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Mentally Practicing

My hands were full, and just before the hotel elevator doors closed a young man slipped through. Because I’d flown into town, I had switched purses and wasn’t carrying my usual array of knives. Even if I had been, they wouldn’t have been easily accessible with full hands.

My thoughts: I could front kick him. Probably wouldn’t drop anything. Do I need to close in first? Ah! This is why Kyoshi had us practice standing sidekicks. Take out the knee. Kick the head.

 

The MAT therapist seated behind me cradled my head and moved it in various directions to assess my mobility and strength.

Me to the MAT therapist, “This feels like how they teach us to snap necks!” To which he paused, then asked, “They really teach you that?”

 

I’ve been off the mat for the last year. While I couldn’t run through all my kata without hesitation, and I’d most likely get my self-defense sets mixed up, I’m comforted to know that the important things have stuck with me.

The lessons, drills, and self-defense conversations from my 8 years of training have given me a different mindset than I had before I started training. I’m able to connect the dots – what does the lesson have to do with real life? I didn’t see it in the beginning, but I remember some of my early times when the light bulb would go on.

Now I notice that more and more I think with a self-protection mindset. I’m making an extra effort to pay attention to my surroundings and to the people within my sphere. And I’m running through the appropriate scenarios from the lessons and practicing in my head what I would do if challenged.

Even though I’m not physically practicing martial arts, I’m mentally practicing them so I can be ready if the time comes when I need the skills.

Freedom to Learn

I had a good class last night! Not because I was buzzing from an energy drink and a chocolate-frosted brownie, even though I was. (Ugh. What was I thinking??)

I had a good class because in a flash of brilliance, I realized I don’t test for at least 3 years!!! I admit I’m relieved at not dealing with my freaky test anxiety for awhile, but that’s not what I’m excited about. I’m excited because now I can just enjoy learning!

There’s a freedom in being in a post-test phase. I can focus on the lesson without worrying that I need to work on my test material. Or being afraid that my brain might lose something important if I try to stuff something new in there. Or wishing Kyoshi would only teach test material until the test was over.

I know I shouldn’t think this way even pre-test, but I can’t help it. It’s how I’m built. If I have to perform at a test, and it is a performance, I want to focus all my energy on getting ready for that test. The closer we get to the test date, the less I want to stray from test material.

But now, instead of thinking “How does this help me at the test?” I can embrace new ideas. I can play with them, think about them, see what works or doesn’t work for me.

It’s very freeing to realize I can just learn without worrying about performing! I can spend these next few years gaining a better understanding of the things I’ve been learning the past 6 years.

It’s freeing. It’s luxurious. It’s exhilarating! And I’m really excited about this time ahead of me!

Tonfa Walking

I have new walking buddies – my tonfa! I like to walk after dark, and even though I’m in a safe neighborhood, I’m still just a delicate flower who appreciates a little extra protection.

So far I’ve had about 20 minutes of instruction and have been shown a couple of patterns. Renshi said he’ll teach us more when we get the patterns down, but until then we just need to keep practicing those over and over.Tonfa Walking

I was going to work on the patterns in the living room but it was so nice out I wanted to go for a walk. I figured I could get the feel of the tonfa while I walked and if I was coordinated enough, I might even be able to work the patterns.

I started out slowly, just trying to get used to the weapons, then started working the patterns. I was worried I might hit my knee, but surprisingly I didn’t! I did, however, hit my elbow. Once. Which was enough, because when Wooden Tonfa meets Elbow, Elbow loses.

Because I live in Podunk, I kept waiting for Deputy Barney to pull up and ask what I was doing. I tried my best to look “normal” by swinging my tonfa when I was in less-lighted spots, and just carrying them when I walked under streetlights. My buddies and I made some pretty funny shadows – I was a 15-foot giant with really long arms!

It’s not the first time I’ve practiced my karate while I walk, since I’m usually working through combinations or blocks, but it’s the first time I carried weapons. So either the neighbors are used to the “crazy karate lady” wandering the streets or they were so busy wondering who in their right mind would go out in public dressed in a red hoodie, brown t-shirt, fuschia shorts and bright pink shoes that they failed to notice my walking buddies.

Now that I know I can walk and swing a weapon at the same time without breaking a knee or falling on my face, I’m sure I’ll do it again. I’d like to walk with my sai but I probably shouldn’t; I have a feeling those might attract a bit too much attention. But do you suppose anyone would notice if I walked with my bo?

Still Pretty

Popped a guy in the eye last night in sparring. He came back for more so I popped him again, same spot.

(Sensei needs to work on her control, doesn’t she?)

I felt really bad and apologized after class, only to hear,
“That’s OK. I’m still pretty!”

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

First there was the tumbling roll. You know the one – crouch down, tuck your chin to your chest, and roll forward over your head. We all did it in grade school. If we were really cool, we’d do it from a standing position.

Next there was the volleyball roll. I learned this one at summer volleyball camp. We hit the floor so many times that week, we totally lost our fear of it! Stretch your arm out to the side (because that ball can’t hit the floor!), fearlessly launch yourself across the floor, hit it and flip your feet over backwards. You’ll end up on your feet facing the net, and look pretty awesome in the process!

And then there’s a jujitsu roll. Ah, yes. That awesome roll where you reach your hand down across your body and hurl yourself over your shoulder. It’s neither a forward roll nor a sideways roll, but something in between.

I had a bit of trouble when I was learning this one. Rolling forward over my head? No problem. Throwing myself to the hard floor and flipping over backwards? No problem. Gracefully rolling over my shoulder on a mat? Uh…problem.

I spent so many years rolling forwards, backwards and sideways that the jujitsu roll confused my body! Or maybe it confused my brain. Anyway, I’ve managed to master the left side; it’s relaxed, fluid, and pretty darned good!

But the right side? Not so fluid. I try. Believe me, I try, but it could never be described as fluid. Or graceful. Or anything else you’d like associated with a roll, really. I picture myself looking somewhat like a large, odd-shaped box that’s been shoved off the back of a speeding truck. Thunk. Thunk-thunk! Thuuud.

Apparently I’m left-side dominant, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Cartwheels (when I could)? Left side. Splits? Left foot forward. Hurdles and starts out of the starting blocks? Left sided!

Last night I managed to stay on the mat when I rolled. It was a small victory! I’ve been known to roll off the mat or wander out of my own swim lane on occasion. Maybe I’m getting better? Hard to say! I’ll keep trying to improve my right side rolls, if only because I refuse to admit I can’t do them. (I might be just a little stubborn.) But for safety’s sake? I’m really hoping I never have to fall and roll to the right!

Sloppy

Sloppy. That’s the best word to describe how my karate feels these days. I look down and I’m wearing a black belt, but it doesn’t feel like my performance is at a black belt level. If there was a “Sloppy” rank in our system, I’d probably have it! 

Seems like I can’t hold a good stance for long, don’t kick high enough or hard enough, and sometimes forget the kata or self-defense moves. Tonight was one of those nights. My kicks weren’t snappy, I mixed up moves in our mid-level kata, AND my timing just felt off. Awesome.

I know that’s to be expected with my extended absence and my rehab work, but it’s still frustrating. I’m afraid of falling into bad habits that I’ll have to replace or break later. I’ve lost some ground and I’m fighting to regain it, but it’s not very fun. My mind’s ready to be back at it on a black belt level, yet my body’s being a slow poke in coming to the same decision.

I know there’s only one way to fix Sloppy – work, work, work! Workouts take more mental concentration than they did before I broke my toe, since now I’m having to compensate for the injury. And I’m gasping for breath more often. 😉 I need to pay really close attention to my techniques, slowing them down when necessary so I don’t keep this Sloppy rank forever, or even worse – trade it for a Bad Habit rank.

I think the timing will come back. I’m pretty sure the stances and kicks will improve. And hopefully, not too long from now, I won’t check to see if I really am wearing a black belt!