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Brain Freeze

I will begin to share some thoughts about my recent training visit to Okinawa.

I first trained with Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato in 2002. He visited me in Hawaii twice since then. My recent visit was thus my fourth time training with him.

No matter how much I train and try to keep up, there is no way that I will be in sync with the students who regularly train at his home dojo. Each time I train, Sensei teaches or emphasizes new things and I then work on these and other matters until I see him again. It is natural that I will progress somewhat in my own way -- at least until my next training.

Well, this visit was like my previous three experiences -- after the first day I was already confused and suffered from "brain freeze." What I mean by this is that the conflict between what I understood (or thought I understood) and what Shinzato Sensei was teaching (or emphasizing) caused my brain to overload and shut down. I could follow along but not absorb very much.

Thank goodness for video and Sensei's permission to take it. In the weeks and months following my earlier training sessions, I watched the videos I had taken many times. I must have watched certain sequences dozens of times. I picked up many things that I had missed during training because of "brain freeze."

Let me put it another way. Let's say that your mind can absorb 3 things in a day's worth of training. After those 3 things, everything else will be ignored or missed. When I meet with Shinzato Sensei, I think I often learn 10 or more things in just a few hours. I am not taking about kata or techniques -- I am talking about movement principles. I am very lucky if I can learn and absorb even 3 things!

And I notice that this gets worse as I grow older. I will be 50 this year. I have students who can learn many things very easily. As I grow older, I think I learn things in a deeper way but cannot learn as many things in a short time.

There may be other words to describe it, but I have grown to recognize when "brain freeze" sweeps over me like a thick blanket. There really is no way to avoid it. The best thing is to just relax and go along. There will be time to review the footage later.

Sometimes, even if your brain is frozen, your body might be able to learn. I try to follow along and let my body take the lead. Sometimes, this leads to amazing results. In my case, my brain is my main problem -- I overthink. When my mind is spent, there have been times when my body seemed to move on its own. I think that Sensei might say that my koshi was moving on its own.

However you say it, relaxing the mind is as important as relaxing the body. Explanations tend to be complicated. Moving tends to be pretty simple -- or at least involves a set of simple principles.

Shinzato Sensei often says that you cannot move freely when your mind is fixed.


Charles C. Goodin