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Improving Coordination and Overcoming Clumsiness?

NannersBalletLegsNannersBalletLegs Member Posts: 208 Member Member Posts: 208 Member
Hey, all. This is my first time posting on the fitness and exercise board on MFP. I was wondering if anyone out there has ever overcome a serious lack of physical coordination to be able to learn how to fight and/or dance?

I have really been wanting to learn some kind of martial art lately, but I'm scared that it will go badly for me like it always does when I take lessons or someone tries to teach me something that involves coordination.

I keep thinking back to the bellydancing course I took at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. I paid good money for that course but was humiliated after the instructor kept stopping the class to tell me that I was doing it wrong. I was thrown off by the fact that she was facing us and I could see myself in a mirror at the same time. I couldn't figure out which side of my body I was supposed to be moving. I quit going because I didn't want to hold the rest of the class back or be singled out again in front of forty other women. I also remember taking a women's self-defense class in my early 20s and had a very similar experience where everyone was getting it but me. Heck, even in kindergarten I was the only kid who couldn't get through the entire gymnastics routine.

I don't know what's wrong with me that I can't visually observe another person's movements and reproduce them in my own body...and even when I finally get it, as soon as a new move comes along, my body forgets how to do the old move.

I don't want to embarrass myself or waste money again, but I really want to learn. Any tips or advice for improving coordination? I was thinking maybe starting out with Tai Chi or something slow like that would help and that maybe I could build up to other kinds of martial arts. What do you all think? Can I overcome my clumsiness?

Replies

  • ReaverieReaverie Member Posts: 405 Member Member Posts: 405 Member
    Martial arts is a great way to work on coordination and balance. This will help with any clumsiness issues. But if you are prone to quitting just because you are the newbie and require extra assistance, then of course it won't work for you. You have to stick things out or forget even trying. I trip over dust particles but am lightening fast catching a glass knocked off of a counter. I took martial arts as a teen and even though I can't pull off a round house with out falling on my duff, my reflexes are on par.
  • jemhhjemhh Member Posts: 14,273 Member Member Posts: 14,273 Member
    I don't dance or do martial arts but I am working on balance. I've always been uncoordinated and when I had PT for Achilles tendonitis, my therapist had me work on balance. I now do a unilateral assistance exercise for all of my regular compound exercises - - split squats, single leg RDLs, one arm dumbbell bench, and one arm landmine press. It has helped my overall coordination.
  • NannersBalletLegsNannersBalletLegs Member Posts: 208 Member Member Posts: 208 Member
    Reaverie wrote: »
    Martial arts is a great way to work on coordination and balance. This will help with any clumsiness issues. But if you are prone to quitting just because you are the newbie and require extra assistance, then of course it won't work for you. You have to stick things out or forget even trying. I trip over dust particles but am lightening fast catching a glass knocked off of a counter. I took martial arts as a teen and even though I can't pull off a round house with out falling on my duff, my reflexes are on par.

    Of course, you're right that I need to stick with it and stop getting so easily embarrassed. I guess I was just hoping that here was some beginner level activity that might help me get more practice replicating specific movements and build up my coordination without being under so much pressure...something for me to build on so that I'm less likely to suck so badly when learning more complex things. Lol. YouTube is great for stuff like that, but I can't ask questions if I get confused following that approach. I did have a pretty positive experience at Zumba when I used to go. The instructor didn't care at all whether anyone was doing the movements right. She left me alone, and after enough sessions, I started to internalize the movements and feel more confident in improving my form.
  • __TMac____TMac__ Member Posts: 1,662 Member Member Posts: 1,662 Member
    Tai chi is probably a good idea. It's slow and controlled, so there's lots of time to get the motions right. I bet you could also talk to the instructor ahead of time and let them know that you learn best when left to your own devices.

    You could also sign up for private instruction if there's a form of martial arts you'd really like to try, and get a head start in the basics.
  • NannersBalletLegsNannersBalletLegs Member Posts: 208 Member Member Posts: 208 Member
    @TmacMMM That's a really good idea about getting private instruction before joining a group class. Thank you!
  • AnnPT77AnnPT77 Member, Premium Posts: 21,972 Member Member, Premium Posts: 21,972 Member
    I can really empathize: I was always among the last 3 people chosen for teams in gym class, and I could still name the others who were in that final group of "undesireds" (even though 40+ years have passed). For most of my life, I've been completely unable to learn by watching someone else, then doing those moves myself. It works best for me to understand something in words, then try to do it - which is a completely dysfunctional way to learn a physical skill, I have to admit.

    My advice is this: Persistence and steady practice can beat natural talent. Persistence and steady practice can also increase visual-learning skills and body awareness. Not to be discouraging here, but for me, this meant years, not weeks, for complex skills.

    I've seen "naturally talented" people take up some activities I do; often they do very well for a beginner, then drop out. I'm way better at those activities than they were when they dropped out. I stuck with it, and worked hard.

    I studied kung fu and tai chi for around 8 years. People with natural physical skills picked it up more quickly than I did, and also made better progress if they stuck with it and worked hard. But I accomplished more than people who dropped out, or even those who half-a**ed their practice over the long haul. I learned to harness some helpful attributes I do have: Strength, attentiveness as a learner, willingness to practice.

    When I was in my mid-40s, I took up rowing (long skinny boats like in the Olympics, but mine is slower ;) ). I went on to medal in my age group in on-water and rowing machine races. I worked, I practiced, I sought out good coaching, I made progress.

    And rowing, for me, was transformational: Not because of the activity itself, but because, with long practice and good coaching, I developed better skills for feeling where my body was in space, and for moving it in a different way to achieve what I was striving for. Progress in this conceptual level was super-slow, but there's been amazing progress over a decade plus: It's now much, much easier than it used to be to learn other new physical skills.

    Any complex physical activity, done over a long period with good instruction, could have this effect. There's nothing magic in that way about rowing.

    Sorry for the long essay, OP, but I could so relate to what you're saying. Please pick an activity you truly enjoy and want to succeed at, park any sense of embarrassment at the door (because it doesn't help you move forward), then persistently work your a** off at improving, persistently, over the long haul. I guarantee you'll surprise yourself.
  • nowine4menowine4me Member, Premium Posts: 3,986 Member Member, Premium Posts: 3,986 Member
    Start with some videos at home until you get the basics down? Is balance the issue? Pilates and yoga can help with that.
  • DearestWinterDearestWinter Member Posts: 595 Member Member Posts: 595 Member
    My balance and coordination had always been atrocious until I took an adult beginning ballet class. (These exist! I never knew until last year.) After two months of weekly class I noticed an enormous difference in my ability to balance. I can now stand on one foot and shake a pebble out of my other shoe without falling over!

    The work that you do at the barre allows you to concentrate on your posture and exactly how you're shifting your weight which helps a lot when it comes to balancing without the barre. I highly recommend it. I'd taken pilates for several years and yoga for over a decade and ballet was the first thing that really made a difference for me.

    Whatever you decide to do I recommend having an instructor who will pay attention to your form and correct it.
  • DancingMoosieDancingMoosie Member Posts: 7,686 Member Member Posts: 7,686 Member
    Tai Chi, yoga, pilates, then beginner Zumba. Shaun T. has a "learn and burn" routine to learn the moves before doing the longer dancy routine that is helpful for beginners. I think Chalene also has one with the 1st Turbo Jam dvd set. You might also try a walking workout, like Leslie Sansone.
  • eok902eok902 Member Posts: 56 Member Member Posts: 56 Member
    Another vote for Pilates and yoga, these are great for improving balance and complement any other activity. But don't be put off joining a martial arts (or any other) class. As @AnnPT77 said, it's about persistence, regardless of what you choose. Good luck!
  • jan3hjan3h Member Posts: 55 Member Member Posts: 55 Member
    I've always been terrible at sport too, mainly due to minimal innate hand-eye coordination!! And I've always generally moved slowly which is at odds with most sports because they seem to require quick reflexive responses.

    However, in the last year or so, my balance and physical coordination has been hugely improved by doing regular weight lifting under the supervision of an understanding personal trainer. Consequently I'm a much better dancer than I used to be, better able to anticipate and follow my partner as well as being lighter on my feet thanks to increased leg and core strength. I'm over 50 now, wish I'd discovered weights earlier in my life!!!

    I think that whatever your chosen form of physical activity, if you practise it, you will get stronger and coordination and balance will follow. But, as others have said above, you will do much better and be happier if you have an instructor who is sympathetic and supportive of your journey.

    And perhaps you might think about adding in some weight lifting to your exercise routine, because I believe it can help you get better at anything you might want your body to do.
  • Annie_01Annie_01 Member Posts: 3,115 Member Member Posts: 3,115 Member
    @TmacMMM That's a really good idea about getting private instruction before joining a group class. Thank you!

    Here is a Tai Chi that I have done before...maybe you could work with a few videos before you spend the money.

  • VintageFelineVintageFeline Member Posts: 6,771 Member Member Posts: 6,771 Member
    I would get onto Youtube and look for some beginner dance videos. That way you can pause and start whenever you want and find something that you really enjoy and can join a real life class when you feel confident enough.

    Most places I see here in the UK offer taster sessions too, so you can see if the pace and teacher are going to suit you. A teacher that makes you feel bad isn't a good teacher but there is also an element of being okay with being singled out for correction. This happens from beginner to professional, I even frustrated cried whilst at dance college! Happens to the best of us but you brush yourself off and carry on.
  • keyyskeyys Member Posts: 5 Member Member Posts: 5 Member
    If you want to learn a martial art, some places offer a free first class. You could try shopping around and find a studio that treats beginners in a way you like.
  • NannersBalletLegsNannersBalletLegs Member Posts: 208 Member Member Posts: 208 Member
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    I can really empathize: I was always among the last 3 people chosen for teams in gym class, and I could still name the others who were in that final group of "undesireds" (even though 40+ years have passed). For most of my life, I've been completely unable to learn by watching someone else, then doing those moves myself. It works best for me to understand something in words, then try to do it - which is a completely dysfunctional way to learn a physical skill, I have to admit.

    My advice is this: Persistence and steady practice can beat natural talent. Persistence and steady practice can also increase visual-learning skills and body awareness. Not to be discouraging here, but for me, this meant years, not weeks, for complex skills.

    I've seen "naturally talented" people take up some activities I do; often they do very well for a beginner, then drop out. I'm way better at those activities than they were when they dropped out. I stuck with it, and worked hard.

    I studied kung fu and tai chi for around 8 years. People with natural physical skills picked it up more quickly than I did, and also made better progress if they stuck with it and worked hard. But I accomplished more than people who dropped out, or even those who half-a**ed their practice over the long haul. I learned to harness some helpful attributes I do have: Strength, attentiveness as a learner, willingness to practice.

    When I was in my mid-40s, I took up rowing (long skinny boats like in the Olympics, but mine is slower ;) ). I went on to medal in my age group in on-water and rowing machine races. I worked, I practiced, I sought out good coaching, I made progress.

    And rowing, for me, was transformational: Not because of the activity itself, but because, with long practice and good coaching, I developed better skills for feeling where my body was in space, and for moving it in a different way to achieve what I was striving for. Progress in this conceptual level was super-slow, but there's been amazing progress over a decade plus: It's now much, much easier than it used to be to learn other new physical skills.

    Any complex physical activity, done over a long period with good instruction, could have this effect. There's nothing magic in that way about rowing.

    Sorry for the long essay, OP, but I could so relate to what you're saying. Please pick an activity you truly enjoy and want to succeed at, park any sense of embarrassment at the door (because it doesn't help you move forward), then persistently work your a** off at improving, persistently, over the long haul. I guarantee you'll surprise yourself.

    That's awesome that you were able to overcome a rocky start at kung fu and tai chi and were able to benefit from rowing. You definitely helped give me insight into whether or not it's worth it to stick with these activities even if you struggle more than others. I think I was afraid that I'd keep going back and never get better and just become a source of frustration for my instructor and classmates. I don't mind sucking worse than others if I can eventually pick it up with some work. :)
    nowine4me wrote: »
    Start with some videos at home until you get the basics down? Is balance the issue? Pilates and yoga can help with that.

    Balance is certainly part of it. I'm bad at judging where I'm at in space (always hitting my knuckles on door frames) and sometimes even feel like I'm going to tip over when I'm just walking on the treadmill. Lol. Mostly it's just an inability to translate what I'm seeing into what I'm doing with my body if that makes sense. I have trouble imitating and remembering physical movements. I can make up my own moves all day long, but I have some kind of weird block when it comes to learning someone else's. A girlfriend was teaching me yoga (she's training to be an instructor) and she had to constantly keep telling me to adjust my form. I got to the point where I was just wishing she'd let me do it wrong so that I could at least get it done and move on with my day. Haha. It did feel good getting those stretches in, though!
  • tiny_clangertiny_clanger Member, Premium Posts: 300 Member Member, Premium Posts: 300 Member
    I have Dyspraxia so I struggle with fine motor control, prioperception, spacial awareness and navigation. I found yoga extremely helpful in enabling me to understand my body in space. I found going to a supportive class much more helpful than working at home. Sometimes I can't understand how to move my body to achieve a certain transition, so having an instructor make a gentle adjustment or even a touch on my arm so I can re-orientate myself is very useful.

    I didn't really enjoy martial arts as the form based movements are difficult for me to follow. Asana, on the other hand, is less precise so easier to follow.
  • mgalovic01mgalovic01 Member Posts: 388 Member Member Posts: 388 Member
    Learn how to juggle. You can watch YouTube tutorials. At first, you suck. But if you keep coming back to it, you get better and better, like magic. You'll probably be juggling within a week if you practice for 5 minutes, a few times per day. That will improve your hand - eye.
    An agility ladder is good to improve footwork. Eventually, you could juggle while performing agility ladder drills. How's that for coordination?
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