Sunday, August 20, 2006

Just swing: the gymnastics version.

When I was a wee lad, about 15, the Japanese Gymnasts were my heroes. I had seen them in the '72 Olympics in Munich and I determined, right then and there, that I would be that. I studied everything I could get my hands on about their approach to training and was pleasantly suprised that they considered their training a "Do" or Way. A physical path to a spiritual Enlightment. Their philosphy was a blend of Samurai Martial Spirit, and the Way of Zen, which I then began to study.

One of my American heroes was Steve Hug, a National level gymnast from Stanford. Steve was a good gymnast but not great. He went to Japan to study at the Japanese Physical Education College that was turning out all the Olympians. He came back and the next year won everything and went on to do the best ever for an American at the next Olympics.

He told us that for the first six months they told him all he was to do was swing. Just swing, on the pommel horse, on the rings, the parallel bars and high bar. Just circles and swings and giants. After six months he might be ready for compulsory exercises. He did so and came back transformed. I also wanted to go to Japan to study and started to make plans but then I blew out my knee.

I think about that story all the time. It has a perfect analogy with the Russian Kettlebell swing.

4 comments:

Ken Black said...

Cool thanks for sharing that story Rif.
It does ring true for many things in life. People are so eager to complicate everything in search of betterment.
Eastern culture has some very interesting ways.

Tom Furman said...

I love stories like that. I read about Karate Champion Joe Lewis' training in Okinawa. I modeled my week like his as a youth. Very powerful experience. I felt I could overcome a lack of talent with Zen-like focus. Lewis, then Mike Stone, and Superfoot Wallace provided adequate motivation.
Great stuff.
Did you graduate from North Miami Beach High School?

Mark Reifkind said...

thanks Ken, and yes Tom, NMB class of '75.I also knew that willpower and discipline could overcome lack of talent!

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