This video is “Part I” of a Sylvie’s Technique Vlog that I’m filming, examining the simple but very detailed way in which we can all learn to “feel” our techniques. Feeling is so important. It’s more important than any of us ever really know, but it’s something that I’ve been taught more times than I could ever count. The teachers who really stand out for explicitly focusing on feeling are Chatchai Sasakul (Trainer of the Year across all sports in Thailand in 2011) and Sagat Petchyindee. They’re so brilliant at having you work your way through a technique and then when you hit it, they don’t tell you that was good or not, they just ask, “How feel?” (Sagat) or “Feeling, feeling, feeling.” (Chatchai, coaching you through a technique.)
One thing to mention straight away is that feeling your way through a technique is an incredible way to shut your “inner coach” up. If you’ve followed me for much time at all you’ve heard me recommend the book, “The Inner Game of Tennis,” which is an absolute classic for mental training and a must-read for anyone serious about improving how you learn. However, a second thing to mention is that feeling your way through a technique is something your actual external coach might not love. A coaches authority is founded on his/her ability to tell you whether you’re “right” or “wrong,” or doing anything correctly. Shutting up your inner coach is great. Shutting up your outer coach is something we don’t all necessarily aim for. By learning how to feel your way through a technique, you’re actually making your external coach’s critique obsolete, rather than absolute. This doesn’t mean you don’t value their input and they can absolutely help guide you. But there’s an example given in Buddhist teachings, which is that there is no greater teacher than experience. A teacher can poetically and scientifically explain what sweet is to someone who has never tasted it, but the moment you put sugar on your tongue and experience it, your teacher is no longer necessary. How to feel your way through techniques is in no uncertain terms, sugar on the tongue.
I use tools that I’ve learned from Vipassana meditation and apply them to feeling the kick. I find this really helpful for myself because my own inner coach is a real asshole. She’s really, really insistent. And we all learn how to critique and criticize ourselves from a young age, so it’s really hard to even know what not doing that even is like. In the “Inner Game of Tennis,” the author Gallway tries to bring us all back to a more child-like approach to learning, which is without judgment. Quieting “Self II,” which is the mind, from always trying to direct and take credit for “Self I,” which is the body. The body actually has incredible knowledge and instinct. Give a simple directive, like: kick that pad, and then let it just go. No, “step here, turn the hip, straighten the knee, bend the knee, hold the arm here, throw the arm there,” etc. That just messes us up. But it’s so hard not to do that, because all those details are what make a beautiful kick. But yelling at ourselves to do it never, ever, in a million tries will ever make that kick beautiful. Through repetition and feeling, whether you’re aware of it or not, the kick will become beautiful by what Self I, or the body is doing and knowing. Self II will claim credit for it, eventually, but that’s nonsense. I found this all really hard to do, to move or have intention without judgment. But my practice with Vipassana meditation helped me understand how to do this in Muay Thai, and that’s what Part I of this Sylvie’s Technique Vlog is about. How to feel something without judging it, just taking in information: look at a photograph for a moment and then tell me what’s in it. That’s how you look at a kick.
In Part II I’m going to be going into more depth about what to feel. All the different elements of even knowing where your body is throughout the motion of a kick. And harder still, more depth in how to not judge the movement. Just take in all the information. It’s not complicated and it’s not hard to actually do; but it’s really difficult to undo all the other critiquing and judging parts.
If you want to find out more about my experiences with Vipassana meditation, this was my 3 day vlog of my very first Vipassana retreat 2 and a half years ago:
and these are various writings I’ve done which include Vipassana reference.