11 November 2012

What You Can't See

The difference between a brown belt and a black belt in Kempo is both huge and minuscule.  To give you a visual example, at white belt, when you go to kick someone in the solar plexus your target is about the size of a dinner plate.  No joke.  Pretty much if you get your kick in the general area of your target then you’ve accomplished your Kung Fu task for the day.  Yay!

As you progress up the belt system, that target gets smaller and smaller.  Large dinner plate to smaller plate to salad plate to softball to baseball to golf ball to a quarter.

That last jump, from something around the size of a golf ball, down to a quarter is the hardest one to make.  This is the level of skill that the instructors are looking for when they are preparing you to test for a Black Belt.  There are about a thousand other things involved, including speed, tenacity, endurance, confidence and desire, and they all need to be fine-tuned down from a dinner plate to a quarter.

It took me forever to go from my brown belt to my black belt. And even now I know that there are things I do really well—targeting, precision and control—as well as things that get me every time—sparring and intensity and the ever dratted snap.  I can do it with a towel, but not my fist.  Still working on it.

In the writing world, it’s easy to see the first steps that you make as an aspiring author.  For instance, when you figure out how to write good dialogue, sentence structure, hooks, description and endings.  All of those things show up loud and clear.  But once you get into the nitty-gritty, it sometimes doesn’t feel like you’re moving forward anymore.

However, I promise you, that you are.  Maybe your skill level for writing good dialogue has come down from a dinner plate sized target to a softball.  That’s an easy change to see—you can practically measure it when your writing group no longer rolls their eyes when they come to large sections of characters talking.  But when it goes from a softball to a baseball, the distance isn’t as easy to discern, but that small step is just as important as all of the big ones you took to get there.

How are you supposed to kick someone in the solar plexus if you can’t even get your leg up that high?  Start at the beginning, build strength, get flexible and learn the technique.  Then worry about getting the shot in just the right place.  And one day you’ll suddenly find that you can kick people all day long (you know, make people laugh until they cry with the witty banter you write), and for some strange reason, they keep coming back for more!

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