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Sometimes Failure Means Success

I failed in nearly all my weights tonight – and Shawn, my trainer, said, “Good work.” He says that often when I fail. I’ve gotten used to it, but I sometimes struggle with the concept.

As a runner, volleyball player and martial artist, I’ve never trained to fail – only to win. Win the race, win the game, and at all costs, win the fight! To fail is to lose. So this is tough for me – to  embrace failing.

The gym is one of the few places where failure is good, where failure is the goal. In my case, I lift a certain weight until I fail, which means I can’t complete another rep with proper form. When I get stronger and it takes longer for me to fail, my weights are raised. Occasionally, like tonight with my bicep curls, I failed very quickly and my weights were lowered. (Ugh. I’m still not happy about that!)

As I write this, I realize the dojo is another place where failure can be a benefit. We fail often when we spar, we fail when we try new self-defense moves, we fail while we are learning new katas. I never thought of that as being OK – only as things I needed to work harder on, things to fix. But now, due to my trainer’s coaching, I’m seeing failure in the dojo with new eyes.

When I fail during sparring, hopefully I learn from what I did wrong and maybe next time I don’t get popped in the face. When I fail doing a throw – even when I break my toe in the process – I learn what I did wrong and work to fix it.

Sometimes I’m OK with my failure and even proud of it. But too many times still, I get frustrated and Shawn reminds me that failure can be good, and failing sometimes equals success. I don’t know if I’ll ever 100% appreciate failing, but I’m trying!

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Where Do I Fit In?

I’ve seen a few articles lately that convey the idea that quitting martial arts is akin to quitting life. That to quit martial arts is to give up, to crap out on your training, to abandon your passion and your art, to let everyone down from your training partners to your Sensei. You might as well curl up in a corner and die, because you’re a loser if you quit.

Well to be honest, I think that’s a really dumb attitude. It smacks of all or nothing, and it feels like an elitist club that ostracizes anyone who doesn’t sacrifice their all for their training.

Martial arts is a lifetime activity – something that can be done forever (supposedly) and something that always has things one can learn. I get that.

But reality says the body isn’t always willing. The injuries accumulate, the desire to be hit or dropped on the floor wanes, recovery takes longer and longer, and the body just doesn’t always show the same desire as the mind – or vice versa.

The assumption seems to be that once the physical ability is no longer there, the karateka naturally transitions to the role of teacher. That’s nice and a compliment and all that, but for those like myself who don’t want to teach, where does that leave us?

I’ve never enjoyed teaching or even training my new employees. It’s not my gift, and it never will be; I don’t have the patience for it. And I tell people what to do all day at work, so I don’t want to go to the dojo and tell people what to do. That’s my time to refresh and renew my energy. A time to give my bossy, decision-making head a rest.

So the people who say you can still train regardless of your age? Maybe it’s true. I know of one 60+-year-old who still gets on the mat as a student during clinics and warrior weekends. He sets a great example for the rest of us and I admire him! But in my experience, he is in the minority.

And even if someone says you aren’t expected to keep up with the younger, fitter students, the majority of drills and classes are geared towards that demographic. And often times those are the students who are promoted faster, because they are more dynamic and they “look” or sometimes just “sound” better.

Most of those I know who claim you can train forever regardless of age or injury are either younger and don’t really know, or they’re older and not actually running up and down the mat doing drills, or being tossed on the floor, or doing 40 minutes of kata. They are the senior instructors, those who are passing the baton.

As a 54-year-old Nidan, I don’t see myself ever becoming an instructor. And my body protests more often than I’d like. So where do I fit in? Or maybe the question is do I fit in? If I don’t want to teach and my body can’t keep up with the younger students, is there a place for me?

Heard on the Mat…Oh NO!

Kyoshi bowed the class in then called me up to lead warm-ups. As I took my place in front of the class, a 7-year old girl piped up.

“Oh NO! You make me so…”
<pause while she screwed up her face and searched for the correct word>
TiReD!” she whined.

Just another proud moment in my martial arts career! 😀

Belly Full of Fat

90 minutes of karate on a belly full of fat. Blurgh.

I knew I should have eaten a salad at lunch but a burger sounded just too good. We went to a Mom & Pop burger place that I’ve heard about for years, but never tried.

Burger with bacon, jack cheese and Cajun sauce. Side of onion rings. Order of deep fried pickles. I don’t think I’ve had that much fried food in one sitting in 20+ years! But let me just say this: It was fabulous! These people know how to fry things perfectly. PERFECTLY! Crispy, perfectly browned, and not greasy at all. I’m a former food and beverage manager, a pretty good cook, and a really good eater so trust me when I say it was perfect. I wouldn’t lie to you!

Well guess what? I know this will surprise you. It wasn’t the best meal before a workout! I paid for it in class tonight! I knew it wasn’t going to be my best night when I was warming up and it didn’t get better as class wore on. I felt like I was sweating grease out of my pores and my stomach was lurching. I’m proud to say I made it through class – both open hand and weapons. At times I had my doubts, and at times it wasn’t pretty, but I made it! 

When it was all said and done I told Kyoshi I should probably kiss his feet for not running us up and down the floor during basics. I got lucky because tonight wasn’t a cardio class. Tonight was a bit more stationary, as we moved right into self-defense drills. All I can say to that is Thank Goodness!! If it had been a cardio class I’m pretty sure I would have had a problem.  🙂

So lesson learned? Yes, I think so. Next time skip either the fried pickles or the fried onion rings. Hahaha!! Maybe I didn’t learn my lesson well enough? Nah, I think I did. Heavy, fried foods may be delish but that belly full of fat isn’t good fuel for a workout!

Let’s hope this isn’t a lesson I soon forget, but put enough tasty food in front of me and who knows what’ll happen.  🙂

Oh, and what did I have for dinner? Fried chicken and tater tots!! OK, just kidding. That doesn’t even sound good. I had a little deli turkey, a few grape tomatoes, and a banana to offset the cramps in my legs. Maybe I am learning!

My Own Personal Trainers

Lots of athletes would  be thrilled to have their very own personal trainer. I have three! My son is a trainer specializing in working with golfers, and I’ve also got two four-legged trainers. They’re furry and adorable, and SO helpful when I work out!Riley and Romeo

My family got Riley, our spaniel, for me because I thought having a dog would get my butt off the couch and outside walking. I was right! Riley has gotten used to nightly walks, which is great when I get home by 8 p.m. and not so great when I don’t get home until 10-ish. We’ve taken some late walks!

What I didn’t realize when I got Riley was how um, encouraging he’d be during my workouts! He stares at me when I’m on the elliptical, puts his face between mine and the mat when I’m doing push ups, and tries to climb up in my lap when I’m doing wall sits. His extra 40 pounds makes those wall sits even more of a challenge!

Nap time!

Training Mom is exhausting. Time for a nap!

Now Riley has an assistant. My son got a puppy on Valentine’s Day. Romeo doesn’t quite have it down yet, but he’s learning fast. Tonight I was trying to hold side planks while Romeo licked my face. And licked. And licked. Lucky me – I had to do both sides, so my face is really clean!

I texted my son: There should be bonus points for holding side planks while your puppy licks my face!
Son: That’s the bonus for working out. Duh!

Yes, duh!  🙂

Bows and Curtsies

Saturday afternoon I was at the pre-black belt test workout. The focus was self-defense, so we worked our sets for close to 2 hours.

At one point Hanshi (9th degree, head of our system and my karate grand-daddy) stopped to watch one of my sets.

Hanshi: That looked good!

Me: Thank you, Sir. And I curtsied. Curtsied!

Hanshi: Don’t curtsy when I compliment you!

Me: Sorry, Sir. Thank you, Sir! And I bowed, just like I was supposed to.  😉

 

The Chicago Diet

Believe it or not, a week in Chicago eating all my favorite foods did not prepare me well for last night’s class!

Burgers at Billy Goat Tavern

The Pretty One enjoying his Cheezborger! Cheezborger! Cheezborger!

Seven days of Chicago hot dogs, Italian beef, cheese fries, coffee cake, pasta, Blackhawks watch party snack food, and more… Oh, I was a happy girl!!!

But that’s not exactly smart training food. Especially when you don’t get much exercise. The Pretty One and I walked around downtown Chicago for about 5 hours one afternoon. And my family spends lots of time shopping, which fortunately requires lots of walking.  That should count for something!  =D  But no kicks, no punches, no kata, no weapons, no “workout” so to speak.

I didn’t expect to be at my best last night, and I wasn’t. But I think I did a bit better than I expected. Class was a session of alternating kata and self-defense sets. I really enjoyed going back and forth between the two, but at some point, I ran out of energy. Pfffttttt. It was all gone. When we got to weapons, I had a tough time swinging my tonfa, and the jump spin in my tonfa kata? Bwahahaha!!!!

Italian Beef in ChicagoI really don’t want to blame it on my Chicago Diet — after all, I grew up on that stuff. And once upon a time (OK, 30+ years ago!) I was a decent hurdler and volleyball player…fueled by all that yummy stuff! So let’s just say I should have slipped in some karate while I was watching the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup. Yeah, let’s just say that!

And now that I’m back in Kansas City, hundreds of miles away from the temptation of my favorite foods, it’s time to detox. Bring on the green tea, fresh fruits & veggies, and that other healthy stuff. Definitely not as tasty as Chicago dogs and Italian beef, at least not to this Chicago girl, but it’ll help me perform better. At least that’s the plan!