave it the worse it gets, so admit you don't get it early on. There's no harm! Also, it might help other people - maybe your questions is not as silly as you think?

6. Play, play, play
Practice at home is fine, but you have to be able to apply it. Too much thinking can be a bad thing.
1..Having a go in the rodas at the Batizado forced me to play with better people
2. Seeing better players was inspiring
3. Trying new things like handstands seemed impossible but throwing yourself at difficult challenges is the only way to improve

7. Perspective
Ask other people what they struggle with or how they approach learning. Somebody described to me how they watched capoeira in Brazil and learnt a huge amount from immersing themselves in it. They also described how they made connections with other art forms like Shaolin monks, and even looked at how animals move. It was pretty enlightening to hear someone who had thought so deeply about it.

8. Learn the words
It helped to understand what translations were of Portugese words.
1.Meia lua de frente means front half moon. It helped me remember what the moves were when I knew the English translation. Demystified it a bit more
2.When we learnt the words to the song on a whiteboard in class.

9. Make connections
It’s fine to learn one move but it’s easy to forget it as well. What if you switch to another position, suddenly you are very rigid and it’s like you have been reset and have to start again. Learning from Mestre Parente at the Batizado was incredibly hard but it helped to see how moves work together
You could apply the same principle to learning about anything. Seeing how things fit together can help you learn individual things by seeing them as part of the broader picture.

10. Music & Culture
Think about other things around the subject to help put it in context. This is motivating.
1.Watching capo videos on YouTube
2. Learning instruments in class
3. Learnng the fisherman song and making that connection of what the songs are about in reference to Brazilian culture
4. The social side of the class. Meeting new people, involving yourself, getting a sense of the culture.