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.

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.

Finding Balance

Finding balance. That’s a tricky one. It’s something I struggle with in my personal life, for sure. I want to do everything, and help everyone. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible and more importantly, it’s not always healthy. Finding balance means taking time for yourself as well as others.

What does this have to do with karate? For me a lot. I’ve had to juggle a business, a family, and various creative passions all along side my karate life. The things I just mentioned have a way becoming roadblocks to your training. It just happens.

The other day I was thinking back to when I wanted to return to karate. I’d had to stop and take a break due to both my work schedule and I’d had a new baby. Juggling an infant along with training was nearly impossible. I went back to training when he began his karate journey. And I made my husband a promise. Karate would not take over my life. Again. I’d maintain balance. Anyone who knows me now, knows I lied. Sort of. Achieving my goal meant training literally morning, noon and night for a while. But just for a while. After I earned my black belt I made sure to cut back on my training a bit to make time for my family.

The tough part of teaching the martial arts isn’t giving the instruction – it’s the hours you have to keep. You teach when students can come to class, which means evenings away from home. No family dinners. No family time. For me, finding balance meant I didn’t teach late every night. Just most. And I get to teach with my son now, which means we spend lots of time together. That helps.

Finding balance. That’s the key. I”m still a work in progress. In both my personal and professional life. But martial arts has given me the focus and determination to keep working to make that happen.

Body Connection

Oh my goodness, I was in seventh heaven last night. I was in a class where the instructor focused on using the hips and body connection. It’s such an important part of the training process, but not covered often enough. The hips are the key in martial arts. Maybe some of you will disagree so if you like I’ll temper my opinion just slightly to say that In Shotokan karate how you use your hips (and if you use them) is vital to your training.

As a white belt we seldom see hip movement with punches and blocks but as the students progress and their learning increases we see it happening. By the time a student has reached an advance training stage they should not only be using their hips when punching but should understand the value that brings. Hip vibration. Oh gosh, how I love when I can teach a student to relax and  let their hips do the work. The look on their face when they see hip vibration in action is amazing.

Last night the students learned about body rotation – direct and reverse It took some longer than others to get the concept, which is to be expected. Those who understood it improved their training by incorporating those concepts. Some floundered but will get it eventually. Let’s face it, we all learn at different rates.

You can’t chop down a tree without using your hips. Nor can you knock a baseball out of the park. Body rotation. Body connection. That’s what makes me as strong as the guys. Gotta love the concepts when you see them put into action.

It’s all in the hips

Last night I had a great conversation with my son about karate. We were sitting there waiting for my writing students to show up and our talk turned to the martial arts, as it frequently does. I’m astounded at how much he’s learned, but I’m even more impressed with the advanced concepts he can explain in a simple, understandable matter.

For me, body connection and spirit while training are huge. If you focus on those two things so much more will follow. I was explaining to him about a student I worked with last week and how he almost had the body connection down, but not quite. He was missing the hips. That comment spurred an entire new conversation about using the core and different techniques to explain that to students. Exercise bands stretched and pulled to demonstrate the hip rotation outward was one suggestion my son made. A great idea I just might incorporate. We chatted about the power of punches and how that comes from the reaction hand and again – from the hips.

I’ve spent a good amount of time lately studying my own techniques. Slowing them down. Speeding them up. Punching from the hip to maximize the power. It all matters. It’s funny to me, but when I teach my women’s class and say “The power’s all in your hips,” they get it quicker than any other set of students. Maybe its something women inherently understand. Hmmm…. but that’s a topic for another day.

For now, I’m going to bask in happiness. Nothing like having a conversation with another black belt who is as passionate about teaching as I am. Especially when it’s your son.

 

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.

Confidence

Friday night means another kyu exam. Sitting on the board, watching students  perform their katas and basics, giving all that they have in their pursuit of their next belt can sometimes be an emotional task. I know it will be tonight. A special child in my life will be testing for the first time – striving for their orange belt. To those who’ve traveled the road to black belt it may not seem like a lot. Others will understand. The feeling of stepping onto the mat and testing for the first time is nerve racking. It can be scary and intimidating. That’s where confidence comes in.

This young man will test for the belt then take off halfway around the world, moving to a new country where he knows absolutely no one other than his parents. Taking this test will send him off with a sense of accomplishment and, more importantly I hope, with the confidence that he’s ready for something new. That working hard and staying focused has its benefits. It will also be a reminder he’s connected to his karate family in Southern California. He has a home to come back to and people who believe in him whether he’s near or far.

I’m proud of this young man. Proud to have been his instructor and to have known him outside of the dojo, too. He’s my beta reader for my middle grade books and my current hero. You’ve got this, ‘P’. Adventure awaits. You’ll have to write me stories and tell me all about it.

Previous Older Entries