It’s Been A Very Long While

Here I go again. Another May and another resurrection of my blog. I’m ashamed of myself for letting it languish without attention, yet, I’ve been so incredibly busy which is why I haven’t posted. That’s part of the story, anyway.

I let it slide after I made Shodan, because, well, I’d reached my goal. I think that’s like a lot of martial artists that I know. You get to where you were going and you’re done. Luckily for me, it was only the blog that stopped. I’ve still been training. More importantly, I’ve been learning a lot as well. And isn’t that what matters?

As I thought about what my first blog post would say I also contemplated changing the name. You see, I’m not a Shodan any more. I’ve climbed one more rung on the ladder and learned a little bit more so I’m a Nidan. Why do I make it sound like I haven’t learned too much? Simple. There’s so much still left to learn. Just like reaching Shodan is the real beginning, Nidan is a baby step in the scheme of things. I have a lot more to learn. About martial arts. About training. About teaching. About spirit. About body connection. And those are just the things that I can think of off the top of my head.

Being a martial artist is a lifelong journey. I’ve been training a very long while…and I’ll be learning for the rest of my life.

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It’s a Good Pain

It’s a good pain, that’s what I’m telling myself. The holidays had me less active than usual, so that accounts for some my muscles complaining today. Quite frankly, I’m sore and I hurt. That’s exactly why I’m telling myself its a good pain. Nothing good and important happens without a lot of blood and sweat and exercise. (No tears, I’m not sure a black belt should cry…)

What’s even more encouraging is that I’m sore today which means I should be really sore tomorrow. Bone aching, don’t want to move pain, which also means that’s twice as many reasons that I should be moving. “It’s only lactic acid,” I tell myself. “Move and it will be released which means you won’t be sore any more,” I add as a way of encouraging myself to jump up and down and get moving some more. The good news – that usually works.

I found myself wondering today why I’m working so hard and fixated on obtaining my black belt. Is it so that I can brag that I’m a black belt? I can honestly say no. It’s not about that. If it were about just getting the belt I wouldn’t be training in my dojo. I’d be training somewhere else where I could just put in my time and pay my test fees, progressing through the belts until I reached the top, taking my black belt and bragging rights out the door. Its not about that at all.

This really means something to me. It means that I’ve worked hard and pushed myself to new limits. It means I’ve given up something but gained something much bigger. It means I have an obligation to share what I’ve learned with the next crop of martial arts who come through the door, hopefully teaching them valuable lessons that will impact their lives and help to make them better people and safer all at the same time. It means that I’m not a quitter when things get tough, that I can hang in there and keep working even when the lessons are hard and someone yells at me to get it right. It means that I can focus and see the bigger picture. It means that I can be so picky that the smallest most details don’t escape my scrutiny. Not only do I see them but I want to fix them. It means I’m striving for perfection of character and strength not just of body but of spirit. It means all that and so much more.

I plan on wearing my black belt with humble pride. I know that there will always be people who are better than me, who are stronger than me and quicker than me. I will also know that I’m dedicated to sharing this knowledge and helping to train other students to be better and stronger and faster than me. And I know that whatever my age anything is possible.

See it. Believe it.

I’ve been doing karate training for quite a while now, obviously. Over time I guess I’ve developed a rather unorthodox training style. Sure, I get out on the mat just like anyone else and go through the basics, going hard and strong, focused on myself and my technique. I listen to what my instructor tells me and I try to improve. That’s not the unorthodox part.

What’s different in my training style, I guess, is the way I practice outside of the dojo. Without a large open space to practice at home I’ve had to take my kata and break it into parts, doing only certain portions at a time, refining them and working on them until there is improvement. “So what?” you’re probably thinking. A lot of people do that. You’re completely right. I am sure they do. If they’re not, I hope they start. That’s really not the ‘difference’ in the way I train.

I also train in my head. No, I’m not crazy. Well, I don’t think so anyway, but that’s probably a matter for another day. Let me explain what I mean when I refer to my mind training. If I’m having a struggle with a technique or just want to improve it, tighten it up and get stronger at it I visualize myself doing it over and over again correctly. I can almost feel my muscles doing it while I play the scene over and over again in my head.

I see it. I believe it. I believe that I CAN do it. And guess what? The next time that I jump onto the mat, usually I can. And I do. It’s almost always better than the last time I practiced it in the dojo. Now, before you get all excited and think that you can just daydream all of your training, that’s not going to work. You still have to physically do it. Karate is all about dripping sweat, aching muscles, and persevering through the pain to reach a new level, a new place to start all over again, training towards perfection. A great way to get stronger and build character along the way.

The power of the mind to help you visualize and believe in yourself doing it is a pretty awesome tool to use though as a supplement to your actual karate training. It’s also really handy when you can’t sit at a stoplight and do the move. Yeah, I’m that crazy lady doing inside blocks waiting for the light to turn green. Again…that’s a whole other story for another day.

One step…

I have a habit of getting impatient. When I want something, I want it NOW. I don’t always like to wait for it. Okay, the truth is I NEVER want to wait for anything. Must say something about me that I’m looking for instant gratification. Maybe its because I always have so many things going on in my life at the same time. Or maybe I’m just impatient.

Curiously though this time I am patient. I know I’m not quite ready yet. I realize that there are some things I need to master. Its a path to walk along, one step at a time.

I’ve watched other students as they progress through martial arts. They get discouraged. We all do. Its hard sometimes. But they just forget to do one thing – put one foot ahead of the other and focus on that. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Well, its true. And that same journey of a thousand steps is completed because no matter what the traveler found on the path before him, he took one step. Sometimes he had to step off of the path to go around what was blocking him, and so he took more steps than the person who could step right over the barrier. But he got there.

Frequently I hear the younger students (yes, I mean kids) get really competitive about reaching their black belt. Its natural I suppose; however, I like to remind them that we are all on the same journey striving for the same goal. We’re not running a race to get to the finish line first, we’re walking together, each of us there to support the other, helping to carry them along at spots (that’s where mentoring comes in!) if necessary so that we can all reach our goal. I might get there first. You might get there first. The important thing is to get there – to cross the finish line – to achieve a monumental goal.

One step, one slow plodding step, one foot in front of the other, until the goal is reached.

Karate teaches character, perseverance, control. I think it must be teaching me patience as well.