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My sensei often speaks of experiencing “light bulb moments;” times when you suddenly get something right, and it makes so much sense that you wonder how you didn’t figure it out before. I recently had such a moment and now I can’t find the switch to turn the blasted thing on again.

My wife and I were away this past weekend visiting her family in Virginia. The weather was outstanding in that way we only find for a few weeks in the Fall. One morning, while everyone was occupied with other things, I put on some shorts, grabbed my bo, and headed out to a favorite park nearby to do some training. I have a new bo kata that I am working on and, let’s just say, it needs work. However, after some warming up, I started in on my empty-hand katas before getting to the sessions primary objective.

And, that is when the magic happened. My hands began to move in a different way, faster and more fluidly than usual. They also started to find targets on their own, as opposed to simply following the prescribed pattern of the kata. I was astute enough to recognize that something good was developing and I continued to “play” in this way for a while. However, I was not smart enough to stay on it for the rest of my session. Instead, I returned to my agenda and spent the rest of my time training with my bo.

Back in my regular dojo this week I attempted to “feel” the same movement again and it didn’t come nearly as naturally. In fact, there are some patterns I cannot seem to repeat at all. Part of the trouble is that I am thinking about it all too much. Part of the trouble is that I am now trying to work at something that was play before. So, why did the light come on, even briefly, and why won’t it come back on?

Location for a start. Training in a different place, in different conditions, at a different time of day, makes the experience more fun and less work. Don’t get me wrong; work is necessary. But a relaxed atmosphere leads to all kinds of insights. And, since I was intent on training with my bo, I was not uptight at all regarding my other kata. I just started to run through them, without thought or agenda. The mistake I made was not sticking with my discovery a little longer.

Although frustrated, I know that some of that movement is in me and it will come out again. The lesson here is how important a relaxed mindset and a change of environment can be. You can work endlessly to perfect your movements (and you need to) but sometimes it is important to let go and see what your body actually knows. And in the end, the mind does have an important role to play. If you want to avoid my mistake, you have to not only recognize when that “light bulb moment” is happening; you also have to keep the switch on, let go of your previous agenda, and practice, practice, practice the new insight.

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