A Day of Rest

Yesterday was a day of rest – a much needed day off from work. The dojo was closed offering an opportunity to have a nice quiet dinner with the family. That doesn’t seem to happen often enough with our hectic schedules.

Martial arts isn’t an occasional thing. Not if you want to get good. It demands persistence. It means putting on the gi and training regularly. The sense of commitment and fulfillment is huge, but I’m not going to lie – it’s a lot of hard work. I certainly understand when I hear that some of our younger students suffer from not wanting to put their uniforms on. Hey, we all think that once in a while, however, it comes back to attitude. If you want to be a black belt, train like a black belt. Don’t wait until you’re there.

And let’s face it – martial arts knows no season. It requires you keep it up even after summer changes to fall and through winter and on to spring until you meet up with summer again. A day of rest is a good thing. It brings me back to the dojo brimming over with determination and excitement.

Let those things fuel you today as well. Strive to be a little better than you were yesterday. Punch harder. Have better focus. Remember, doing karate isn’t about being the best  – it’s about doing your personal best and growing a little each day.

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What’s Your Attitude?

Yesterday I had conversations with two different children about the same thing. Attitude. Not that they were surly or difficult, because they weren’t. They just didn’t have the ‘no one is going to touch me’ kind of attitude. Both are really sweet kids and with great dispositions. Turning on the light switch for them – changing that attitude – is harder.

I’d like to think I’m the same way, but for me it’s second nature. I’m all fun and happiness until you want to hurt me and mine. Guys are like that, women not as often unless you mess with their children. Perhaps I find it easier to tap into the mama bear mindset than most. Going from zero to sixty takes practice and persistence, which is what I explained to the kids.

They seemed to understand but it will take continual focus – just like anything else you want to learn – before they get it. So, ask yourself, what’s your attitude? Could you defend yourself if you had to? If not, call a local martial arts school and have a chat with them. Find out what programs they offer and pick the one that’s the right fit for you. Make sure their attitude is about safety and not fees.

I want everyone to be safe. Make that call today.

 

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

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.

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?

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