Poor accident-prone me...
March 10, 2006 3:02 AM   Subscribe

How can I become less of a klutz?

I would like to move more elegantly. With more grace. Slowly. Deliberately. Without walking into doorways or lamps. In a relaxed way. Learn to move more like a cat and less like an elephant.

I have to say: it's not really that bad, not in the way that it's an actual problem for me - I'm less of a danger to my surroundings than some other people I know - but I also know a lot of people who seem to have better control over their body than me, and it's a thing I admire and would like to learn/copy/have. Especially as a lot of these are people in my kenjutsu club and they seem to be better swordfighters than me. This can't be coincidence.

The question is, can I do it? Is this something you learn? And if so, how?

Note: I am a girl. Perhaps this is useful information.
posted by Skyanth to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How about joining a dance class?

Dancing could improve your proprioception. Increasing awareness of where parts of your body are, how it's moving and where it is in relation to your environment could improve your physical confidence greatly.

Find a form of dance/music that really appeals to you and try to join a beginners class. A beginners class will probably have a few people with similar problems to you, and shared humour is a great way to learn.

If dance doesn't appeal to you, then perhaps have a look at The Alexander Technique which is a way of helping a person become more aware of their body, through gentle manipulation and repeated movement exercises.

Good luck :)
posted by Arqa at 3:36 AM on March 10, 2006

my partner can dance better than anyone i know (alone; as a couple dancing we suck) but she trips up and walks into things all. the. damn. time. so i'm not sure dancing is going to help that much.

you might try taking your shoes off more. walking without shoes makes you more aware of how you land; high heels are just an abomination and padded sports shoes let you thump your heel down without realising.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:25 AM on March 10, 2006

well, i would have thought that martial arts are also a good way to go. I thought that kickboxing improved my coordination greatly, especially since the penalty for poor coordination was sometimes a punch in the face. Is kenjutsu not working for you? Do you admire the coordination of the experienced kenjutsu guys/gals?

Pretty much anything can be improved with some practice. Are there any particular excercises within kenjutsu that make you feel uncoordinated? If so, maybe you should be practicing them some more :o). Also, i had a book once that suggested excercises like facing a wall, and getting people to throw tennis balls from behind you onto the wall. The aim was to catch the balls after they bounce, adjusting distance from the wall to account for current skill level. I can't say that i ever tried that one...

So i guess my question back to you is, are you improving with kenjutsu practice? If not, you might like to consider a different martial art...
posted by nml at 4:58 AM on March 10, 2006

Response by poster: nml: well you just caused a shift in perception. Up till now I mostly saw my klutziness as a problem for my martial art, not the martial art as the solution for my klutziness. Perhaps I should change my focus a bit during practice.
posted by Skyanth at 5:02 AM on March 10, 2006

I recently bought a fitness ball as a replacement for my desk chair to improve my posture. You can also use them to do exercises with. Take a look at Exercising with a Fitness ball:
Fitness balls are still used by physical therapists and Pilates teachers to rehabilitate back, knee, and hip injuries, but they can do a whole lot more. The big balls can really make exercise fun, and they can be a great tool to help you master core stability, balance, control, and strength.
posted by koenie at 6:21 AM on March 10, 2006

I've never tried it, but I imagine yoga would help you connect to your body. Other exercise might help, too (bicycling, running, weight training, etc.).
posted by zonkout at 7:19 AM on March 10, 2006

Best answer: I am a klutzy man of 28 years.

What I've learned about being quiet and careful: you just do it. One just decides to "live like a ninja" or some such silly story. In your case "I want to be like a cat" is great (and doesn't get into the whole ninja, pirate, real ultimate power shit).

I did this for a time. I was living for a long while at someone else's house / farm. And it was imperative that I didn't break anything at the house, let doors slam, step on plants, break irrigation lines, etc. So I became very very careful and aware. It was an interesting sensation and a fun experiment, to say that least. I haven't kept it up -- back at home, I'm my usual klutzy self. But I have three tips that might help you:

1. Finish every motion deliberately. We all are thinking about a motion when we start it. But I don't often follow thorugh. For example, when closing a door, I am reasonably careful as I move my arm and contact the door. But then, sometimes I just forget about staying with that activity, and let the door slam, slam a finger (or someone else's finger), or just "do it klunky." But if I stay with the activity, and stay engaged as you close the door, the door shuts perfectly, whisper quiet and calmly.

Practice doing this for things like putting down cups. Make sure to stay with the activity until the cup is resting on the desk, and you remove your hand carefully so that it doesn't fall / tip / slosh, etc.

2. Exercise. I was doing yoga at the time. Lots of yoga. This helped to keep me aware of my body and improve my proprioception. The other ideas mentioned above are also good 'uns. I had a friend who did some alexander technique and really enjoyed it / benefited from it (at least she seemed to think so).

3. If you fuck it up, do it again. When possible, if you wind up slamming a door, tripping over a stair, bumping the bed as you walk past, or just do something un-graceful -- do it again. When I would be out in the garden, there was plenty of time to practice doing things carefully again and again. This doesn't have to take a long time. But as you notice a careless motion or sequence, and correct it, you'll start to see how much of the time you're actually doing things *right*. I know it seems like you're a big klutz because you remember being klutzy. But one doesn't remember the 99 steps that you took correctly, just the one that caused you to stumble. This is confirmation bias, I guess. Confirmation bias is that you confirm your hypothesis, "I'm a huge klutz!", but you don't do any work to disconfirm your hypothesis, so it always comes out true.

Good luck grasshopper.
posted by zpousman at 7:21 AM on March 10, 2006

I took ballet for six years. A friend once described me as, "She was always graceful, except when she was bumping into things."

I would second changing your approach to the martial art. I was extremely klutzy until recently, when I've gotten more serious into yoga and meditation, and since I took plenty of dance classes before that, I don't think it was the movement lessons so much as the mindfulness lessons that helped. You could certainly add meditation to your routine, but even just staying fully in the moment when you're in your practice should help. I, at least, am most klutzy when I'm caught up in something else (often a good thing, like enthusiasm) and just get all puppy-tripping-over-paws. Yoga's helped me slow down a bit.
posted by occhiblu at 7:23 AM on March 10, 2006

I learned to move [somewhat] gracefully in my sorority, believe it or not. We once had a speaker come in and teach us how to move like graceful feminine creatures instead of the lamp-crashing clods we really were.

The one thing she emphasized was stairs. Don't clomp down the stairs letting gravity take over until all your body parts are flapping up and down. Place your foot on each step, and bring your body with you, rather than letting it just flop down.

When you walk, your feet/shoes should make little or no noise on the floor. You shouldn't hear the clomp-clomp of your heel striking the floor. (Obviously harder to do in heels, but silence is the ideal to strive for, apparently.)

Honestly, some [mumble] years later, I still remember her emphasizing that movement should be deliberate. The more deliberately and consciously you move, the more graceful you become.

I still crash into things on a regular basis, but at least I'm more graceful about my lumbering now.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:39 AM on March 10, 2006

In your case "I want to be like a cat" is great

You have not seen my cat.

(Picture, if you will, a cat and a counter. The cat prepares, readies itself, and jumps, inscribing in the air a perfect arc, the height of the counter its apogee, landing on the floor about six inches shy of the counter.)
posted by mendel at 7:54 AM on March 10, 2006

What's your exercise situation? Someone upstream mentioned yoga and that would be a good one given how it not only builds muscle but also -control- muscle, however any exercise would likely improve matters.
posted by phearlez at 7:56 AM on March 10, 2006

(the cat, so poetically described mendel)
posted by raedyn at 8:53 AM on March 10, 2006

i think zpousman has it really. some people just don't seem to care about crap that i obsess over. for me (i'm not saying i'm the most graceful person in the world, but cups most certainly do not slop when i put them down) the things they list are things i pay attention to because, well, they're important, dammit. it's not inbuilt grace, it's just obsession. i, at least, really do think about those things. and if you don't, and you mess them up, well, duh....
posted by andrew cooke at 9:02 AM on March 10, 2006

I would also say that the martial arts suggestion is a good one for improving coordination. I personally reccomend Aikido for it's flow and grace, but other arts would apply. I was just chatting with a friend who had done a few years of Tae Kwon Do and we agreed that we both aquired better reflexes from our training - for instance, you notice people before they get to you or you tend to catch things that fall off of counters.

That said, almost any kind of intentional movement would be helpful I imagine. It's really about training yourself to move and think about that movement at the same time. So yoga, dance, hiking, walking, putting a cup down on the counter etc. All of this can be training. Like zpousman said.
posted by mulkey at 9:59 AM on March 10, 2006

> Especially as a lot of these are people in my kenjutsu club and they seem
> to be better swordfighters than me. This can't be coincidence.

Let me second (or third or fourth) the notion of taking your exercise seriously. I too was a klutz, all the way through high school and college, the sort who is always picked last when choosing sides (or not picked at all, if the teacher isn't looking.) There simply wasn't any sort of jock thing I was interested in doing, let alone doing well.

But in addition to being a klutz I was also a geek (they do sometimes go together, heh) and as a geek I was heavily into the usual array of geek things, fantasy lit and rollplaying games both online and DnD-type. Thus when I encountered the Society for Creative Anachronism, and SCA sword 'n' shield combat, now there was a jock thing I did really, very much want to participate in. So I did, and worked hard at it over several years, and got, if not spectacularly good, at least quite respectable on the field. It turns out to be very similar to other martial arts in many ways--stance, footwork, body position, and above all focus and awareness and general be-here-nowness are all very close to karate, boxing and so on.

So that's what I did. What I observed in normal non-SCA life was the klutziness leaking away. I stopped knocking things off the table because I remained aware that they were there at my elbow. When occasionally I did drop something (or when another person near me did) I found myself reaching out and plucking it from midair instead of freezing stupidly and watching as it crashed to the floor. The short answer to "Is it something I can learn?" is, yes it absolutely is learnable, and the learning is a considerable satisfaction.
posted by jfuller at 10:59 AM on March 10, 2006

Stick with a martial art. Kenjutsu will improve your timing and your general coordination eventually. But it's movements are fairly linear for the beginner to intermediate. You need to get your body moving in all sorts of ways.

People suggest dance. And at the risk of jeopardizing my pseudo bas-ass reputation I complete agree. While yoga is ALWAYS good, dance is more dynamic, rhythmic, and most importantly for martial application (if that is your desire), with a partner.

Also try Bosu training

It works well and doesn't take too much time to get results - though in a somewhat limited range. I think if you combined that kind of concept with your Kenjitsu you will be stalking the rooftops like a ninja's shadow in no time.
posted by tkchrist at 12:00 PM on March 10, 2006

Routines to improve your balance.
posted by the cuban at 1:09 PM on March 10, 2006

I feel much less klutzy since I began exercising regularly.

When you walk, your feet/shoes should make little or no noise on the floor. ..Obviously harder to do in heels, but silence is the ideal to strive for

Would that the rest of the world agreed with you. The noisy walkers include not only stompers, but draggers. It's like they're so used to wearing slippers which fall off easy, they don't/won't pick up their feet, even while wearing shoes.
posted by Rash at 1:14 PM on March 10, 2006

How's your eyesight? Some klutzy moments in my teens made more sense to me when I realized that my lack of depth perception meant I could never reliably hit or catch a ball, and that reaching across a table to fill someone else's glass was always going to be hit-or-miss.
posted by zadcat at 2:43 PM on March 10, 2006

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