This material has been made public in 2021, the full series with reading notes is here:
The video recording of our live discussion of the last two chapters is up (above)! Read chapters 7 & 8 of the Inner Game of Tennis and join us for live discussion on Friday 10:30 AM (Bangkok Time), through this link: https://zoom.us/j/565224299 (this is a recurring link, you can use it for rest of the meetings).
You can catch up on our past discussions here:
My summary of this week's discussion:
In this week’s reading group we open up by going around and asking what everyone’s impressions of these two chapters were. Yvonne and Casey are exploring recovery from injury, Mark is versed in many different arts, Juan is a Tai Chi practitioner, and Mary just fought. So we all came at this from different places but these two chapters really lay out the “how to start and stay steady,” approach.
I offer that lot of instruction has become very verbal because 1) trainers might not have the requisite experience to lead by example, but can repeat verbal instruction from other sources; 2) we have very short training windows with lots of students, so there’s a lot of shouting verbal instructions to a room and having people follow that, then repeat it to each other.
The author always uses tennis as the example, so we can translate those same ideas into our own sports. Paying close attention to “body, racket and ball,” what do we pay attention to in Muay Thai?
Kevin interjects that the “body” is not what the author has us focus on, but we work through the notion that the body is a general word for the more focused “where is my foot?” or hand or how the knees are bending or not, etc.
I try to get us thinking about replacing “technical” instruction to be more guided instruction, as the author describes in the book. We take the “turning over your hip” example and Casey offers that it has been helpful for both herself and her students to think about “pointing your hip to the ceiling.” This, to me, is still a technical instruction but it is more of a guide that the vague “turn your hip,” and we all give a few examples of borrowing from other sports to get an image of that – baseball bats, golf, chopping down a tree, etc.
As an exercise for one’s self, taking verbal technical instruction and “translating” it to a guide that’s more of a feeling, or guides you to feeling the move.
We didn’t get to this part of my notes, but I’m very curious about what people are watching when they watch their favorite fighters. A lot of us gush over a particular fighter’s “technique” or “how technical” they are, but that’s never been something I’ve noted myself and I suspect people aren’t necessarily identifying the technique itself so much as what it makes them feel when they look at it. So, the exercise is how to capture that feeling from a fighter we admire, rather than exactly where she puts her foot on a kick. When I watch Karuhat fight, I get excited like no other. When I stand with him in space, I am excited and more calm than with anyone else. What is that? When I watch him, I see an energy that just vibes with me – it’s the relentlessness; the way he eats space and has this elasticity. I don’t have that, but I can feel it while watching him. And I can mimic that far more readily (and with more fun) than I can the detailed breakdown of the techniques of his kick or elbow.
“By the word ‘learning’ I do not mean the collection of information, but the realization of something which actually changes one’s behavior – either external behavior, such as a tennis stroke, or internal behavior, such as a pattern of thought.” (Inner Game of Tennis, chapter 6)
Juan brings up a great point about how the mirror is a great tool in learning Tai Chi, because it allows you to actually see what you’re doing. It’s the same as the example in the book, when one of the students is taken to a window to literally just see where his backswing is going. “Oh wow, it is high,” he says, despite every pro he’s ever worked with already telling him it’s high. But he had to see it. The key to Juan’s faith in the mirror as a tool is non-judgmental awareness. What does that look like? What does it sound like?
*Kevin and my argument in the car about how the application of this very simple Inner Game to learning approach is “hard” or not. I said it was hard because I’ve read this book several times and implemented its principles at times, but I can’t consistently keep with it enough because the grooves of my existing “inner coach” and thought patterns are really deep. So it’s “hard” to just change. Kevin argued it’s not hard at all, as outlined in the book it’s very immediate. I was pissed. Either it’s hard or there’s something wrong with me, because I have not reinvented my thoughts the moment after reading the book. But he made a good point, reminding me of the realization I had during my Vipassana meditation retreat. I was sweeping leaves off the porch of my hut and some of the leaves were “harder” to sweep than others. Not in effort or mental focus, but simply required more passes with the broom. There’s nothing wrong with the leaves, me, the broom or my sweeping technique. Some leaves just take more passes with the broom. It’s not “hard.” Damnit, he’s right. Some thought patterns just take more passes with the broom and the reason I still struggle with them is because I haven’t kept sweeping.
I liked the author’s notion that you cannot necessarily choose which technique wants to change. You can’t just pick your worst one and fix it, but rather a technique will reveal itself to you as one that is ready to change. So, I ask the group what techniques are telling you they want to change?
Kevin asks me about “time travel.” This is a fairly common mental training term, but it’s not necessarily self-evident. Basically, it’s not being in the moment. If you’re worried, that’s traveling to the future, feeling worried about something that might happen, but has not happened and is not currently happening. If you are ashamed or telling yourself “I never block,” that’s traveling to the past, when you haven’t blocked before. But that’s not now; you can always do something different now. A method that has truly helped me with this habit of “time travel” is the Vipassana meditation approach to just focusing on the body (Rupa) and the mind (Nama) in a calm, detached manner. Just watch the body sitting; acknowledge the mind hearing. A wandering mind is annoying because we’re trying to meditate, but that’s a natural state of the mind. It does that. Just don’t follow the story, just gently pull the focus back to the body and the mind. You get good at this in neutral situations and then it’s much easier under pressure, when you’re training and frustrated or fighting and your mind is racing.
We finish with a comparison breakdown of the Old Way of learning and the Inner Game way:
1) criticize or judge past behavior
2) tell yourself to change, instructing with words
3) try hard, make yourself do it right
4) critical judgment about results leading to self 1
Inner Game Way:
1) Observe existing behavior nonjugmentally
2) picture desired outcome
3) let it happen, trust self 2
4) nonjudgmental, calm observation of the results leading to continuing observation and learning
*watch out for return of self 1
*give self 2 credit
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