Real Life

Obviously we practice self defense moves every day when we train. That’s a good part of what karate is about. Groin kicks. Knees. A firm heel-palm to the nose, breaking it and driving it back into their head. We do ground fighting. Elbow attacks…hammer fist….we do it all.

How often do we need to use this in a real-life situation? Hopefully never but we always have to be prepared. I’ve been training quite a while now and feel confidence in my everyday life. Walking on the street somewhere, the grocery parking lot – pretty much anywhere I go I’m not concerned.

That was until last night. I had a marketing meeting at a local shop. All of the other girls parked in the alley next to the shop. Everyone but me, that is. I parked across the street in a busy parking lot. It was well-lit and lots of traffic there, nothing to worry about at all. Well, that was until I left the meeting. Then traffic had definitely thinned out in the parking lot and it was much darker. I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach, an uneasiness that I couldn’t shake.

I’ve heard my instructor tell women for years to trust that feeling – I knew this was the moment that I needed to listen to that inner voice and his training and be smart. I had my purse slung cross-body over me, keeping it pulled in tight and my keys in my hand. I looked ahead at my car as well as side-to-side. I knew what was behind me – all of my friends who had parked together. I glanced carefully under the car and made sure that no one was parked right next to me. (Did you know that some men park a van next to a woman’s car and then position themselves in the passenger seat so that they can easily grab her and throw her quickly into the back of the van? ) The second I was within easy range of my car I unlocked the doors with my remote and slid into the seat, started it up and locked the doors.

No, I didn’t have to use my self defense skills. I didn’t drop a man to his knees with a groin attack. I used the other training that I had – the self defense, self-preservation training and kept myself out of a problem…maybe not as well as I could have though. Perhaps I should have parked in the alley with everyone else. It really was a safer choice.

Its all about real life. And staying safe.

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Its a Good Pain

Last night was a good workout. It was intense and much more like the old style classes we used to train in. Fast paced and focused we moved from one basic to another with lightening speed.

Admonished to keep our knees bent and stay down we moved forward and back practicing over and over again. It was a really good class. I’m not so sure how my classmates appreciated it, though. The kids in there weren’t used to the orders crisply barked orders that flew at them one after another. They groaned and complained, making faces in the mirror as they were forced to work hard.

I loved it. It was awesome to have that again, especially at this point in my training.

And this morning, when I rolled out of bed I had to remind myself…its a good pain. The kind of pain that helps you to grow as a person. That takes you to a higher level of skill. A pain that brings with it the satisfaction that you are reaching your goal.

Its a very, very good pain.

In it for the long haul…

Today’s training wasn’t easy. It was hard and focused on such small things. I’m sore after today and that doesn’t happen that often.  Today’s training is what it going to take me from where I am to where I want to be. A much better, complete martial artist. I understand the concepts of body rotation, body vibration and all that but today took it to another level.

Less than an eighth of an inch off with a toe position or one tiny bit off pulling my foot back and I had to do it over and over again.

Private training. Sometimes it makes me cringe to think of it – the center of the instructor’s universe. No other students to hide behind or distract him if I don’t do a technique absolutely 100% correctly. Its like being under a microscope with a drill sargeant scrutinizing your every move. Its tough.It doesn’t help that on days like today I feel so uncoordinated. I almost don’t know my left from my right. I can’t concentrate and look up and do it perfectly all at the same time it seems. We break each move down into tiny parts until I perfect it only to move on to the next and have to study it as intently.

Only one thing pulls me through a day like today – my determination to reach my goal. I can’t give up. I won’t give up. Its dangling there before me…whatever it takes I’ll do it to get there. Sore, aching muscles and all. And I know one thing, I’ll be all the stronger for crossing each hurdle in my way. I’ll be better. I will be a black belt.

Its All In the Details

I’ve been working on what will be my black belt kata – the kata that I must master to get my black belt. Its a lot of work. A whole lot of work.

I’ve watched students over the years get all excited to learn a new kata, memorize the moves and think they’ve got it.  Wow, how wrong they are. Once you memorize the moves then you’re just beginning to know and understand the kata. Each hand position, each foot position, every breath, they all must be perfected before you really know it.

I can work with my instructor for an hour on just five to ten moves. Each move is slowly and painstakingly executed. Finite adjustments are made and repeated until muscle memory takes over. Fingers moved over an eighth of an inch, toes adjusted ever so slightly.

I ‘know’ my kata now. I can do all of the moves in the right order with the right timing. But until my movements are exact and my breathing matches the movements, maximizing the power and every single body dynamic is perfect…I won’t really own the kata.  You have to make it yours – to feel it in your inner core. When you execute the form absolutely correctly it takes over, moving on its own, full of power and grace and beauty. Perfection.

Sometimes I wonder if you could study a kata for the rest of your life and still not know it. Kind of like an onion, the more you peel it the more you find inside.

Thunder rolled, Lightening flashed…

It was one of those days. We all have them. I was tired, too tired to focus and train. But I went anyway. It had been a weird day… dark clouds hanging ominously overhead, a muggy stickiness that sapped me of what little energy I had.

And I was working on a relatively new kata. Suddenly I had a flashback to what it had been like to be a white belt. I was there all over again. Clumsy and uncoordinated, mentally I was fighting the moves. Looking down. Focused internally instead of just letting my body move and follow the direction I was being given, letting limbs flow, relaxed and determined.

While I trained thunder began to roll and lightening flash. “Focus,” it barked at me. “Pay attention. Quit thinking. Just do.”  Years of training have given me a muscle memory for certain movements. Thinking about them is my downfall. When I just do the move more often than not I get it right. Thinking. Its the intellectual’s curse. Sometimes I think you need to just feel the kata, its raw emotion flowing through your arms and legs placing them where they need to be. Economy of motion. Strength in body placement. Elbows in. Head held high. Breathing coordinated with movement.

The ancient masters studied hard to develop the forms that we practice today. Blood and sweat punctuated each lesson.  I thought about that as my mind fought with my body. I needed to trust in their wisdom. I needed to move and to feel. And I needed to remember what drove me as a white belt to master that first kata.

Finally I must have gotten too tired to ‘think’. I just did. The pieces and parts then began to take form. Repetition after tedious repetition it started to make sense. I didn’t mind repeating it over and over again. The exhilaration of getting it right fueled my body with renewed energy.

Each time we progress we move back to the beginning. Not relearning but reviewing that which we learned before. We are humbled by our lack of knowledge and energized by our thirst for more.