Thursday, February 18, 2016

Ice and balance.

Well, we successfully got down the driveway this morning, but it was something of an adventure. We've officially discovered the limitation of YakTrax, and have recommendations on more robust replacements for them. On a slope of this grade, with hard black ice at low temperatures, the YakTrax aren't even gripping. You're just relying on your balance, and limiting contact with the ice. The areas I shoveled all the way down are actually the most dangerous now, but they will be the first to melt, so I did make the right choice at least, but there will be a lot of salt. This brings up one of the things I've thought about many times since starting to homestead.

I think that everyone that homesteads should do martial arts.

I'm not so much talking about for self defense, though the confidence of knowing you are physically capable of self defense is a good thing. I'm more talking about some of the other parts of martial arts. To be fair, the things I think are important from martial arts in being a good homesteader can come from other things, but martial arts has the broadest application, and is easiest to find training.

Balance: I mean this in both a physical sense and other senses. It is important for tramping around in snow, ice, and rough terrain, as well as if you're doing construction. Obviously keeping your feet is a good thing physically. The other part of balance is a more mental/spiritual one. Homesteading involves a lot of rapidly changing situations. Joy and sadness suddenly swinging as things in and out of your control collide. Being able to have the center to not just physically make your way through it, but keep your head balanced is vital. For me, martial arts did a lot towards having that mind space. For others it is yoga, or dance, or some combination of things. The important thing is that there is a physical component to keeping your physical feet under you.

Falling: No matter your balance, you're going to fall. Especially when you're all over everywhere on ice. Especially when you're on a steep hill. The question is how you're going to handle it. You know those falls where you hit with a breath paralyzing thud, and have trouble getting back up? Those aren't so good. You also want to make sure you avoid things like falling and putting a hand out to hit the ground first and breaking the small bones in your hand and wrist. Trust me, been there, done that. Humans don't fall well on instinct, it's something you have to learn to do. You can learn the hard way by falling a lot, but martial arts and a few other disciplines actively teach it. There are roll outs, break falls, and various tumbling, each have their own application. Sometimes it's less harmful to fall well than stay on your feet, and as long as I don't end up with my feet over my head from a slip fall, I'm generally going to be ok falling. If you're out a lot, you want to have that comfort too.

Failure: There is obviously a mental element to how to handle fall as well. In this case it's handling failure. If you're lost and been disappointed many times and have the discipline to keep going in training, it's a lot easier to handle it when things just go wrong in life, and you have to stand up and move on. As I'm sure everyone knows, failure happens in life. Getting back up from it whether physically or otherwise is good. For me, Martial Arts helped me with that through learning to learn from being beaten no matter the importance of the match, rather than just be upset due to a loss.

Pain: I've discussed injury management enough times on the blog, and while it hasn't been going well lately, as you can see I stopped before shoveling the whole driveway. One of the things I learned from martial arts (probably because I'm not very good at them!) is about pain. Pain that indicates that I'm pushing myself versus I'm injured or injuring myself. It took me a long time to learn the difference, and while not everyone has problems learning that it is important. I err on the side of hurting myself, but sometimes you have to work through pain, or vital things don't get done, but you can't push so hard you do serious damage to yourself. It is a balance, and where I learned it was martial arts. Ballet incidentally is also a good one for this.

Risk Taking: Last but not least, life is constantly a balance of taking smart risks based on the balance of risk and reward. Sometimes you have to make those choices fast. There are a lot of places to learn to do that, but martial arts is one of the best. Observe, Orient, Decide, Act, repeat is taken from the military, but it works well. On a moment by moment situation it has to just be instinct. For example, capturing the sick turkey was a matter of risk taking, and what was worth it. Deciding whether to bring in all of your livestock before a cold night, whether your animals can wait for you to sleep in a couple hours because you are sick or in pain. All of that is decision making on risk taking, and the best way to learn is to take risks, and learn in a situation without dire consequences.

There are a lot of ways to learn balance, falling, failure, pain, and risk taking. I feel that martial arts is one of the best, especially for homesteading. The balance of long term success, and rapid moment by moment changes of situation means that the approach of many martial arts helps with all of these. Of course, what martial art to do, that's a whole different conversation best suited to each person.


  1. Interesting, thoughtful posting here! Maintaining and increasing physical, emotional,and mental strength are always needed. Adversity shows up. Strength is a valuable tool!

    1. Thank you very much, I would like to refine the philosophical side of this a bit, but it was good to get out in this form.