The “Train On Your Own” Blackout

You’re finally going to do a solo practise session

You’ve got up early, your mind is full of new bits of things to practise. It’s exciting, you gotta start somewhere right? And you’re starting today, now, maintenant, aujourd’hui. You get ready, you breathe..

And your mind goes blank

For the life of you, you can’t remember what you’re trying to practise. It’s like all that momentum you built up suddenly hits a wall as your brain has a hissyfit and forgets everything you might have learnt about Taiji. You might start thinking that you’re a poor student, and that you need to practise harder, attend more classes and so on.

It’s not your fault. It’s your brain’s

You see, the brain is an associative organ. It will associate the movement with the training hall you’re in, the presence of a teacher and also, you’ll get a lot of cues to the movement from the people around you.

When you practise on your own, all the hooks and cues your brain depends on to kickstart the form just aren’t there anymore. It can’t make that first leap into the movement because none of the things it needs to get going are there.

So how do you get over this hump? It’s rather demoralising not being able to start.

You just need the first step

Get the first move of the form so well understood that you could do it blindfolded standing on your head locked in a cage underwater. You have to remember the first move and the rest will start to follow.

Find a place to practise, and always face the same way when you start. Your brain will make associations with the room all over again, and it’ll be easier to start.

You also need to give it a bit of time for your brain to make the associations with the new place you’re practising in. Anytime you start doing your own training, the first two or three sessions are going to be spent re-orienting yourself to the new surroundings. Even if you spend a lot of time just thinking what comes next, it’s not wasted time. You’re building associations in your brain, you are training. You’re just not training quite what you think you are. Stick with it and before you know it you’ll be doing the form.

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