Why Train?

We all come to karate from different places. Some as children because their parents understand it helps with focus and respect. Others want to try a new sport and some of us wander into it as adults. That’s how I ended up on the training mat. If I hadn’t finally relented and quit saying, “Karate’s not for girls,” I probably wouldn’t be writing this today. In hindsight, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Karate gave my little family something we never expected. When our world changed, the dojo became our extended family. We fostered friendships 24 years ago that we still have. We shared the training, the ups and downs and wonderful successes along the way. For us, it was about more than the focus and the dedication. It truly was a family affair. Part of that was wrapped in competitions. Yeah, I travelled across the country so my four kids could compete. I was that parent. And I’m proud to brag any time you want to listen about their multiple national championships. They earned them through hard work, sweat, sore muscles and dedicated focus.

It was the massive array of trophies and ‘war stories’ that led Christopher to want to train. There’s no doubt about that. Kid number five wasn’t around during the traveling competition years and he yearned for a piece of that history to call his own. I’m not going to lie, at first I tried to dissuade him. Coming to karate just for the trophies and the glory was the wrong reason. I knew all too well about the hard work, and hours upon hours of training necessary. Competitions needed to be secondary. The training itself, for defense and the pure love of karate needed to be first. How could I explain that to a four-year-old? A quick trip into the dojo to let him watch proved he wasn’t ready. It took three years before we, as parents, were sure that he was ready.

I’m glad we waited. A miraculous thing happened. He no longer talked about the trophies, instead immersing himself into the training. He proved himself and worked as hard as a seven-year-old can. That means he had his good days and his bad days. But when the good outnumbered the bad, I knew he was ready to reach for a dream. And he started competing. And winning. I’m proud of my State Champion. He earned the trophies but more importantly he kept focused on the true reason to train. He’s no longer that little orange belt with a trophy almost as big as him. He’s a black belt and a karate instructor. It’s about being strong, being focused and taking care of himself. Training for all the right reasons. More

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Intimidation

I had the oddest moment last night in class. We were doing partner work and I had one of my old students as my partner. That’s all good. It’s happened before. This student is still fairly young and I could tell he was struggling to work with me. Every time he had to punch, he’d pull back. I intimidated him. Once the teacher  – always the teacher.

The drill was to tap your partner’s chin with a short punch. A valuable skill if you need to defend yourself. Of course, then you don’t hold back and you give them all you’ve got. He, however, wanted nothing to do with actually touching my chin. He stopped way too short every time. I coaxed him a little closer each time until eureka, he was doing it.

Ahhh…then he kept doing it, only he was rocking my head with some solid contact. All it took was a glimmer of a smile and one little sentence. “Don’t rock my head – remember, I’m punching you next.” He knew I wouldn’t hurt him. I could tell by the smile that slid across his face. But he did work on his control. It felt pretty cool to watch the growth and progress he’s making.

We had the best time working together. What fun it was for me to see my former student  becoming stronger. I definitely see a black belt in his future. He’s focused on his lessons, has a fabulous attitude and shows great respect.

Staring into the face of danger

Yesterday, unexpectedly, I got to train in the class I teach. It was so much fun to partner up and do the drills. There’s nothing like banging a bag and slamming kicks in on a Monday. Just the best feeling to get some energy flowing out and releasing any and all frustrations.

It was a particularly fun class because I had a great partner. We locked eyes and went hard with each other. I couldn’t help thinking what it would be like to be face to face with a crazy person intent on hurting you. Literally staring into the face of danger. I wonder if it’s harder for women than men, something about the way we’re raised. I’m not positive but I’m pretty darned sure I wouldn’t have an issue. Let’s face it, if someone wants to hurt me, I’m not going to take my eyes off that person. Everything…absolutely everything in that instant depends upon it.

As an instructor I’ve seen how hard it is for a student to maintain eye contact. It’s something I focus on in my classes. It’s that important. Training isn’t just going through the moves, its about learning skills – lessons that will save your life. Karate is more than kata, a set of choreographed moves. Karate is about focus. And nothing demands focus like staring into the face of danger.

Could you do it if you needed to? Would you be aware of the next attack? It takes practice. And attitude. Start training with that in mind today.

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.

Fighting through

On your martial arts journey you’re going to have some days or weeks that try to derail you. Let’s face it, life happens. If you’re an adult work is your top priority and working late can definitely interfere with your training schedule. For kids, it can be extra homework or family vacations taking them out of town and away from the dojo.

As I said – life happens. You just have to roll with it and get back in and train as soon as you can. One of the things I’ve seen when it comes to adult students is how easily they let changing out of work clothes change their mind set. They’re home. They’ve worked hard. And plopping down in front of the television requires a lot less energy than working on your kata or sparring. It’s just another reality about training.

I’ve been there myself the past couple of weeks. I’m having a problem with my feet as well as a nasty cough that’s reared its ugly head again. Both things seem to be conspiring to keep me on the sidelines. But I won’t let them.

Fighting through the pain is another part of the learning process. No, I’m not stupid. I’m not going to injure myself for life. If I really needed to rest up I would. But I don’t, not now at least. I think learning to fight through is just another lesson I need to learn. It’s all about persistence. What lessons do you need most right now?

Persistence

Every so often I have a conversation with a parent that goes something like this. “He (or she) is giving me such a hard time about coming to train. All he wants to do is play video games.” Sometimes the parent will confess that the child doesn’t even want to change into their karate clothes. Ahhh….I know that feeling well.

I’m quick to share the fact that some days I don’t want to change either. Sometimes I just want to stay home and vegetate in front of the television or take a nap. There are days when getting my lazy butt up and into the dojo is a major undertaking. Senseis are human, just like their students. I’m always astounded when I see the look on the child’s face as I make this confession. I am just like them. Of course, I’m honest and make sure I tell them how happy I am once I change into my gi and start to teach or train.

Karate has no seasons. Not like baseball or soccer or other sports children are enrolled in. Karate is day in day out – winter, spring, summer and fall. It’s okay to take a day off once in a while. Relax and regroup. Then come back and train hard the next day. Heck, I plan on doing that tonight. One night to spend at home with my family, hanging out and doing the things that families do. The next night when I train I’ll be twice as excited to get back into the groove of kicking and punching.

Persistence. Sticking with it even when it gets hard. That’s what makes a black belt. It’s putting on your gi even when you don’t want to that makes all the difference.

I think I can, I think I can…

A little while ago I was sitting in a coffee shop chatting about writing and life. One of the things that came up in conversation had to do with that confidence you had as an 18-year-old ready to venture out into the world. You believed you could do anything, that you’d conquer the world and nothing was going to stop you. Somewhere along the way life or reality or some strange mix of those things started slowing you down. You questioned more. You wondered if you could. You didn’t blindly leap into a situation confident that things would work out. At eighteen you had less to lose, or so it seemed.

Driving home I kept thinking about our conversation, trying to put this confidence thing into some kind of perspective. As we age and experience life we realize some of our limitations. We know life isn’t the fairy tale we imagined it to be. We cannot do some of the things we thought we could because our jobs take over or we don’t make enough money or some other barrier that we place in the way gets in the way.

I couldn’t help but wonder why I thought I could do karate as an adult. I’d had four kids before I ever put on a gi. I wasn’t the same girl I’d been when I lettered in tennis in high school. Maybe I hadn’t gotten the memo that I couldn’t do it. I did it because I thought I could. So I did. And every single day I went in the dojo trained I believed I could do it. The funny thing is, I still think I can.

Last night the class was given a drill to do. Kick your partner in the head with a front leg round house kick. Physically I struggle to get my kick that high but I can still do it, just not for extended periods of time. Watching the class a plan popped into my head. I’ll set up a stretching device in our garage and work on my flexibility. In no time at all I’ll be doing as many kicks as the kids. I still believe I can do it. And because of that, I will. Yeah, I’m not as young as I used to be but I’m only as old as I let myself be.

“I think I can, I think I can…” Believe in yourself, whether you want to earn a black belt, write a best seller or climb Mt. Everest. Let’s face it, you’ll never do any of those things until you believe you can. Be confident. Make a plan and take it one step at a time. You can do anything you set your mind to. How do I know? Because I did. And I still am.

 

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