H is for Hands

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During April, I’m writing 26 posts for the A to Z Blog Challenge. I’m combining my skills as a writer, a life coach, and a martial artist (2nd degree black belt in ITF Taekwondo) to create a series of posts about applying aspects of TKD to life outside of martial arts. Whenever possible, I’ll include a little Taekwondoodle to illustrate what I’m talking about.

In the rest of my life, I just rely on my hands to do their thing*. In Taekwondo, I spend a lot of time telling them what to do.

Have I made a fist correctly? Is it at the right angle?

Is my knife-hand correct?

Is my other hand pulled back to my hip? Guarding my chest? Where does it belong right now?

Did I start my hands in the opposite direction than they are now?

While the hand movements for a pattern become fairly automatic as I practice, learning a new pattern means that I spend a lot of time coordinating my hands to the move with the rest of my body.

A black ink drawing on white paper. Multiple images of someone's hand in a variety of positions - fist, knifehand strike (flat with fingers extended),  repeated at different angles. One image of a woman in a dobok, arms extended out to the sides, at shoulder height, hands flat, palms down.

So many different many ways to move my hands during a pattern.

Lately, because of my broken wrist, I have been practicing my patterns with my right arm in a sling – to keep me from accidentally compounding my injury. That leads to a whole different level of awareness. I have trouble remembering my hard-earned patterns when I can’t make the whole movement.

I didn’t realize that having my right hand out in front was a cue for me to turn a certain way, or to do a certain kick immediately afterwards. I’ve been struggling to keep the patterns together without those now-unconscious cues. It has broken my (good) habit of knowing these patterns.

It’s frustrating but it is also kind of useful. I can’t do the majority of any pattern automatically, so I have to give each move a lot of thought. That helps me make small improvements in technique that I might otherwise have missed out on.

Wondering how this could apply in the rest of your life?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to be more mindful – mindfulness has its benefits but it is not the only lesson in the world.

We do a lot of things in our day to day life by routine – we’d break our brains if we didn’t – and those routines include things that don’t serve us very well. You know the things I mean – zoning out in front of the TV (by accident rather than by choice) because it tends to be on after supper, or eating cookies when we’re not hungry because they are right in front of us on the counter**

Like me with my right hand (not) out in front, we may not realize what our cue is for a given activity or action.

If you have something in your life that you want to STOP doing – see if you can find what cues you to do it so you can make a different choice. (And make that different choice easier – prepare in advance when possible.***)

If you have something you want to START doing, see if you can find a way to introduce a cue into your routine, something that will remind you to add this new thing. (It’s a good idea to prepare in advance for the new thing, too. It makes it easier to add it!)


*This has changed while I have had my right hand in a brace. It’s really weird to be conscious of which hand you use to open a door, to turn on a tap, or grab a pencil.

**If you want to zone in front of the TV or you want to eat cookies, by all means, go ahead! I’m talking about when you do this things on autopilot instead of choosing to do them.

***e.g. If you want to drink water instead of soft drinks more often, put the soft drinks in the back of the fridge or in the cupboard and keep a filled water bottle or water jug in the fridge. If you want to journal every day, put your notebook and pen next to your bed. If you want to stop slouching back on the couch, pile up pillows so you only have room to sit the way that serves you best.