Tag Archives: beginners

The Learning Curve

Lately, we’ve talked a lot about characters that are experts in their field. What about the beginners or the people with a little experience under their belts, but who are far from expert.  Not every character has to be the biggest, baddest or even the most experienced. It can be just as fun and engaging to write/read about a character that’s still learning.

Think of the comedic potential of a newbie. Newbies aren’t going to be smooth and fluid. They are going to be awkward and jerky and potentially a little accident prone until they get a better understanding of how their bodies should be moving through the techniques.  I remember the first time I used a bo staff in class. I thought I was doing so great. I was picking up the moves to the kata no problem and then WHACK! I hit myself in the head with with staff doing a figure eight. At that point, I rubbed my head and did a quick look around to make sure no one had seen my little mishap, and moved forward. Or course, I held the staff a little further away from that point on.

Newbies also don’t think like a martial artist with years of training.  Blackbelts have developed the ability to quickly assess an attack and react. To see all of the possible defenses and counterattacks. A newbie hasn’t develop that ability yet. They will know the moves, but they may not yet be able to see all of their fighting options.  One of my works in progress has a fight scene in which one of my heroes, who is still very much a beginning martial artist, is in a fight for his life. The villain happens  to position himself perfectly, allowing my hero to perform a textbook technique. As he completes the maneuver ‘Woohoo, it worked!’ runs through his mind  quickly followed by ‘Oh crap, now what?” when the villain counters.

Sometimes the novice strikes just the right note for both reader and writer since we’ve all been there at some point. I’m not just talking about martial artists or high action characters, this can apply to any character. We’ve all had to stumble through the learning process making embarrassing blunders and exciting achievements along the way.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this so please jump in and share. Do you have a preference when you read/write? Do you lean more towards the characters that excel at what they are doing? Do you enjoy reading about the rookies?

I guess I’m on the fence. I love, for example, reading about Eve Dallas kicking butt and taking names, but I enjoyed just as much watching Peabody learn and grow.

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The Novice Prospective

It’s my turn. The undisputed rookie of the group. I’ve only been studying karate for about three months now, so my point of view will be vastly different from Melinda’s and Kathy’s. So, if you’re looking to create a character that is just stepping on the mat for the first time, I can definitely help you out there.

For me learning karate is about self defense and physical fitness.  That’s not the case for everyone and it may not be the case for your character. So what is your character’s motivation for taking up a martial art, joining a gym, heck signing up for  pottery lessons?

Let me start by telling you a little about my first class.

The first time I went to a class it felt a bit like jumping into the deep end of the pool without any water wings. Sure, I was excited. I’d wanted to take karate for ages, so I was stoked to finally be doing it instead of just contemplating it.  I was the only white belt amongst a rainbow of other colors. Suffice it to say, I was a might bit nervous. I kept hoping that Melinda would walk through the door and there would be at least one familiar face in the room, but no such luck.

Class started with your usual warm up and stretching, of course seeing as how it had been a while since I’d done anything this high impact, let’s just say things weren’t as flexible as they used to be. Then on to bag work. One by one the students approached the bag and with confident ease executed kicks and punches with a power that moved the standing bag across the floor. Of course when my turn came, the impact barely made a sound or an indent in the foam, forget about moving the bag. About half way through this exercise my arms started to feel like rubber bands, but I pushed ahead, determined to make it through. Oh, and did I neglect to mention that interspersed with the standing bag work were series of sit ups and push ups? What had I gotten myself into?

Next we moved into the curriculum part of class. This is the fun part for me. Don’t get me wrong, the bag work can be fun and really cathartic. I remember receiving a rejection letter just before I had to head to class. After beating on the bag for a while,  I felt decidedly better. But, I digress.  During this period, we go through the various  combination and katas or forms that you need to  have learned in order to qualify to test for the next belt. This is fun because you’re finally putting those kicks, punches, etc. together in a cohesive combination of movements. It makes you feel like you actually could defend yourself if you should ever need to instead of flailing wildly at an attacker. Plus,  being the lone low man on the totem pole can have it’s advantages, because you get to learn some of the more advanced stuff a little sooner. I’m currently a yellow belt, soon to be testing for orange, and I’ve already started learning the purple belt techniques.

At any rate, I tell you all of this with a duel purpose. First, I want to demonstrate to the non-martial artists who read this blog that stepping on to the mat isn’t as scary as it initially seems. So, if you’ve ever thought about taking up a martial art, stop thinking about it and do it.

Second, I wanted to offer some food for thought when creating characters that are entering new territory whether it be martial arts or anything else. When you have years of experience your outlook is going to be vastly different from someone just starting out. You may not remember the determination that pushed you to walk into that studio,  nerves that filled you,  or the soreness in muscles you didn’t know you had after the fact. You need to keep all of this  in mind as you write so that your reader can experience all of those emotions along side of your character.