Getting My Story Out First

Hanshi has a saying around our dojo: “It’s whoever gets their story out first.”

If you get your story out first, you can tell it your way and that becomes Truth. If someone else gets their story out first – even if it’s really your story – then that becomes Truth. So with that in mind, here I am – getting my story out first.  😉

I always think it’s odd when someone gets their black belt and then walks away from karate. That said, I just got my Shodan in Kobujitsu (Weapons) in May. And after way too much thought, angst, deliberation, and uncertainty, I’ve decided to take a break from my karate training. Am I walking away permanently? I don’t know. But in some ways I feel I’ve become one of “those” people.

I know Shodan is just the beginning of the journey and there is no end to things to be discovered. And truthfully, I really enjoy weapons and would love to spend more time studying them. So why, when admittedly I think it’s dumb, am I walking away?

If someone else tells my story, it might sound like one of these:

1) I travel a lot for work.

Incorrect. It’s been over a year since I visited our NY office.

 2) I work too much.

My fatigue says that’s true, and often it’s tough to get to classes. But again, incorrect.

 3) I’m injured…again.

True, but once more, incorrect. Tomorrow I see the podiatrist who says he can fix my lingering foot issue, but only if I take a break from karate. Someone who spent 7 years running full tilt at hurdles, racing with a knot the size of a golf ball on their knee, and wiping out on an irregular basis isn’t really afraid of working through yet another injury.

So what’s my Truth?

Simple. It’s time to give back. I’ve spent the last 8+ years focusing on myself, spending my time and energy on martial arts and my achievements. But lately, I’ve been convicted of selfishness. Nobody’s world will change if I learn another set or kata or whatever. Nobody besides me benefits from me earning a higher rank.

In a world that seems more uncertain each day, I need to do my part to make a difference. I’ve recently connected with two charitable organizations, and I’m devoting my time, my writing and my kitchen skills to those.

That’s my Truth.

I don’t know where these opportunities will take me. I don’t know if I’m taking a temporary or permanent break from karate. But what I do know is I need to do this. I need to do my part. So in a way, maybe I’m being selfish still, but if that’s so, I hope someone else benefits from it.

Martial arts thoughts and blog posts lurk in my head. How my brain and body handle this hiatus is yet to be seen. So don’t go away. I’m not. And maybe I’ll manage to write more often!  🙂

Now What?

We finally did it. We earned our black belts! See? There we are – Phil, Renshi Colahan, me and Peterbilt (Paul). Woo WOO!! Look at us! 

New Shodans after the USKK Test

Phil Mosher, Renshi Mike Colahan, Michele Jarchow & Paul (Peterbilt) Castro after the 2012 USKK Black Belt Test

Aside from “Congratulations,” the thing I heard most after my test was, “Now what?” People wanted to know if I was finished. Would I return to karate? Was there anything left to accomplish?

Well, as it turns out, there’s a LOT more to learn! Our system trains in three different martial arts. In addition to Okinawan Karate, we offer Jujitsu and Kobujitsu (weapons) programs, and students can earn black belts in all three of the arts.

I’ve achieved my Shodan, my first degree black belt, in Okinawan Kenpo. In our system, there are 10 levels of black belt. I will not achieve the top ranks because I started so late, but I can move forward. By returning to class following the test, I began my journey to Nidan, my second degree black belt. That’ll take a couple of years of finesse, focus and practice, but I’m looking forward to deeper study of this art!

I’m also excited about returning to jujitsu. I used to go fairly regularly and earned my blue belt (the lowest rank in our system), but have not participated lately. To be honest, I’ve been rather clumsy recently, and the only way I should have been training in jujitsu was after being wrapped securely in bubble wrap! Now that our Shodan test has passed, I’m looking forward to once again hitting the mat (get it?) and working on those joint locks.

Colahan Martial Arts Shodan Certificates

One more thing I’m excited about is learning weapons!It took a while for me to become interested in them. Renshi Colahan said it would improve our open hand techniques and that was appealing to me, but I didn’t want to take on so much new material as I was closing in on the black belt test. I also didn’t know how I would fit it in, since the beginner class at the hombu is taught at the same time as our club classes. Lucky for us, Renshi has started teaching weapons once a week at the club, and I’m really excited about that. So far I’ve had a 30 minute class, and I’m hooked! I can’t wait to get out on the floor and learn some more!

So now that I’ve earned my Shodan, is there more for me? Is there something to draw me back to the dojo? The answer is a resounding Yes! Not only do I have more to learn in Okinawan Kenpo, but I also have the opportunity to learn more jujitsu and discover the art of Kobujitsu (weapons). The opportunities may not be quite endless, but they are plentiful, and I’m excited to be moving forward – starting now!!

100% of Whatever I’ve Got

I just finished doing some penance on my elliptical. A bag of bridge mix and some Pringles for dinner are not really the things someone in training for a Shodan test should be eating.

I stopped at the grocery store for eggs and Kleenex. When I got home and unloaded my bags, I realized that someone looking at my items wouldn’t be able to tell if I was tired or pregnant!

My bags were filled with chocolate covered peanuts, chocolate bridge mix, Bear Claw ice cream (a chocolate concoction), Pringles, frozen dinners (low cal, of course!), eggs and salad mix.

The chocolate’s in the car. Out of sight, out of mind — I hope!

Obviously I shouldn’t shop when I’m tired. And I’m tired today. Really, really tired. Recent events have worn me out. I over-stressed myself to the point of adrenal exhaustion. Been there, done that, and it’s not fun. Recovery means cutting back on cardio for awhile. The timing is terrible.

My black belt test is less than 4 weeks away. I’m overweight and out of shape, and I know it. I don’t expect to lose my chubby before my test or to magically gain the cardio to make it through 2 hours without gasping for breath. But eating this stuff isn’t helping, is it? Oops.

But regardless of my chunky little self or my less-than-stellar cardio capabilities, there’s one thing I do know. At the end of my test, I will have left it all out on the mat. I won’t think I could have pushed myself more, and I won’t think I could have gone harder. How do I know? Experience!

I tested for yellow after surgery to repair my broken nose. For blue after returning from major surgery. For purple when I was so exhausted I needed a nap before the test. For 3rd brown after a nasty bout of the flu. After my 1st brown, I felt so protein-deprived that I ate about every two hours — for three days afterwards! I’ve only had one test where I was healthy and rested. OK, two, if my Black Belt Gauntlet counts.

Those tests were tough, but they were also very satisfying. I made it. Yes, I wish I had been healthier and better rested. I wonder how I would have done if I’d been 100%. But I gave 100%.

Renshi’s rule is to give him 100% of whatever we’ve got. If we’ve got 100%, he wants it all. If we’ve only got 30%, he wants 100% of that 30%. I know I’ll give 100% of everything I’ve got at my test, and when I walk off that mat, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I did my best that evening.

So tomorrow, while I’m even more tired than I am now and working at home, I’m going to make a conscious effort to make better food choices. The chocolate is in the car. Believe it or not, I usually don’t bother to go out there and get it! And tomorrow I will continue my training; hopefully no more penance will be required!