Be Aware

In this crazy mixed up world, you can’t be too aware of what’s going on around you. Every day when I read the news posts or watch on television it seems as if something else has happened. People hurting people. Not only does it make me sad but it also makes me want to scream from the rooftops, “Be aware. Watch what’s going on”.

The other day I was talking to a student about that very same thing. I don’t want to have to use my martial arts skills. I want to be cognizant of what’s happening in my environment and control it by using simple things like my voice or removing myself from the situation before it unfolds. That of course, means I have to rely upon the age old ‘trust your gut’ – the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach that something isn’t right.

All too often I see ads for women’s self defense tools and I cringe every single time. Most of the devices being sold require that the woman be close to the attacker. Letting them get close to me – that’s the last thing I want to do. Distance is my best friend when it comes to defending myself. If you can’t touch me, you can’t hurt me. Unless you have a gun. Or a car. And there seems to be a lot of that going on lately. Like I said, this crazy mixed up world is making me sad. Be aware of your surroundings. Move and get away.

Be safe. And say a prayer for the latest victims – those in Spain. I loved the time I lived there and seeing terror flooding through the streets makes my soul cry. Make your little corner of the world safe. Be aware.

Time

Like most human beings I want everything to happen instantaneously. No hard work, no waiting for the right time. I want it now. Karate isn’t like that. I’ve seen extremely gifted people begin training, excelling through the lessons faster than it seems possible. On the other hand, I’ve also seen those who have had to work hard, sweating and straining to achieve each milestone.  Most of us are in the middle ground, paying our dues with sweat equity and determination.

Everything worth anything takes time. That’s why I sometimes have to chuckle when I see a brand spanking new black belt who struts around like they know everything. Little do they know – but they’ll learn soon enough – that they’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. They’re only now ready to learn. Lessons unfolding around them reveal something new, they hadn’t noticed before. So fixated on having a big draw hand they failed to see the role the hip plays in the punch.

Have patience. It takes time for the knowledge to seep in. Keep training with humility and dedication. The best things in life are truly worth waiting for. Persistence is the key that’s unlocked many a door. Respect your teachers. You’ll get there at your right time.

Aches, Pains and Other Excuses

We do it all the time. Make excuses. I can’t do this because I have to pick up the kids in an hour. I can’t do that because I have to wash my hair. We all do it, just our excuses are different. Last night was almost one of those nights for me. Almost. Thankfully, I decided to push through the aches and pains and kept on going.

I’ve had this nagging cough for a while, which gets in the way of training sometimes. I step off, hack for a minute and hop back into class. And then my feet. They’re another story. Having flat feet is no great thrill when they start to ache. Thank you plantar fasciitis for coming to visit. And of course, the hacking cough brought a new friend with it – the muscles in my ribcage spasm and have their own brand of fun. Ahhh…and because that just wasn’t enough, my left elbow and my right shoulder both thought they needed to grab my attention. Now, before you feel sorry for me, realize the aches and pains come and go. More importantly, they don’t derail me. I had the best time doing three step sparring, running through the basics and kata. It was a blast. If I’d have listened to the excuses welling up, I’d have missed out on a great class.

The moral of the story? Don’t let a little ache or pain become a big excuse. One of my students during warm up groaned, “it hurts”. Working on becoming more flexible he stretched a little more than he was used to. It was a good pain. I try to keep it all in  perspective. No pain. No gain. I’m in training for the long haul. So my feet and other body parts had better get used to it. It’s all about attitude and persistence.

Persistence. Practice. Repeat.

I was thinking about this the other day – how karate affected my writing. Both writing and the martial arts share the need to practice. You’ll never get better as a karate student if you don’t do punches every day and you’ll never become a better writer if you don’t spill words on the page everyday. Consistency with both seems to be the key. I’ve watched students who have struggled day in and day out. They never gave up. Each practice made them a little bit better and brought them a step closer to their goal. I’ve seen the same thing happen with writers that I coach.

Persistence. That undying attitude that makes you get up each day and say, “I can do one thing and I’ll do it the best I can.” Both writing and karate demand that. It’s funny, it wasn’t until this morning that I realized earning my black belt is why I finally wrote a novel. I know, one thing doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the other, does it?

When I started karate, I didn’t say, “One day I’ll be a black belt”. I just wanted to have fun and earn my yellow belt. That was it. Plain and simple. Each rung on the ladder brought me a little closer towards black belt. Until I finally got there. It was the same with the novel. Usually I wrote short stories or books for kids. Novels took too long. I couldn’t commit myself. Then I wrote one chapter. Followed by the next. By focusing on each chunk of it, taking small bites of an idea and sharing them I trudged my way through to a finished novel. I’m confident now I can do it again and I can do it with other things, too. I can do anything I set my mind to.

So can you. Throw one punch after the other. Practice your karate watching yourself in your bathroom mirror. Get into stance and walk down your hallway. Catch in the small minutes of practice and before you know it you’ll have climbed another rung on the ladder.

It just takes practice. We aren’t born knowing how to do karate. Or how to write. Whatever you dream, go out and do one small thing, bringing yourself a step closer to making it become a reality.  Persistence. Practice. Repeat.

Shadow of a Legend

Yesterday I had the distinct honor to have lunch with an eighth degree Shotokan black belt. We talked about his life, his teaching career and how he fell into the martial arts. He shared ideas and let me grill him with questions.

Days like yesterday don’t happen often. I was particularly honored since this man sat on the board of my second degree dan exam. He’s pretty much a living legend in the martial arts world. And we had lunch together discussing a project we’ll be working on together.

Yes, I got up this morning and pinched myself. And no, I’m not going to say anything more about him. You’ll have to read the book. Yes. It really is going to happen. An amazing life that will inspire you – and totally worthy of a book. Stay tuned.

Not this woman

I just finished reading a story about a wife who was killed by her husband. It was a sensational case about a shooting at the University of Texas. He was the Texas Sniper. Before he killed and injured 40 people he killed his wife, Kathy. She’d just turned twenty-three. If you’ve heard of the Texas Sniper case, you’re probably scratching your head, wondering why you’ve never heard about Kathy before.  That piece of the story was swept away, buried under the tragedy of the tower shooting. It shouldn’t have been.

My heart is troubled after reading this story. (Read it here) Domestic violence happens more often than we all know. It happens to your neighbor or a teacher. It happens in plain sight and in the dark hours when evil and ugliness feels safe to raise its head.

And it makes me angry. No woman should ever let someone hurt her. But sometimes that’s easier said than done. I’m an advocate for women learning the martial arts, defending themselves so they don’t get hurt. I recognize, everything changes when its a spouse or a loved one. They hold a power harder to break. Sometimes victims feel they deserve it. Sometimes they lack the confidence to stand up and say, “Stop.” A million conflicting emotions let the abuse continue. It’s wrong and it has to end. Women deserve better. You deserve better.

Women in particular need the confidence to say, “No, not this woman.” That’s what every martial arts instructor needs to instill in every single female that comes to train. Start early, when they’re young. Teach them to stand up for themselves. No one should ever touch them without their permission.

If you’re being abused, remember, you don’t deserve it. You matter. You are important. Don’t let them continue to hurt you. Tell yourself, “Not this woman. Not today. Not ever.”

Call and get help.