I started Taekwondo in November 2018. I’ve wanted to try a martial art for years, but it’s been one of those hobbies in the backlog that required a chance encounter to nucleate.
I used to do more cardio and cognitive intensive physical activities: gymnastics, figure skating and parkour (amateurishly), but the last few years have only been biking, weightlifting and rock climbing.
Being a programmer, my body goes through long daily phases of neglect where it’s kept catatonic while my mind is in Infinite Fun Space. This takes a toll over time, and weightlifting has been great to work my body through a range of motion. Whenever I let my weightlifting regime slack, I can tell that it has been keeping my posture in check.
Unfortunately, I get bored easily with exercise. With both rock climbing and weightlifting I…somehow drift away since my mind feels unengaged, and I stop pushing myself as hard as I could. I listen to podcasts, but they put me in a contemplative state, not an engaged state.
I love biking at high speeds through urban environments. If I could somehow program while also doing this, I think this would be peak activation of all my pleasure centres at once (Sidenote: I should prototype this, and maybe I can make a more visceral version of Mecha Trigger).
Sadly, biking is not really possible through the winter, so I’ve been antsy for proper exercise for months.
But back to our main topic, which is Taekwondo. My first major observation is that punching and kicking consistently is surprisingly difficult. It reminds me of the time I was learning archery. It was only two or three months into Taekwondo that I got to properly spar with someone, where we’re both actively trying to kick and punch each other, in a “fire at will”.
To my surprise, jumping is way less effective than video games and dreams have been teaching me my entire life.
You see, I’m energetic, and flighty, so jumping excitedly out of the way when I’m in danger is a natural response. A lifetime of playing videogames where this is rewarded and encouraged has not helped, but rather has reinforced this instinct. In most of my dreams, I fly. My dream flight takes two different forms: a) the muddy, drifting hovering a metre above the ground b) soaring on air currents high in the sky. Over my life, I’ve become highly familiar with how to fly in these two configurations. I’ve even had Inception-style recursive dreams, where I’m flying, then wake up and discover I can still fly, and celebrate that all this practice has paid off and I can fly in real life. And then I wake up one more time, back in the real world, and find myself staring at the ceiling, asking why I would do this to myself.
To my surprise, when you jump out of the way of a punch or kick in real life, you, midair, are bound by Newton’s First Law, and have negligible effect over your momentum. There’s no double-jumping, mid-air steering, or glide mechanics at all.
I’ve discovered this thanks to every time I jump in the air, I get kicked or punched in the fucking ribs, and land, on my side, on the ground.
I have had heated conversations with my instructor where he’s informed me that there is no way to “train enough to charge up my chi so I can fly Dragonball Z style”. Harrumph.
So my current dodge strategy has had to change to sliding abruptly across the ground. This is way less cool, but has meant I don’t get knocked out of the air as much, which is nice. When you’re in the middle of a floaty jump, you’ve effectively removed yourself from combat, so now that I’m spending more time in combat, I can opportunistically make crazier moves. My current favourite is disruptive axe kicks that force my opponent to take a step back and blink a couple times.
My feet have had trouble dealing with all the sliding, and so I’ve had to get special foot moisturizer for them. My strength and reflexes are apparently fine, so currently the three major things holding me back in Taekwondo are:
– feet aren’t moist enough
– my instinct to point my fingers dramatically