I’m glad this month (February) is short. So far, this has been a challenging month in my personal life. This has affected my Karate. Due to this, that, and the other, my attendance in class and my practice time at home has been sparse. I’ve been in “maintenance mode.” I’m hanging on to what I have, and improvement is something I simply hope for. My tendency is to berate myself for not practicing more at home and for not taking better care of myself (I did get sick, and it’s still lingering a bit). But when I write out everything that happened so far this month, I’m amazed I did any Karate at all. Any one of the things that happened this month would have a significant impact on my class attendance and practice time.
Sure I’ve lost ground – in “wind,” or endurance, and in upper body strength. But I know I can get back what I’ve lost. It won’t be easy. Easy has never been part of the equation anyway, so what else is new? Yet it’s frustrating to lose ground at a time when I’m supposed to be gaining ground. My sensei are not berating me, so why the heck should I berate myself? But I do. Maybe I’m discouraged.
Part of our dojo kun (school motto) that we recite at the beginning and end of each class is “Be patient, and not discouraged.” I like how our dojo kun presents patience as the opposite of discouragement. This is a time when I have to be patient with myself. It’s the fastest way out of the funk that I’ve wallowed in from time to time this month. Reminding myself to be patient is how I’ve been maintaining my drive to succeed in karate.
Keeping one’s motivation up is key. I know there are life circumstances where that might be impossible. It’s been a hard month for me, but not that hard. Back to the point – if it is possible to maintain your motivation, the next step is to figure out what you can do with whatever resources you have. Here’s some tips I’ve learned:
- Be super flexible. When there’s tons of stressful things going on in your life take the time to do your Karate whenever you can find it. When things settle down, you can go to class and you can buckle down in your practice time. But for now, just do what you can when you can.
- Visualizing/Meditation. This is something I learned from Andrea Harkins and from Elisa Au Fonseca. Andrea spent six weeks in the hospital on bed rest, so all she could do was practice kata in her head. Elisa Au Fonseca led Gasshuku (camp) in 2017 and taught us how to meditate our way through a kata. Visualize yourself performing flawlessly, take as much time as you need for each move. Imagine every detail – how your gi (uniform) feels on your body, the texture of the mats under your feet, your muscles moving under your skin… I’ve found that meditation works for kihon (basics) and sparring as well.
- Quick walk through kata. This should take a minute or less per kata. For the purposes of this exercise, don’t do the stances but do position your feet. Kicks should be slow and to knee height. Hand techniques should be more suggestive than effective. This is good for when you’re almost over a cold. This very mild exercise is just a way of reminding yourself how the kata is supposed to go.
- Kata practice – for real. It doesn’t take long to warm up and then perform four or five kata full speed and power. If all you have is 15 minutes, kata is a great way to make the most of it. Kata is cardio, strength, kihon, self defense, and more.
- Bathroom breaks at work. Don’t laugh. The handicapped stall is big enough for honing blocks and other hand techniques. Lately I’ve been getting quite a few tips on refining my techniques, so any chance I get to practice those changes, I take it. Ten reps is better than nothing.
- Speaking of bathrooms, brush your teeth while holding a stance. Switch lead legs (if applicable) when you switch from upper jaw to lower jaw.
- WATER! You’re not exercising as much, but you still need it. During times of stress it’s easy to forget to drink your water. Keep your water bottle by your side at all times. Seriously. It only takes a few seconds to take a quick swig. You’ll feel better if you stay hydrated.
It’s hard to think creatively when one is busy, stressed out, seeing to the needs of another person, and maybe even ill on top of it all. While you are in a time of calm and order, write a list of ideas of what you think you can do while you’re in “maintenance mode.” I’ve already got you started. It helps to think of strategies while you are not in one of those months. Once you pull through, you might find that the time you spent in “maintenance mode” was a lesson in adaptation and perseverance.