An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Friday, December 6, 2019

Doing it right is more important than doing it fast

Words echo in my head as I listen to our tae kwon do instructor, Master Hubbard, impressing on the class to make their best effort on every move. It was a zen lesson I’d read many years ago, the actual story lost over the years, but the meaning stuck

How you do anything is how you do everything.

What does this mean? To me, it conveys an idea that your art is defined by your weakest link. That your real character is revealed by your lowest point, not your highest.

That probably sounds rather harsh. But read it again – how you do anything is how you do everything.

It doesn’t say you have to do everything perfectly. It doesn’t say you’re expected to hit the center of the target with every attempt. It does say, though, that you should approach every attempt with the intention of doing so.

When it comes to an art, applying yourself to the form is the goal. I’m reminded of a show I watched many years ago that was featuring the Japanese art of equestrian archery – yabusame. The targets for this art are quite small. But the part that struck me was when the narrator emphasized that the goal was not whether the archer hit the center of the target, but rather how the shot was made.

In weight lifting, form is everything. It’s what protects the lifter from (sometimes very serious) injury. Especially to a beginning lifter, form is WAY more important that how much weight is lifted. Develop the form with low resistance, make it as natural as blinking your eyes, and the weight will come.

In swimming, most speed issues are really form issues. One can grind out endless slow laps, but all that does is ingrain bad swim form and make the bad habits harder to break. I’ve been there. I spent several years in triathlon doing fairly well but playing a lot of catch-up once I got out of the water. I was “okay” at swimming, but not really good. I’d never been a competitive swimmer outside of triathlon. No one every took me aside to point out what I was doing wrong. I made an epiphany one day about my swim form, and my speed increased immediately. I was faster with less effort.

But the meaning spreads into life outside of any athletic endeavor. How do you approach your job? How do you interact with people? How do you drive?

In the more recent rendition of the movie The Karate Kid, Jackie Chan has an excellent line when finally revealing why he’s been having Jaden Smith pick up his jacket, hang it up, and then throw it back on the ground continuously for several days: Kung fu is in everything you do, and everything you do is kung fu.

The lesson in the tae kwon do class was this: Doing it correctly is more important than doing it quickly. Quickness will come.

There is no easy way, so stop bargaining with the effort of getting there. Especially when the prize is what you become along the way.