Tag Archive | Karate

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.

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!

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!  🙂

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?

My Big Broken Toe – Photos for Friends

Recently I celebrated the 3 year anniversary of The Big Toe Break, or “compound fracture” as it’s medically called. I always thought a fracture was a crack, but now I know it’s a break. And a compound fracture means the skin was broken. Mine was definitely a compound fracture. I guess if you’re going to do something, do it all the way!

Freshly wrapped after my first follow-up visit.

Freshly wrapped after my first follow-up visit.

As I hit the 3 year mark for my little incident, I asked my FB friends who wanted to see the pictures again. Many of them had told me how much they’d enjoyed them the first time around, and I wanted them to have the opportunity to enjoy them again! Yes, I’m that generous! I received mixed responses from said friends, so my compromise is to post the photos here and let the brave look and the weak pass. I’ve made the photos thumbnail sized so the scary ones won’t jump out and poke you in the eye. Don’t open them if you don’t want to look! If you’re like me, though, you’ll be eagerly enlarging them. 😉

I broke my big toe a week after I tested for Shodan. Prior to my test I was tired and klutzy, so I was extra careful about anything I did in class. The week after my test I was still tired and klutzy, but was no longer wrapped in bubble wrap and wasn’t as cautious since the test was already over.

I was doing a leg sweep in Black Belt Class. You wouldn’t think throwing someone else would be trouble, but that’s how I broke my toe! I planted my foot behind my uke, Andy, then stopped to think about what I was doing, and after a few seconds continued with the sweep.

I really should have started all over again, but now I’m just Monday Morning Quarterbacking.

I’m not exactly sure what happened but somehow when I took Andy down I went with him. He jumped up and I rolled over and sat up on my knees. Kyoshi asked if we were OK. I said I was, but thought I jacked up my toe. It didn’t hurt but it felt a little funny. No big deal, or so I thought, until I heard one of the students behind me say, “Um, there’s blood.” Well, that got everyone’s attention, including mine!

Broken Toe

Newly broken and on the way to the hospital.

I wanted to turn around to see it but the other students were reluctant to let me look. Finally they let me turn around, but someone pulled my shoulders against their legs to support me. I certainly wasn’t prepared for what I saw!

Contrary to freaking out, I was really curious. I’d never seen anything like that in my life and I wanted to look at it more closely! I’m pretty sure I could work in an emergency room or trauma unit and hold it together. I wasn’t in pain, so I was more curious than anything.

Well, the guys only let me look at it for so long and then it was decided that a) I should stop bleeding all over the mats; and b) someone should take me to the emergency room. They wrapped my foot in paper towels, put a mat on the floor of a truck, and Uke Andy became Ambulance Driver Andy.

But before I would get in the car I insisted someone take pictures of my toe. (I learned that from another Black Belt who insisted on taking pictures of the gash above his eye before he went to the ER. See? The advanced students teach us more than just karate!)

After checking my crazy-level to see if I was serious, Kyoshi used my phone to take a few photos. Aren’t you glad? Personally, I think they’re pretty good shots and the color was quite vivid! I was even asked a couple of days later asking if the photos had been photo-shopped as an April Fool’s Day joke (I broke it on March 31st).

Well, long story still long, after a couple of delays due to “real” incoming traumas, I was put under and the doctor got to work. He put in a pin to hold the bone steady and a long stitch to close up the rip.

Broken Toe

After the stitch was removed. The pin had to stay in another week – the bone wasn’t healed enough.

The pin was in for a few weeks, the stitch not so long. I was in a boot for 6 weeks, which I did not enjoy. I blinged out my boot because it was ugly, and I became known at the podiatrist’s office as The Girl with the Blinged Boot.

Three years later, I have nearly full range of motion in my toe. It looks straight but it doesn’t bend all the way. I can tell when a storm is coming in by the ache. Sometimes it hurts after I work out on the mats. But for the most part, it’s more normal than I had hoped.

The podiatrist was amazing! Despite being pulled off the golf course to attend to me, he took great care of me. He told me, “You are one lucky lady!” I agree. Lucky to have an amazing podiatrist, lucky to be healed.

I’ll just leave these here. Enjoy!  😉

Broken Big Toe

I posted this to FB. Didn’t look so bad on my little phone screen but it grossed out more than a couple of people.  🙂 I didn’t realize you could see the bone sticking out!

Broken Toe (Compound Fracture)

Lovely!

Broken Toe - Waiting in the ER

Waiting in the ER. It didn’t hurt until the doctor stuck a needle in my toe to numb the pain.

IMG_0036

Party in the ER! My son (sorry I ruined your golf plans!) and Karate friends.

Broken Big Toe - Healing!

After the pin was pulled. Looks pretty good, doesn’t it?

Broken Big Toe

Underside of the toe

Broken Toe - Follow up visit #1

First follow up visit when I got a look at the post-surgery toe. Pin and stitch still intact. So is my pedi! 😉

Broken toe in the boot (pre-bling).

Home, Sweet Home with my really lovely boot and a hospital sock!

 

Get Well Package from the Sisters

Get Well Package from my sisters made me smile!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Test Anxiety

I have test anxiety. I never had test anxiety in school, and never when we had a small karate club and tested within that group. But now I have major test anxiety when it comes to black belt tests. Ugh.

The biggest contributors to my test anxiety are not wanting to embarrass my instructor and not wanting to look like an idiot. If I’m uncomfortable with my knowledge or my fitness, I am really hesitant to test.

I never want anyone to look at me and wonder how on earth someone thought I was ready to test. I feel a responsibility to represent my Sensei with a good showing. I want to show that I’ve earned my rank.

I know perfection isn’t expected at a test. It’d be nice, of course, but in reality we all have bad days. In fact, last year I forgot a few moves in my kata during my test, yet I still passed…with laughs. I was one of the last black belts in the room to know I missed something! Probably a good thing I didn’t know or I would have been flustered, right?

I know if I’m injured or have “dings” that keep me from doing my best, but the watchers don’t know it. As students we know perfection is not required, but the non karateka attending the test may not. I hate the thought of looking bad or feeling stupid in front of a bunch of people I don’t know. Looking dumb in front of people who know me well? Not a problem!  🙂

The bottom line is that it’s on me to be at my best when test time rolls around. To train hard, pay attention in class, work on my fitness, and study, study, study for that test!

Even though I wouldn’t test for 3rd degree for a minimum of 2 years, I need to work hard now. Not 4 months before the test, not after I receive a test notice, and not 3 weeks from today, but now, starting with today’s workout and tomorrow’s classes. I’ve “rested” for the last year, but rest period is over.

So here I go!

Better fitness? I’m trying to workout every day and I’m really enjoying it!

Smart eating? Working on it but always a struggle for a sugar freak.

Getting to class consistently? Tough due to my work schedule, but I’ll make a renewed effort at it.

Working on my material at home in between classes? I started today!

It’s my job to learn my material. Repetition, repetition, repetition will be my friend. “Again” will become my favorite word. Excuses are just a waste of time and not to be tolerated.

Two years and counting to my next test. It’s time to get to work!