Sensei (instructor): Everybody down. Push-ups. Hajime (begin).
Id: Ugh. Push ups.
Super Ego: Let’s rock & roll! We’re getting stronger!
Id: Aaaaaugh! Sensei isn’t saying “Yame (stop)!”
Super Ego: Chill. Get ‘er done.
Id: No more strength!
Super Ego: Modify. Keep going. We’ve got this.
Id: Ohhhkaaay, but I don’t know how much longer…
Super Ego: Hey, you know what? We’ve improved since last week – we’re doing more!
Id: Oh man, seriously – now there’s nothing else left to give! Ahhhh, sweet floor, how I love you. Man, it feels good to lie here.
Super Ego: We’re going to try anyway. Rrrrrrgh! Fight it! Oh, look! Here comes help.
Id: That’s not HELP – that’s Sensei! We’re DOOMED!
Super Ego: You be quiet – I’m listening to Sensei. He’s explaining how to do this. KIIIIIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAIII! There, see! There was one more push-up in those muscles. Sensei said to stand up now.
The sound that came out of me was unlike anything I’ve ever vocalized before. It was a cathartic roar that came not from my throat but from the gut. I’ve learned a little bit about vocal techniques from singing, so I know I could have damaged my vocal cords if they’d been tight. Of course there wasn’t tension in my throat because the cry came from my gut. Among other things this exercise was meant to teach us how to kiai properly. But I gained more.
I was charged full of energy and ready to learn. I usually am able to lock my problems in the locker along with my street clothes, but that day I was still dragging when I came to class. With that one yell I shed the weight of those problems right off. Afterwards I was focused, clear-headed and light-hearted. My attitude had turned around. I was full of wonder at what I’d just accomplished. With a little encouragement from Sensei I won a battle with myself (the Id and the Superego). I’d pushed beyond what I’d thought was a limit. I admit I was feeling a little proud.
[sound of a record needle scratching]
I hear you asking, “Wait – you felt good afterwards? Don’t you think your sensei was being mean by making everyone do all those push ups?”
I see you reaching for your phone to call the funny farm.
Sensei wasn’t making me do anything. I could have walked out, changed back into my street clothes and driven away never to return. That was totally an option. I could’ve flopped around in a half-hearted effort and been scolded for it – that was totally an option too. But I value my training. I also respect myself and my Sensei. So my “Superego” overpowered my “Id” and I listened when I was told how to get one last push up done. Once again, I learned I am capable of more than I think. It’s a lesson that I need to keep on learning because I am human.
Sometimes in life we face adverse circumstances. We might think we’ve hit a limit and we’re helpless to do more. We might be right – there are some circumstances that are too dire for anyone to overcome. Or… There might be enough strength left to fight back. Sometimes we need someone to remind us of that and to help a little. Our challenge afterward is to pass on what we’ve learned to someone else who needs to hear it.
After class was over I felt more equipped to face my real life challenges.
Interestingly enough, within two days very positive progress was made with those problems that I’d dragged with me to class. The progress wasn’t due to anything I did – if anything it was the prayers of good people (yes, including Sensei), the grace of God, and a whole bunch of recruiters who called my husband so often that he couldn’t finish taking notes from one conversation before starting another. But I could’ve done a lot of damage to myself and to my husband in the day before the phone started ringing off the hook. The positive experience of getting through a physical challenge helped me find that strength. It turned out that I just needed strength for one more day, one last push.
Do you still think Sensei is mean? Well, you’re entitled to your opinion, and my Id actually agrees with you. But my Superego knows better. My problems aren’t solved yet, but things are looking better. Even if my family and I end up putting four boxes and the dog into a car and driving off to another city, we will find the strength and courage to face that. But I have a feeling things won’t come to that. I think this could very well be the last push up. I am roaring my battle cry in victory.