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.

Time to Start the Final Sprint

Many, many years ago when I was much younger I used to run.  I haven’t run in a long time, ever since I realized I didn’t enjoy it and there were so many other things that I did like that I could do instead. So I’ve done them and generally just enjoyed myself a lot more. What I did take with me from those ancient running days, however, was the feeling that came when you were reaching the back stretch and almost there and the exhilaration of the final sprint as you kicked your running up a notch to cross the line, reaching a new personal best.

Sometimes it was hard to dig deep and find that extra something you needed when you were plodding along, feeling your feet like lead anchors weighing you down, when just putting one foot in front of another was agony. When each time you took one stride forward you promised yourself it would be the last…just one more you’d whisper to yourself, just one more until you’d conned yourself to finally reach the finish line.

I think that’s where I’m at right now with my training. Working hard and ready to kick start that last lap. Its time to dig even deeper and push myself even more. To feel the scraped knuckles and sore muscles, to whisper to myself when I roll out of bed and feel the ache deep within that somehow just becomes a regular part of being, “its a good pain, its a good hurt”. Just one more day of training. Just one more class. Just one more time, just one more…

The only difference is, I expect this time, that I won’t feel that urge to crash to the ground, muscles spasming as I cross the finish line. This time the victory at the end will feel like a sweet success and drive me forward to keep training even harder towards a new finish line.

The Saga of the Broken Toe

First of all, let me assure you a broken toe may not sound like a huge deal but it hurts. It really hurts when you’re jumping around and trying to be tough and not show that its hurting. I know. I’m that person – the one who cries on the inside and is stoic on the outside. Meanwhile my toe was swelling up, showing bruising and just generally letting me know that it was there.

But I kept on training. Trained in my class and taught the next without a grimace or a sign that anything was wrong. I even came back the next night, toe securely taped up, and trained again. I’m tough you know…

Well, maybe, but I’m also human and I’m not stupid. I had an opportunity to go and train the week that the dojo was closed and opted not to. Why? Well, it went back to a conversation that I’d had with one of my girls when I told her that I was taking my exam in February.

“What if you get sick?” she asked. ”

“I’m taking my exam in February, ” I answered.

“But supposed you’re sick?” she persisted.

“I AM taking my exam in February,” was my reply in pretty much the same tone I might have said, “Because I’m the mother and I said so.”

However, my poor aching toe got me to thinking. Suppose that I trained now and it didn’t heal as quickly. Suppose my training made it worse? Suppose I couldn’t test in February.

Well,  I wasn’t taking any chances. I laid off the heavy training, although I practice on my own at home. The toe isn’t bruised any more. Its still swollen and it still hurts but I’m back to training come Monday. Seriously, did you think a broken toe could stop me for long?

I’ve got goals. I’ve got dreams. And NOTHING is going to stop me now!

Anticipation

Mine is not the normal story. Mine is not the normal journey to Shodan. It began a long time ago, took many turns, and even some side journeys before I was back on the path to Shodan.

Getting back on the road and toiling towards the goal that always seem so allusive was difficult. I had aged. My body had aged. But my spirit was still the same. Determined. Anxious. Obsessed.

There are no regrets for those things that diverted my path. They were perhaps a necessary adventure that brought me back to my Shodan quest, even more determined to achieve the final goal.

Friday night I felt my feet firmly planted on the path of my choosing. The moment my hands wrapped around the new belt and I heard through the haze of disbelief that my next test was for black belt my soul soared with joy and just as quickly lurched back, free falling towards the ground…black belt. Would I be worthy? Would I have what it took to make the final sprint towards the finish line and be deserving of the title of black belt when I got there?

I remember breathing deeply, grinning ear-to-ear with my new belt in hand and heading to ring the bell (a tradition in our dojo) realizing I was just taking the first step towards a new journey…a journey that was just beginning at Shodan…it wasn’t the destination…merely a starting point.