Sunday, October 21, 2007

How Martial Arts Improved My Tennis Game

This is not some miracle story about how I was able to miraculously pick up the sport of tennis in an impossibly short amount of time. But my background in the martial arts did help me out on the court.

Up till this morning, I hadn't swung a tennis racket since just over a year ago when I first started learning the game. So this morning I went to play with my parents while on a family visit in Ontario. I remembered the last time I had played, having just received instruction from a tennis pro who had helped me get a real feel for what it was like to hit the ball properly. My game had improved massively. But this morning, as I took my first swings since last year, it felt like I was swinging a log at a basketball.

But even though I had lost all my skill from the previous year, I still remembered how my body felt when I did hit the ball properly. For every ball I hit badly, I was able to correct my shift my body position a little closer to the one I associated with that feeling. After a hour of practicing just hitting the ball with my father, I could feel my old technique starting to come back. Not that I was ready for Wimbeldon or anything, but there was definitely some progress.

Martial arts training made me better at learning new skills by teaching me body awareness, an understanding of the learning process, and the patience to keep me from swearing and throwing my racket across the court over every missed ball.

Miyamoto Musashi, a famous Japanese swordsman and author of The Book of the Book of Five Rings, said that by studying one thing in depth, you can understand ten thousand things. While I'm no martial arts master, I definitely find that my training has afforded me a personal perspective that allows me to be flexible enough to take on many of life's challenges, tennis strokes included.

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