Thursday, August 11, 2016

Processing vs. intuition

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I often think about how talented or skilled players do what they do so well.  Some people might consider me skilled and have asked how I do it, but while it's easy to say what I do, I'm more curious how other people do it.

When I say "do it", I mean how people play or perform with combination of a high degree of ability, strike clean and fast, create interesting patterns, move dynamically and smoothly, play confidently, beam energy outwards, etc.

Right now my theory is that there are two approaches, depending on the person.

The first is Mental Acuity, which is the organic version of processing power.  Some people are really good at taking in information and reacting to it quickly.  It might be external, from the eyes or ears, or internal, from thoughts or emotion.  The ability to process quickly means less time spent on any one thing, as well as the ability to handle multiple streams of data simultaneously without being overwhelmed easily.

This is a hard skill to learn, but not impossible.  I think half of it is just not freaking out when trying to do a lot of things at once, which is easier said than done.  But it's not really something that comes from taiko as much as it comes from your daily life.  How do you handle stress, how do you multi-task, how do you adapt, how much do you objectively observe?  I feel like being good at those things directly helps your mental acuity.

The second is Intuition, which is trusting in your experience and skills to know what to do next.  This is where people who have been playing a lot - and/or for a long time - can do things that people younger, faster, stronger, etc., can't.  This skill shows when people play really well in unfamiliar settings or surroundings, because they're applying what they've internalized as much as possible.

Having the intuition of what sounds best next or how to position yourself or even when to stop playing is something all of us can learn, but it's not until it's thoroughly practiced when it becomes second-nature.

Of course, there's another aspect, that of "talent".  Personally, when I think of a taiko player or martial artist who I think of as "talented", I also know they practice a LOT.  There are some young kids out there who take to an art or a sport and pick it up more quickly than others at their age, but that might very well be because of their mental acuity compared to their peers.  And those are the ones who, as they get older, tend to practice and hone their abilities, not sit around and just be "good enough".

Some of you might think you don't have good mental acuity or intuition.  Others might watch someone particularly good and think they'll never be as good as that person.  The first is rubbish, the second is pointless.

We don't always recognize the skills we have.  And often it takes practice, for some things more than others.  Practice that most likely has to happen on your own, outside of the studio or dojo, practice where you take time and dissect and be honest with yourself, not just do what you did at practice again and expect results.  As for comparing yourself to someone else, if you can learn from watching that person, great!  Otherwise it's just an exercise in self-harm.  You'll never be as good as them, they'll never be as good as someone else...and what does it matter, really?  Go practice, instead!

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