Accessing Muscle Memory

In June 2022, I tested for my 4th degree blackbelt in Taekwondo and I had practiced the hell out of my last 3 patterns.

I had practiced them all, of course, but those last 3, my newest ones, those needed extra work.

By the time my test came round, I was pretty confident in them. I had to take the last one a little slower than it would normally be done but I still knew it.

My brain knew it and my body knew it.

Then summer came and I was working on other things.

And in the fall, I started a new pattern and those 3 recent ones didn’t come up all that often.

Should I have been practicing them regularly anyway? Of course I should have.

Did I practice them regularly? Sadly, no.

I think it’s hard for anyone to keep practicing things they don’t use regularly but my ADHD brain throws up some extra challenges for me when it comes to that stuff.

I have trouble prioritizing on the best of days so on any given day, I‘m probably not going to be able to prioritize something that isn’t urgent.

And with my, let’s call it fluid, sense of time, it can feel like I *just* practiced something and, in reality, months have passed.

So, basically, while these patterns are technically there, in my brain and in my muscles, they weren’t easily accessible.

I could do them step-by-step along with the group but I no longer had a feel for them and I knew I had to prioritize practicing them or I might end up burying them too deep to retrieve.

So, in the past week, I have tried 3-4 times to go through those patterns. The first one was no problem. The second one was rusty but mostly doable – just a few sticky spots.

The third one though? My brain was refusing to let me have that one at all.

I could do the first few movements but that was it.

Then, on Thursday past, my back was being a jerk so I couldn’t participate in sparring class. Instead, I went to the back of the room and practiced my patterns.

I did the easy one, just to warm up.

Then I practiced the rusty one and as I did, I felt it become more and more familiar, like my muscles were saying ‘Oh, right! This one!’

And finally, I worked my way through the elusive third pattern.

Slowly, slowly, slowly, with some input from my friend and from my instructor, I eventually managed to remind my muscles that we know this pattern.

And, before I left class that night, it was back, it was accessible to me again, it was something I can more easily practice from now on.*

I just have to keep reminding my muscles that “We know this. We know this.”

*Again, I know everyone struggles to practice but my ADHD adds extra challenges in the task initiation area so there are *bonus* layers to my frustration with getting started with these things. And when I know practicing will be really slow and especially repetitive, my brain throws up an incredible level of resistance to the idea.