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.

 

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.

 

Differences

Yesterday I had the pleasure of riding on a Fourth of July float in our local parade. It’s always fun to participate in community events. I loved watching the faces of the kids as we tossed candy and waved. I was doubly blessed that a local karate school was marching directly behind our float.

While a different style, I could appreciate the enthusiasm of the students as they went through their katas and practiced their combative skills. I couldn’t help but notice the differences between their knife hand blocks and ours. While our katas are similar, there were strategic differences. But what was fun about it was seeing how the differences, each brought us to the same goal. The students were focused. They were dedicated. They had passion and strength.

Sometimes I think we look at differences as one being wrong and one being right. That’s not really the case. Not in karate and not in life. I appreciated watching them and could see some instances to incorporate moves in my own self defense.

No, I’m not changing styles. Shotokan runs through my blood, and has infiltrated the very fibers of my being. But I can still appreciate the different styles, learning something from each. That’s one of the hallmarks of being a good black belt I think – always learning. I wonder what I’ll learn today…

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