I like the sound of the word snatch. It clicks somewhat. Tickles sometimes. Courtesy of English as a second language, the sound of words capture my imagination before I have a chance to fully understand meanings. Meanings are blurred often in my ears. Dangerous, I know. Also, liberating. Snatch is one of those words for me. Since I have been partaking in the beautiful sport of Olympic Weight Lifting, it has playfully swirled in my mind – skillfully snatching heaviness away.
Here is the definition:
Simple definition of snatch: a small part of something
Full definition of snatch: 1. A brief period; 2. A snatching at or something; 3. A lift in weight lifting in which the weight is raised from the floor directly to an overheard position in a single motion; (…)
(Marion Webster Dictionary online)
I am, of course, interested in the full description of snatch, item 3 above: lifting weight from the floor upwards. I like Olympic weightlifting and was surprised I do, since I am not one inclined to any weight training. But I love it! I wrote a bit about it here. In my “four year triumphantly return to Paris plan,” lifting has become a corner stone in the race against muscle loss. So, taking advantage of (and shelter from) winter weather, I have trained more often and “snatch” is on my mind.
The snatch requires timing, precision and abandonment. It has the nature of a pirouette. Having done my share of classical ballet in my youth, I see dancers all around me at the lifting platform – proud, erect, intentional, light and strong. Committed to the movement. One does not supplely twirl atop hard point shoes, beyond bleeding and disfigured toes, without intention. A pirouette also calls for surrender – it overtakes and leads you once you concede. So with the snatch. The power to lift heavy weight into the sky is dynamic, rhythmic, precise, beautiful and scary – it takes dedication and abandonment. But if I allow it, loads of heaviness might just flow upwards, in one fast, single motion.
Holding the bar wide, gently but firmly, the movement starts slow off the ground. The hips generate the necessary power, much like a mother picking up a toddler: a steady grip whisking the heaviness below, energy flowing swiftly up from hips to kid in one seamless transition, absented minded, cozy. Something similar happens in the snatch. When the bar reaches knee height, hips explode in drive, arms conduce energy up, and the body gets fast under the weight in order to better catch and support the burden. Then, a smooth upward movement becomes a solid and delightful display of power. “Look, world (or simple me!), I got this weight, I brought it from down there all the way up here!” A proud, proud pose. Confident in a deserved and earned way, and oh, so very fun!
Now, drop the bar! Just drop it. Releasing heavy weight quickly and safely also requires learning new skills. First, one has to move the bar downwards and away from head, lest somber things might happen. Then, simply free it: let it fall with a rambunctious thump. Yeah, weight, go, I am done with you. Many a time, I fail to raise the bar. Other recurrent occasions, I power lift it, which consists of moving it upwards using my hip force albeit not swiftly or efficiently. It is my very own “snatch in two acts” play: act one, I move the bar to my knees, conjure up enough hip strength to lift it up but never get under it, a task left for act two, squatting. There are many reasons for my snatch mishaps – none the least it is a hard movement – but fear tops the chart: will I be able to catch it if I go under? do I have the reflexes to let go? am I going to get crushed under the weight? It is all in my head. I have been getting better at dropping dead weight, which remarkably improved my odds of harnessing upward power in a productive manner, thus lifting greater loads.
After each set, we recover, heart pounding, mind dizzy in disbelief and adrenaline – did I really just do that? Sitting around the platform, waiting for the next turn, all that “communion of people” magic happens. We, mothers, trade ideas, clear thoughts, talk about vacations plans, dream about competitions; children skip around lifting heavier and heavier weights each passing week; the young talk love, college, profession and Olympics (go, CH! You can read about her amazing journey to the national stage here). Under the watchful eyes of coaches MR and DH, we review the move, receiving guidance and incentive for the next round. They see every detail: “keep the bar closer,” “put some weight on that bar, girl,” “you are stronger than you think,” “upwards, go up, like you are jumping,” “don’t think too much about it, just try.” Their calm and kind energy spurs amazing lifts, drawing a colorful and diverse crowd at the gym, a warm place built by AR and BC. “A small place with a big hear” they say. True. Heartfelt empowerment happens at the gym, no matter what age, shape, gender or ability we bring inside. You know how it goes: they built it, we came…
Soon enough, it is my turn. I step up to the platform, breathe, shoo away any lingering hesitations, hold the bar wide, firmly yet gently, and let the magic explode from my strong hips to the weight made light and swiftly lifted upwards, all the way up, proudly beyond all my fears.
(*thank you, coach DH, for taking the pictures)