Persistence. Practice. Repeat.

I was thinking about this the other day – how karate affected my writing. Both writing and the martial arts share the need to practice. You’ll never get better as a karate student if you don’t do punches every day and you’ll never become a better writer if you don’t spill words on the page everyday. Consistency with both seems to be the key. I’ve watched students who have struggled day in and day out. They never gave up. Each practice made them a little bit better and brought them a step closer to their goal. I’ve seen the same thing happen with writers that I coach.

Persistence. That undying attitude that makes you get up each day and say, “I can do one thing and I’ll do it the best I can.” Both writing and karate demand that. It’s funny, it wasn’t until this morning that I realized earning my black belt is why I finally wrote a novel. I know, one thing doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the other, does it?

When I started karate, I didn’t say, “One day I’ll be a black belt”. I just wanted to have fun and earn my yellow belt. That was it. Plain and simple. Each rung on the ladder brought me a little closer towards black belt. Until I finally got there. It was the same with the novel. Usually I wrote short stories or books for kids. Novels took too long. I couldn’t commit myself. Then I wrote one chapter. Followed by the next. By focusing on each chunk of it, taking small bites of an idea and sharing them I trudged my way through to a finished novel. I’m confident now I can do it again and I can do it with other things, too. I can do anything I set my mind to.

So can you. Throw one punch after the other. Practice your karate watching yourself in your bathroom mirror. Get into stance and walk down your hallway. Catch in the small minutes of practice and before you know it you’ll have climbed another rung on the ladder.

It just takes practice. We aren’t born knowing how to do karate. Or how to write. Whatever you dream, go out and do one small thing, bringing yourself a step closer to making it become a reality.  Persistence. Practice. Repeat.

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.

In the Stillness

There are moments when my passions intersect, unexpectedly and deliciously. Today, one of those collisions occurred, bringing me another step forward in my karate training. Let me back up and explain, just a little bit. Last night, I was teaching my creative writing class, explaining to students the value that stillness brings when you’re trying to create tension. The story zooms along this thing and that happening to your hero and then, in the quiet, the reader absorbs it all and tensions are amplified. For example, the phone rings in a horror movie. We all scream “don’t answer it,” but of course, the actor does. Tension has started mounting in us but doesn’t come to fruition until the “hello” is met with silence. Who’s there? What’s going on? Tension mounts.

And poof, I went from thinking about this to an instructor I used to know. He ran around the room bellowing at the top of his lungs, a constant barrage of words assaulting the students. The words bounced around, deflected, creating a false sense of energy, none of it generated by the students. Oh, believe me, I know and appreciate the value my voice can bring to a class. That’s actually my point. Ramping up the energy, getting the students to move and respond. I can be as loud as the best of them. But I also need to give my students moments for their energy to fill the void. To let them settle into the stillness, reflecting my words. To do the best karate they can do. In the stillness.

Some of the hardest classes I’ve ever taken have been a quiet study of techniques. Holding them for long periods of time. Studying the hip movement associated with a solid punch, the hip vibrations, as the punch settles on its target. Inside blocks. Outside blocks, all the same thing. Up blocks, the twisting and turning of the torso to maximize power. These moments come when I focus on me. Not on the instructor. They happen in the stillness.

An instructor who fills every atom of space with their voice demands the attention be on them, instead of focused on the karate. The best karate happens in the stillness of time and space, when the student becomes one with the technique. That’s how I see it, anyway.

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.

There’s Nothing Like It

Wow, there’s nothing like a good workout. Last night I was able to stay and train in the late class at the dojo. This doesn’t always happen since I get there so early in the day to help with classes and I have a ten-year-old that needs to do his homework, eat dinner and get to bed at a decent hour. But last night it worked out.

I loved it! Wow! I got popped in the mouth during ground fighting, my arm was bright red from practicing down blocks against my opponent’s kicks. I was sweating and tired (I’d hiked a canyon all day with the class field trip) and grinning ear-to-ear when I left the mat. THAT was amazing.

This was just what I needed. I feel great this morning, so glad to have been able to make the class. My goal is to be there all the time, just need to juggle family and training.

There’s nothing like it – what a great workout!

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.

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!

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