I am very tired.
Today, I went to an SCA fight practice. I was fighting on and off for about two and a half hours in thirty pounds of armor. We were practicing one on one fights, in which my weapon of choice is a greatsword. Everyone I was practicing with was fighting sword and shield. In the greatsword versus sword-and-shield matchup, their goal is to use their shield to close as fast as possible to negate my range advantage, and they were correctly charging me at the beginning of each fight. To win, I needed to use my greater mobility to attack them from the side, or just keep them at range and whack away until I scored something. Despite the extra armor weight, I had to move quickly if I wanted a chance at success. The day took a lot out of me, but I had a mental breakthrough that I suspect will be important later, so I’m happy I went.
I just got home from having dinner at some friends’ apartment, where I nearly fell asleep on their couch before realizing that I should probably just go home.
There is a large part of me that doesn’t want to write this post.
Yet, here I am. Why?
First, I committed to posting six days a week. I want to prove to myself that I can do that. I spent my one cheat day a week this past Thursday, so fulfilling my commitment to myself means posting something tonight.
Second, I want to build discipline. I need to write regularly to practice, so I want to train my brain that daily writing is not an optional activity.
Those two factors sound nice, but they weren’t enough to get me to post. The deciding factor was the idea that I could make today an experiment. How little effort could I put into a post before it was publishable?
Why would I do this? Let’s take a detour into the land of martial arts. One of the textbooks that we study at the kenjutsu dojo I am attending discusses the three stages of learning any technique, from the most basic vertical cut to sophisticated entering techniques that require split-second timing. I’ll use the basic vertical cut as my example.
The first stage is learning how to do the technique at all. The motions must be programmed into your body. Move the sword from center gaurd to above your head with a snap, then move your hands forward before snapping the sword on the way back down. Stop the power as soon as the snap is finished so that you don’t overextend your wrists. If we can do all this without prompting, no matter how slow or unrealistic it looks, we’ve satisfied this criteria.
I know how to write, and I’ve created several five hundred to one thousand word blog entries in the past few weeks.
The second stage is learning how to do it without thinking about it. To execute a vertical cut in combat, you need to be familiar enough with the technique that your brain can reproduce it while it is focusing on other things. Deciding whether or not a vertical cut is a good idea right now takes up a lot of energy, and can take up all the mental space you once used to remember how to do it at all. In martial arts, we develop this ability with tons and tons of repetition. I find that I get to this level with a technique at around the thousandth repetition.
I haven’t written a thousand blog posts, but I’m getting better at identifying whether an idea will work well in a blog post and what the structure should be before I start writing. I still have more work to do, but I can feel this coming.
The third stage, and the most challenging part, is to learn how to do it while expending the minimum required energy. Once you transcend your brain as a limitation on doing the technique, we move on to your body. Physical energy is a resource, and hurting someone with an attack requires power. Our goal is to spend as little energy as possible on each attack so that we don’t run out of energy before we run out of things that need to be attacked. To develop this skill in martial arts, we execute the technique over and over again until we are exhausted, then keep going. When we’re tired, we force our bodies to do things in the most efficient way possible, because there simply isn’t energy to do it any other way. Once we find this way, we can use it when we are fresh, and we’ll get tired more slowly.
I currently have trouble writing for more than three or four hours before getting fatigued, and quality starts to suffer after an hour or two. I want to develop the ability to keep going longer than that. This is a chance to practice writing tired, and when I cast it that way, it was obvious that I needed to write.
I may be exhausted, but to my eye, I was able to write something that is readable and delivers value.