I’ve found out a lot about myself in the past six months since I began training in Karate again. I suspect I’m in for more surprises both pleasant and unpleasant. I’ve had one person ask, “Have you ever had to use Karate on someone?” I think the answer is, “Yes – I’ve had to use it on myself!” I say that because so far, I have been my own worst enemy. That said, I’ve taken some baby steps in the right direction and I’d like to share them with you.
Knocking Out Self doubt
Assuming you’re not suicidal, would you deliberately ingest poison? An absurd thought, right? Well, that’s what self doubt does. It poisons your spirit. It took months for me to get over self doubt and resume Karate training after some 27 years away from the dojo. After quite a bit of wheedling and coaxing from three Senseis and my daughter, I decided to give it a try. Sure I about died during warm up, sure I flapped around like a spastic duck, but after that first class, I stopped drinking the poisons. I stopped thinking of myself as old and medically unfit. My performance was laughable, but trying – simply trying – was a triumph. Over time, I discovered if I start doubting myself, I should try to engage the challenge. I might fall flat on my face, but then again, I might be pleasantly surprised. For instance, I found out at Gasshuku (extended training over a weekend) my endurance is way better than I thought.
Leg Sweeping the Bad Attitude
I used to have a bad attitude about sparring. I’d tense up, throw sloppy technique, get clobbered, be short of breath, and walk away sulking. Yes, I’m way old enough to know better, LOL. My daughter and I were visiting a sister dojo a couple months ago. The Sensei there called for two-against-one sparring. Sensei gave some guidelines, then my teenage daughter and a new friend gleefully looked at me.
My daughter said, “Let’s get her!”
I didn’t much like sparring, was not all that good at it, and Sensei was asking for two against one sparring. To top it off, there were two teenage girls grinning mischievously at me! Suddenly I realized how ridiculous this really was, and I had to laugh. It was like light was infusing my soul, and something dark was slinking away never to be seen again. I had tons of fun. My daughter literally kicked my butt, and she and I still laugh about it. Best of all, analyzing it later, I figured out gosh, there really is a connection between kata and kumite. Fighting against two was more like kata, that’s probably one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much! Since then, I’ve been a lot more willing to work on my kumite skills – which is good because, well, um… I need to build those skills.
Sparring with Circumstances
If I ever have to fight for my life, I’m going to have to learn that circumstances won’t always be in my favor. The very first workout at Gasshuku, the sun was in my eyes. I told myself to deal with it because maybe that might happen in a real fight. During promotion at Gasshuku, I slipped on dewy grass a few times. I told myself to keep going – I won’t always be able to choose the terrain. In fact, I’d already practiced kata a few times on sand and shingle, so slipping wasn’t anything new. At home, I hesitated at the idea of practicing karate in the garage because of the hard concrete. Then I hit upon the idea of training in what I wear every day – shoes and all because that’s probably the most likely scenario for a fight. I seriously doubt an attacker would let me pull a gi out of my purse as I run to the nearest telephone booth to change! Likewise, with each new little owie (including a contact lens going wonky after a tap to the eye), I told myself to just keep on because everything I experienced could happen in a real fight for survival – that and more. Granted, sometimes we are overcome. For that situation, I’ll refer you to my article on Success (trust me on this).
Bowing to Leadership Responsibilities
“Hi, is our Water Fitness instructor going to be here?” I asked the Aquatics Manager as I dripped my way into her poolside office.
“No, she called in sick. Would you like the list of exercises?”
I thanked the manager as I took the laminated printout from her hand and stepped back to the pool. My daughter and I started the workout as people started showing up for class. I explained in simple English the teacher was sick and I had a list of exercises.
“You teach!” A Hispanic woman who doesn’t speak much English piped up, smiling trustingly at me.
Three or four more ladies who don’t speak much English overheard the first lady’s request. They all smiled at me, looking at me expectantly. I drew in a deep breath as I realized all of us had driven or bussed to the Y, changed into swimsuits (with some body types this is a challenge), showered, endured cold air and cold water… If nothing else, we needed to generate some body heat! I smiled and said, “OK.” I proceeded to lead by example and demonstration (often hopping out of the water) while working with the additional challenge of language barriers. Ever since then, I’ve been the substitute teacher for Water Fitness class.
Just the other day our instructor was sick again, but this time I wasn’t able to get the outline of the workout. The ladies asked me to lead anyway. They trusted me more than I trusted myself. I was surprised to find I remembered almost everything.
Why do they look to me for leadership? I’m so very different from most of them! I’m one of the younger members, I’m white, comparatively athletic, and I speak only English fluently. I think I have an inkling thanks to a good article about character qualities that Martial Arts gives us. You can read Jaro Berce’s article, “Learning Leadership from Martial Arts – II” if you want to learn more. It seems people are drawn to these characteristics. This is sometimes difficult for an introvert like me! I define introvert as someone who expends energy while with others and thus is drained after awhile, as opposed to an extrovert – one who gains energy from everyone around them.
As an introvert, my first inclination was to deny the empathy I felt with these ladies about the situation, to shy away from the responsibility and to not use the gifts I’ve been given to lead the class. These ladies are struggling with some severe medical issues – weight, pain, surgeries, arthritis… What kind of person am I if I’m in a position to help and I ignore their needs? I’d undermine my personal development for sure if I avoided my responsibility.
I expect I’ve quite a lot ahead of me, and maybe it’s best that I don’t know everything that I will face in the years to come! I’m sure most of you black belts are chuckling and saying, “Wait until she has to deal with students!” and some of the rest of you black belts are poking the others in the ribs and saying, “No, wait until she has to deal with some of the students’ parents!” I’m laughing at the thought, and I’m very grateful I have a few years to develop the skills I will need!