A few weeks ago, I was involved in a discussion about bread making. No, I do not mean those bread making machines you can buy at your local store, but bread made by hand.
I remember as a child my mother and her sisters getting together to do the fall harvest. They would bake bread, pies, can and preserve our foods for the winter. The smell and sounds of laughter and joy that would fill the house when they got together was one of the finest childhood memories in my life. They would gather, gossip, feed us rug rats and bake and bake and bake.
They were stocking up for the winter while the abundance of food was present.
The discussion I was having with my wife and others was how you make bread. Anyone who knows me also knows I am not the cook or baker in my family. That skill and passion lies with my wife and sons.
Louise had been relating a call from her brother who had tried to make bread and failed. He was blaming the scale he was using. He was measuring, recording and analyzing this process to death. He is an engineer and very use to following formulas.
Louise told him you have to have a feel for it that is often developed by past experience and practice.
Their mother never used scales but relied on the teaching as a child she received from her mother whom also had learned from her mother and so on and so on. This was the same with my mother and her sisters.
The techniques and feel were handed down through the generations by their parents, long before scales were a part of a kitchen. The engineer in my brother-in- law wanted to get a better scale. The memory he had of his mother told him to keep practising.
So what does bread making have to do with martial arts? Like many things in life I relate a lot of what I hear and learn back to the martial arts training I have received.
Tradition, passing on knowledge, developing a feeling through practice and a willingness to learn: all of these components are part of learning a new skill.
But there is also the subtle but essential element of feel for what you are doing and a passion and desire to do it and do it well. You also need a wiliness to struggle through this process to achieve results your mother would be proud of.
Recognition when something does not feel right to make the adjustments to correct it, too, is all about learning and experience.
This comes about through repetition and study. It also comes through patience and self discovery. You cannot just take a short course and expect to be an expert. But with patience and dedication you can become accomplished no matter what you choose to practise.
To this day, I have a taste for raw dough that causes my mother no end of anxiety but it is comfort food for me. She is in her 80s and still bakes. I still crave her baking and her dough.
Todd Hardy has studied and taught a variety of martial arts over 38 years and trained with many people from around the world. Would you like to comment on what you read here? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.