Age is an Attitude – Not a Number

Do you ever have those moments where something just hits you? Perhaps you’ve ‘known’ it all along but you’ve never really thought about it. The kind of thing that just IS until you think about it and then it becomes this earth-shattering moment, where the universe opens up and a choir sings and sunshine streams down…or the light bulb goes on. It’s just enlightening. I guess that’s why we always associate it with light, something to consider in a different conversation I guess because right now this is about my moment of realization.

The aforementioned moment was triggered by a comment from my instructor. He was so nicely pointing out to me that I wasn’t 21 any more. (This moment was much nicer than when he warned me to pick my knee up while I was kicking so I didn’t look like I was kicking like an old lady, which I am NOT.) His point about my age was to make me think about my physical limitations, which we all have, and also because I train in classes with the kids and well, I am over 18…well, you get the gist of it. He also wanted me to train hard so that nobody looks at me and thinks about my age. I’m just an athlete, a black belt candidate who will deserve her belt when she passes her test. And I appreciated his input as well as the new way he presented it. I have to admit though I had some dazzling kicks after that old lady comment!

Oh, and in case you’re worried, my moment of enlightenment was not, “Gosh, you mean I’m not 21 any more?” The reality is that I still feel the same way that I did when I was 18, only smarter and more settled in my own skin, a feeling that I wouldn’t trade for anything, not even becoming 18 again. I really started to think about age in a whole new way. It started to matter less because I don’t feel my age. I feel pretty darn good about myself and love the challenges that martial arts present and especially the challenges that training along side the kids brings. I’ve got to love any day that I’m training and I can get my side thrust kick up higher than anyone else in the class and be comfortable as well. I’m not stretching it up there just to show off and then barely able to hobble off of the mat. I’m really having fun when I do it and love knowing that one day I’ll be some 80-year-old lady (nope, still not an ‘old lady’) out on the mat in the middle of the dojo rocking the side thrust kick, throwing the reverse punch and putting the round house kick right in on the target and having fun. How awesome will that be! Yeah, I’ll probably be smiling and saying, “Yeah, I’m 45”.

Age really is an attitude. My attitude is going to keep me 29 forever. I watch some of the moms in the dojo, sitting on the sidelines while their kids train and I just can’t understand why they don’t want to jump out on the mat and have some fun right along side me. I’m really amused when I see them with their six or seven year old kids and think to myself, “I have kids as old as you,” and I’m still out here. And there’s no place else I’d rather be.

My attitude is taking me on an amazing journey…I can’t wait to begin the next portion. It’s absolutely gonna rock!

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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.

The Teacher Becomes the Student

One of the most exciting new developments in my karate training has been the class that I now co-teach. Its a class for women taught by women and its all about self defense and fitness.

It was so intimidating to stand before all of the ladies the first time, offering them instruction and advice about how to handle dangerous situations. I heard the clock ticking on the wall. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. We had an hour class. A whole hour to fill. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

I saw their faces staring at me waiting to hear what I had to say. I felt my voice choke up inside and internally I stuttered, practically unable to speak. But somehow the words flowed out, spilling forward with an ease that seemed effortless. One idea after the next. One instruction after the next until the minutes melted away. The ladies were smiling but serious and did each technique eager to master it and move on to the next.

I was smiling, offering encouragement as my instructors have always given me. Words of praise and subtle corrections all mixed and blended together, designed to move them forward and become stronger and more powerful. Every word, every instruction I gave was important to them…and possibly even more important to me. Whatever I said had to be correct. I had to be sure. I had to KNOW what I was talking about.  I had to be right.

That room full of smiling ladies helped me grow more in that hour than I’d probably grown in karate for a while. The test wasn’t for them to succeed it was for me to realize all of the things I still had to learn. It was for me to go back to the beginning and redo all of the basics that I’d done before. But not just to do them. To understand them. To know why they were important and what they meant to self defense. Anyone can tell you ‘now throw a punch’. You have to understand body dynamics, hip rotation, focus, and how not to be forced to throw a punch to really be able to teach it.

At the end of the class we all celebrated our success in completing it. For them it was a physical accomplishment, sweat proudly dripping from their bodies. For me it was more mental and emotional. I had entered the class as a teacher and left it as a student. I’d learned so much but still had so much yet to learn.