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Finding the Flow - Part 1

Updated: Feb 29, 2020

Hello Everyone,

Recent work and self-study schedule plus keiko seminars have taken up most of our time until now, where we can set aside some time for self-reflection and more articles.

This will be a three (yes, three!) part discussion on 1.what is flow and how to optimize entering the flow and 2.relevance in iaido practice (kihon/ keiko), 3.using flow to shape your own development in iaido.

We had touch superficially sometime back on the topic of flow. What is flow?

The psychologist, Mihaly, described the state of flow as the pleasure, delight, creativity, and process when we are completely immersed in life. It is also the means through which one can achieve an "optimal experience".

Indeed, ask any who have experienced the state of flow before and the common theme is the state of experience where one is so involved in the activity that nothing else seems to matter - it is the same regardless of age and cultures.

When we enter a state of flow, we are focused on the task at hand without distractions. The opposite occurs when we try to do something while our mind is on other things. According to researcher Own Schaffer, there are seven requirements to achieving flow.

These are:

1. Knowing what to do

2. Knowing how to do it

3. Knowing how well one is doing

4. Knowing where to navigate/ direct oneself towards

5. Perceiving significant challenges

6. Perceiving significant skills

7. Being free from distractions

In the context of an iaido practice, certainly one's skill is not 100% perfection, but rather one tries to do the kata to the best of one's abilities. So points 1 & 2 are pretty much covered. The dojo environment should be conducive for training (external environment), and one should be focused on practice (internal self). This constitutes point 7.

Knowing how well is doing and the direction to steer towards to requires self-awareness and self-management (focused, mindful practice). In some cases, the feedback from the Sensei will be valuable in helping overcoming difficulties with techniques or plateaus. On points 5 and 6, the perception of challenges and skills requires coming to terms first with one's own abilities, and selecting the best course of actions to address them - an example is to improve nukitsuke, perhaps a targeted practice on the study and practice on nukitsuke will help uncover deeper understanding and performing it better..?

Having briefly outlined the points for achieving flow, we will discuss further the relevance of flow on kihon/ keiko in the next article.

Until then, we wish you good health and a pleasant day!


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