Toughing it Out, Switching Gears, and Taking a Break

I had a terrible night dancing just recently. A night where I felt completely disconnected from dancing - something that I truly am passionate about. I felt awkward, bored, frustrated, and completely in my head; disconnected from my whole.

This is not a new feeling. I have experienced this before with swordplay. It’s something that I talk with my students about. Even things that are usually truly right to us, can sometimes feel terribly wrong. In fact the more connected you feel to something normally, the more jarring it can be when you have this kind of experience.

The truth is it is natural. All things in life have ebbs and flows to them, it’s part of how you know they’re alive. Stasis, a fixed state, good or bad, is the way of dead things; movement is the way of living things. But what to do with this feeling?

Tough it Out

Sometimes the best thing to do is to just power through. If you allow yourself to be too sensitive to awkward feelings you’ll miss out on some of your greatest learning. Learning and growing requires a certain amount of risk taking. When you’re trying something new it’s going to make you feel strange, it will feel unnatural, you won’t feel super-connected. But this is a necessary state for learning, in fact one where learning is often heightened. Also to truly achieve great things internally or externally requires that you get comfortable with discomfort. Failure is inherently discomforting and absolutely necessary in the success process.

Switch Gears

If your current state or approach isn’t working - change it. In sword fighting work on something new and different or return to practicing a technique that is an old friend. Try making a shift that requires a completely different approach and see how your energy shifts with it. In a dancing context, completely change how you’re dancing or the type of dance you’re doing, switch partners from those you are uncomfortable with to those you revel in or the opposite.

Take a Break

If you’ve toughed it out, and switched gears, or don’t feel like you can muster the energy required for either: step away. Consciously stepping away from something in order to gain perspective or rebuild energy is different than running away from something or avoidance. Use this time to do something that is truly healthy and nourishing for your deeper self or to reflect on the feelings that you were struggling with in a thoughtful environment or with a trusted friend or mentor. What I don’t recommend is engaging in avoidance behaviour like watching TV, crawling into bed, or doing things that are destructive for your mind or body simply to take you away from your discomfort. If you want to grow you must nurture and reflect. Then when you do return you’ll have new energy, new insights, and hopefully a new outcome to enjoy.

Devon Boorman is the Co-Founder and Director of Academie Duello Centre for Swordplay, which has been active in Vancouver, Canada since 2004. Devon’s expertise centres on the Italian swordplay tradition including the arts of the Renaissance Italian rapier, sidesword, and longsword, as well as knife and unarmed techniques.
Read more from Devon Boorman.