Been thinking on willpower.

If we assume that at any one time we have a certain amount of willpower then it maybe a good idea to not waste it on small decisions, some of which maybe to do with us.

Our willpower can be depleted by:

  • Inputs such as media, be it social or otherwise.
  • A large number of possessions.
  • Options due to large number of possessions.

The distractions of the modern age may be one of the reasons we look at productive persons of the past, such as Leonardo Da Vinci who had a prodigious and wide ranging output. Their often shorter lifespan makes their output even more impressive. They had the same quantity of time per day as we have, but less inputs.

The idea of a fixed amount of willpower maybe a difficult one to hold, but let us assume there is a amount below which we don’t want to fall, below this will leave us open to poor/sub optimal choices. To test this a study was undertaken to show how making lots of choices would affect willpower.

Willpower tested in the following way:

  • Group A – Had to make lots of choices within this study
  • Group B – Had no choices to make

The groups were then tested by seeing how long the hand could be held in ice water.

  • Group A average time was 27seconds
  • Group B average time was 67 seconds.

So that being the case reducing the amount of decisions to be made would leave us with more willpower. Be it having less stuff/clothes/choices/errands to run (which have inbuilt choices). Albert Einstein and come to think of it Steve Jobs had simple wardrobes, one less choice to make in the morning. Think of ways to simplify ones repeated tasks along the lines of a direct debit/standing order as you would with bills or savings. This automation of saving permits you to spend what is left only.

Now if we mitigate the amount of choices to be made and take it as a given, can we increase the capacity or is it always fixed?

I doubt willpower can be increased,  as I think its the case of we exist in time and how do we use this time?  Look again at the graphic at the top of this article the basic equation of what willpower could be:


We only scratch the surface of our abilities to produce work of merit by muddying the waters of our mind with too many stimuli. These stimuli masquerade as work, other than research consumption often prevents outputs/creation.

Maybe willpower cannot be increased and merely optimised by letting non essential things be automated or drop by the wayside. Maybe just maybe willpower is the amount of time in our waking day where we either create, consume or just be.

Think about what you want and are the inputs permitting the output you desire or keep it out of arms reach?

Running draw stroke aka hanging draw.

Note:  Although originally published in relation to kayaking/canoeing this post is applicable to learning, be it  general movement or a sporting endeavour.

I was due to write a post on the subject of the hanging or running draw stroke (to develop the theme of blade dexterity) when I noticed that Ron Lugbill had written a post on the subject, below is a link to his blog post. I recommend having a read of his blog as there are some great insights for competitive and general paddlers alike – Ron Lugbill Link: Running draw stroke.

The running draw is a stroke that enables a boat to move sideways without having to expose the side of the boat to an object i.e. rock/river feature. Not exposing the side of the boat reduces the risk of an impact or wrap whilst also enabling the craft to keep moving forwards.This stroke is a good choice when lining up the boat before a rapid/section.


So basically:

  • Get some forward speed up
  • Place the blade in the water as per the start position of the draw or scull, ensure the blade is next to your torso then whilst moving forward open up the blade face to get resistance.
  • You will need to experiment with the amount of blade face to open up, it is a balance between resistance to get some sideways movement and also maintaining forward speed.

We all have our favourite Danish kayaking hanging draw videos there are many like it but this one is mine:

The rest is up to the simple act of practice.

Stopping/Starting – The puppy and the child

When doing movements be they of the somatic variety or other when do you stop? But more importantly, when do you start?

Some activities have an end i.e. washing up, but others are open ended. We often think in terms of sets and reps and do them to this formula barring injury whether we need them or not, whether we are exhausted or not.

dog image 4

Recently I ‎saw a video of a puppy playing in a paddling pool. The puppy was not being played with but was playing in the water, it did so until it wanted to get out. It got out shook itself and then jumped straight back in.

I thought that this was a good example of how to move, and how to give oneself permission to move and also how to sense what we want and what we need.

How many babies left to their own devices do not find themselves standing, running and jumping? This successful progression occurs without discussion of muscles, anatomy, sets or reps. Just exploring their range of motion and learning through experiencing.

This seemingly frivolous playful movement can be as powerful if not more so than structured activity. Some of my best learning in a kayak has come around through just trying stuff, this is exactly what we did as babies. We expanded into the world.

Letters & Strokes


Photo by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nooccar/

Although originally published in relation to kayaking/canoeing this post is applicable to learning, be it  movement or sport.


We start as we start writing, clumsy scruffy letters but in the boat the strokes are often ineffectual clumsy and feel strange.

Practice is all important. A musician practices to get better. To improve and maintain you need to undertake concerted practice.

With a musical instrument the drive is to sound better, and the quality of your playing is easy for you and others to hear. With paddling the clues can be a little more ambiguous, especially when the beginner paddler is concentrating on not getting wet.

Some pointers to the standard of your strokes:

  • Economy.
  • Fluidity.
  • Balance and maintenance of.
  • Success, did you do it easily or was it survival?
  • Are the strokes even side to side?

Some of the points above can be sensed and others need external feedback be it success or third party input.

Set yourself a course or move on the river and repeat, see how effortless and smooth you can make it, how few strokes can it be done with?

Practice the basics (you are not a unique snowflake)

You are not like the snowflake.

Although originally published in relation to kayaking/canoeing this post is applicable to learning, be it movement or sport.

Its all basics, be you recreational or elite.

Whats the difference?

Practice, attention and application.

Every paddler needs the same skills most of the time. To paraphrase the film “Fight Club” you are not special, you are the same as every paddler.

So practice the basics in as many ways as you can. Same strokes different places.That said a single rapid can prepare you for most things given a good mind. Sure there are things that cannot be practiced easily, due to availability of:

  • Faster water
  • Heavier water (more cubic metres aka pushier)
  • Large drops
  • Features

The strokes you will use to deal with these new features will be the same strokes as used on a smaller familiar rapid. This smaller familiar rapid by its nature of familiarity will allow you to relax and experiment. Then when you try harder or new rivers you can concentrate on the new features and not on the techniques themselves.

Practice a variety of strokes and play with:

  • Blade angles
  • Balance of torso,
  • Speed of stroke,
  • Direction of boat travel.

Play games and test oneself.


The article by the coach Dan John explains this in terms of physical training:

Dan John Article


“Everything and nothing” – Teachers Perspective


People go to school and they graduate.

Teachers teach and sometimes pupils learn.

Maybe the pupil learned only part of what the teachers wanted to teach them. For example they may have learned enough maths to get by and then as life developed they get or work out what else they need to know.

You can never be sure what you teach is what they learn as that is their experience. You are not there to sort the whole of the rest of their lives. We all exist in time and the future and their future needs will solved by them and applying what skills they have.

Be careful not to end gain and want more than this:

  • I feel better – yes
  • I feel lighter – yes
  • I am clearer in thought – yes
  • I can do that better – yes

Do you see that they get out of it what they get out of it, it is everything and nothing all at once.

What is the purpose of education, in its broadest and narrowest sense be it Somatics, school or sport?

An answer and one i favour is not performance per se, or even qualifications, it is merely the desire to learn and be interested. School cannot teach everything, but it can give you skills and set you off in a direction.

In the case of sport there is usually only one winner, so what of the rest, have they wasted their time? Or is their value in playing and competiting even outside the rostrum? Is the medal the only reward or can value be had from mastery and play?

In the case of Somatics, if they are in pain, or immobile help them with that and let them be on their way, on their way to be free. Let them find mastery in the rest of their lives and not expect it within the sessions. Our education doesn’t finish with graduation and neither in the confines of a movement session.

Things moving freely.

Further Reading:



maslow 4 stages learningNote: 
Although originally published in relation to kayaking/canoeing this post is applicable to learning, be it  movement or sport.

  • Where are you? In relation to your paddling that is?
  • Do you know where you are along the continuum of acquiring a higher level of competence?

“The Four Stages of Learning provides a model for learning. It suggests that individuals are initially unaware of how little they know, or unconscious of their incompetence. As they recognize their incompetence, they consciously acquire a skill, then consciously use it. Eventually, the skill can be utilized without it being consciously thought through: the individual is said to have then acquired unconscious competence.”

The fourth stage does not mean that you know how you do something as it has become second nature or able to describe or teach something effectively. This lack of understanding can explain why often the best coaches were not necessarily the best players, if you found an activity easy then you may not find it easy to comprehend the difficulties others are having and therefore break it down for others to learn.

This lack of comprehension of your abilities when competent can be explained by the fifth stage that can be vary depending upon the mentality of the individual:

  • Reflection
  • Complacency

So wherever you are on your paddling education whether it be confusion or frustration, knowing this is natural and part of learning can be some comfort. So practise and reflect on your success to determine what to change. No matter what your level there is always something to learn.