Clicking

When it happens to you,  you know it. That electric dusk-sensitive porch light clicks on, there’s the sound of a new step on the back stairs, a barely discernible strain of music serenades you from another room. It’s like that, only all from the inside.

When you “click” the gears are perfectly meshed. Sometimes you know it was there only by the skid marks because it has already left. It can be a little thing like that elusive equation for string theory or it can be hugely important like suddenly knowing the right name of your unborn daughter.

In martial arts people often “click” on one level or another. It may never be the kind of fireworks that enlighten the sky but it’s too persistent and cuff tugging to ignore.

Sometimes there are preparations. I remember practicing sticky hands many years ago. My partner tried a move which frankly baffled me that he stopped halfway through with a strange look on his face. “What?” I asked.

“How did you do that, hit me there?”

“I don’t know,” I replied honestly. And I didn’t even know which of my hands had hit him.

Then I remembered the Wing Chun saying , if you don’t know how you hit him neither will he. When I had originally read that it sounded just a little too koan-ish, beat Zen from the martial coffee shop.

But I had just lived it.

About a month ago my student, Robert, sent out a punch that was a little Bruce Lee miracle of speed and efficiency. It was so good I had to cross the room to compliment him. Sometimes the click is so fast you need a witness.

My good friend and a fine artist, Howard Slatoff, used to tell me that it takes two people to create a work of art: one to paint it  and one to say STOP! As a teacher you try to stage the opportunities for these clicks and then jump out into the theater seat to applaud them. Regardless of your contribution the click is always the student’s property and—if things go well—you end up helping most by appreciating.

It is not the perfectly aimed free throw, which can be as much a fluke as an event. It is a drop into a zone, a splash in Lake Placid. The special thing about martial arts is that the field is so huge that it can come from almost anywhere. Your hands  start flashing all over the wooden dummy like you are playing spoons. Your Long Arm form is suddenly so fluid you feel like you are in a sled. The three part staff suddenly comes alive and whispers to you in a voice comprised of its clinking rings. Your opponent/partner suddenly seems to be dog paddling in molasses and you just walk in and tap him right on his basics. You are practicing Push Hands when abruptly you see that the other guy has a “tell” just about the size of the electric sign announcing Happy New Year over Times Square.

Not everyone knows how to receive a guest or a click. Sometimes the poetry comes, and not only do they forget to write it down but they run from the room in a cold sweat. Sometimes they are bummed out because the moment of truth is also a moment of responsibility. (Well, if you could be that good you’d better start practicing for real, son.)

These unexpected occurrences don’t tell you the price of Apple stock tomorrow, or prove that psychic phenomena is real. They do, however, restore an article of faith we all need, that there are little miracles of change available and, yes,  just outside of our field of focus.

Go ahead, blink.

photos: Debbie Shayne

One Response to “Clicking”

  1. patrick hodges says:

    Yeah, happens ALL the time. Now if I could only recreate them at will =) Had a Maine Coon Cat once and he would only do a trick that baffled us only ONE time and never repeat it(at least not in front of us)=)

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