If you’ve never taken a group fitness class, I’ll explain what that means. In a group class, like Les Mills’ classes at Golds, or Jazzercise, or most fitness videos you can purchase; the exercises are set to music. As you go through your work out, the sets match the beat of the music.
So generally you’ll find you’re doing sets of eight, following each music phrase, or doing a slow rep to a two or four count, etc. (Imagine how the music drags when you’re on your fourth rep of the fourth set of overhead lifts – and you’re counting to four s-l-o-w-l-y as you raise the bar overhead. Ugh.)
Most transitions happen pretty fast, though, especially in dance or martial arts classes. This is where Sharon shines. As long as you know the moves, a good queuer can keep your workout flowing as if you knew the entire hour’s routine by heart. (You don’t. She’s just walking you though it so you know what’s coming up next just before you need that bit of instruction.)
The other day, showing a low cross block in slow-motion, she explained the word Japanese word “Kata” as a series of movements that you practice so that your body knows how to do them without thinking. Practicing Kata liberates your mind because your body already knows what to do. In a workout set to music, you already know the moves, so you rely on the instructor to tell you them as you need them. In battle, you are able to effectively fight your opponent in many different circumstances, and without hesitation. In dance, you’re able to dance a dance you’ve never seen.
That got me thinking about muscle memory, and the automatic practices we can train our bodies to do so we don’t have to get our minds too involved.
- What are the things that people do mindlessly?
- Since mindless movement sometimes facilitates kick-butt results, what “moves” can business owners/entrepreneurs incorporate in their professional lives that allow us to strategize or create in real time, without much thoughtful energy expended on the action itself?
We’ll substitute “practices” for “moves” for our purposes. What rote practices, done regularly, will move you toward your desired outcome?
First you need to know your desired outcome.
Therein lies the key to the kingdom because what you practice is what you get good at. A habit only takes three weeks to form (so says common wisdom) so the act of practicing one thing for days and months will ensure your success. In fact, you can’t NOT get good at something you’re practicing regularly!
Here’s the “trick.” The initial move is easy. In fact, every part of the move is easy. It’s only when you imagine the string of moves in one big picture that any task seems difficult.
- If you want to write, then obviously you’re job is to practice writing. But the kata behind writing is really the simple act of walking to your journal, picking it up, sitting down at your usual writing spot, and opening the book. Or it may mean walking to your computer, shutting off email and social media alerts, and opening your document.
- If your goal is to lose twenty pounds by summer, your kata may be turning on the teapot when you walk into the kitchen, or cleaning and cutting crudités when you get home from the grocery store. It might be simply opening and peering into the (stocked) crisper drawer full of fruits and veggies, instead of going to the pantry where the crackers are.
- If you want to stay organized, your kata may be going to your file drawer as soon as you enter your office on a designated day and put something in it from that pile of papers on your desk…
See, the idea is that one thing leads to another and soon you have developed a habit that’s super easy to do. That overarching activity that seems like work will morph into a series of movements or “next steps.” As long as you have one simple motion you can practice, then you are on your way.
The other day, I heard my 13-year-old tell my 11-year-old,
“Homework is only hard when you’re not doing it.”
He understands “kata” at the core, although he’s probably never even heard the word.
What about you? Is there a kata you need to practice in 2015 to reach your goals? Will you discover your next goal by practicing one thing diligently, with the dedication of a martial arts master?
Just like your body memorizes movements, you can memorize simple practices in your day that move you forward. By the way, kids are great at this: That’s why they can play Row, Row, Row Your Boat a thousand times and learn how to play the piano. Most adults get bored! Check out this 6-year-old…be no one messes with her on the schoolyard!
Take one small thing, one simple movement or practice and do it. Then do it again so many times that your mind stops thinking about it, and it becomes a reflex. That is kata. Kata is a habit that becomes a graceful, automatic, effective technique. Mastery sneaks in quietly and without fanfare, in increments. Over time, you don’t even need to mentally queue yourself to do it. You just do it.
Before you know it, there’s Goliath flat on his back. There is the summit just ahead. Or that book you’ve always wanted to write, completed, in a neat folder on your desktop.
What small, regular practices keep you on track to hit your goals or just get stuff done? Do you have one go-to-Kata in your repertoire?