Thursday, September 08, 2005

Test Anxiety

I have been realizing that I have a fair amount of "test anxiety"
regarding promotional exams. This is no doubt due to my difficulty
testing for shodan (in TSD) when I was young, a tale too long to tell
here. The scars are still there, though I like to think I'm stronger for
the experience. There is, I think, also an element of wanting to be a
"carefree" beginner for as long as I can hold onto that idea, sort of
avoiding the responsibility that comes along with knowing what I'm doing.

I remember when I was a young guitar student who never practiced much.
One cop out line I would use was: but I'm pretty good for a ___ year
old, right? I started playing when I was about 8 years old, so that line
served me well for a while. In 1987 I took a course called Guitar Craft
(, taught by a guy named Robert Fripp of King
Crimson fame. One thing I remembered him saying was that for many of us
it was quite a shock to realize that, yes, in fact we really are THAT
bad! Up until then we could sort of get by on our "licks", but having to
learn how to actually play, well, that's another story entirely. In GC
they have "levels" that you could say are akin to belt ranks in the
martial arts, though the requirements for each level are not clear to
me. So the first course is typically a Level 1 course, though now they
also have preparatory courses that are before Level 1. Level 3 courses
are (or were back then at any rate) 3 month residential courses, and
they have various projects and challenges beyond that. I have continued
playing "GC style" over the years, though I am again not practicing with
any regularity. GC courses will hopefully be in my future.

What does GC have to do with martial arts? The approach to learning is
similar you could say. There is the notion of "quality of attention"
that relates to how we play the guitar. One aphorism (Fripp is a
constant source of aphorisms) from Guitar Craft is: “How we hold our
pick (guitar plectrum) is how we live our lives”. I could rattle off a
bunch more similarities, but suffice it to say that I draw on my GC
experiences in my aikido training. As I said previously, when we perform
a technique, our entire history presents itself.

Anyway, my *all new* goal in practice is self-preservation. I'm still
nursing a shoulder injury, so I'm swearing off high falls and generally
trying to take it easy on myself. I am also trying to take a light
attitude toward practice, and this will help in and of itself.


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