My deepest thanks to the karateka who let me train with them during this year’s training for USA Karate Nationals.  This post is dedicated to you.  To those who are competing – best wishes and I can’t wait to hear all about it!!!

Fire.  Hammer.  Anvil.  One foot in front of the other.  One more rep.  Reaching deep into yourself to find what it takes to continue…  And sometimes finding you don’t have it.  What happens then?

Encouragement goes a long way.  When someone believes in you, that’s powerful.  Sometimes I can squeeze out a few more reps if someone is there for me.  If you give it your all and still fail, someone’s commendation for your effort is a great motivation to perform better next time.

Then suddenly you find you’re pushed to the next level.  Like metal thrust into the fire, hammered again, over and over and over – shaped gradually and deliberately into something greater than a lump of ore.  And oh, it’s a process.  You go into the fire and back onto the anvil again and again, pushed to even higher levels.

ForgeBut what if encouragement isn’t enough?  What if your body gives out and you simply cannot do one more burpee?  What if you are trying so hard that you break?  I’m not talking about breaking bones, I’m talking about putting forth so much effort that you burst into tears out of sheer frustration because you’re fighting to do one more pushup and your arms won’t lift you.

News flash.  You have a breaking point.  Some of us can take more than others, but everyone has a point where we hit a wall.  Splat.

It’s pointless to think that you’re so tough that you will never break.  The trick to dealing with brokenness is to make some important decisions before you break.  Decide now, before you break, to remind yourself that breaking is simply an indication that you need to build yourself up in that area.  Decide now, before you break, that after you reach that point you will outline (in writing) specific plans to improve.  Most importantly, decide to listen to those who are cheering you on, not those who are calling you weak.  You will get stronger.  Give yourself time.

You can be re-forged.  You will already be familiar with the fire, the anvil, and the hammer.  Hopefully you will find that you trust the process of shaping even more than you did before you were broken.  If you don’t, find someone who can talk you out of quitting, who can remind you of how far you’ve already come, and who will be there for you in the future.

What eventually comes of the time spent in the forge of martial arts training?  Better performance, obviously.  Belts, medals…  Yes, all that’s nice, but there ought to be more.  There’s a shaping of character – and more.  A desire to pass along the lessons learned from the forge grows in one’s heart.  More than that, one realizes that there are applications to life outside the training hall.  We get knocked down in life.  We grow weary.  Decide now what you’re going to do in the forge of life.

Thank you to those who pushed me so hard that I broke. I found out what I’m made of. Thank you for being there for me.

Thanks also to Ando Mierzwa for passing along the lessons he’s learned:  “Breaking Down in Martial Arts.”  Because of him, I knew it wasn’t the end of the world when I finally did break down and cry during training.

Author: Joelle White

I began training in Karate in June of 2014 after a 27 year hiatus.

11 thoughts on “Forge”

  1. But you didn’t break Joelle? You cried, that’s all, which is not shameful – and then you stopped crying and resumed your journey, a little bit stronger for the expereince.

    When it comes to what you might call stressful “mini breaks” like this, I love to compare it to the image of martial artists’ bones strengthening over time, through constant microfractures occurring and healing and occurring and healing

    that is our spirit! constant microfractures and constant healing and strengthening as a result . . . 🙂

    1. I hadn’t thought of it that way, Kai – thanks for sharing that perspective 🙂 Yes, we are stronger for it. Interesting about bones – now I have an extra reason to remind my family to drink their (almond) milk!!! Thanks for reading and commenting, I appreciate it!

    1. Or, as a poster I have hanging on my wall says, “That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable,” LOL!

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