Tag Archive | Martial Arts

Let’s Do This!

Let’s Do This!

I just heard the ref on tonight’s MMA fight say that, and I’m sure he was talking to me. OK, he was probably talking to the fighters, but it was applicable to me, too!

I’ve made my decision and I’m going for it – I’ve returned to karate! I now realize questioning my return was due in part to sleep deprivation and also in part due to a mood change because I wasn’t exercising. It’s amazing how those two factors can have such an impact on one’s mental condition.

Slowly, both those issues are being resolved. I’m now able to get more sleep, and that’s making a big difference. I’ve also committed to working out more, both inside and outside the dojo. I’ve noticed the more I work out, the better I feel – both physically and emotionally. The activity is chasing away my mini-depression, and I’m really grateful for that! People around me are probably relieved, since I’m getting back to my usual charming self.  😉

My toe still doesn’t bend much and I lost a lot of cardio conditioning while I was out. But those are just excuses to be overcome, and the only way to do it is to work hard and work often. I’m rewarding myself for every workout that is 30 minutes or more. It’s a silly little thing, but it’s working so I’ll keep doing it.

I know I’ve got a fight ahead of me. My biggest challenge is a stubborn, hard-headed, excuse-filled girl. But I know her well, and I’m pretty sure I can turn the tables on her and use those characteristics to succeed.

Well, wish me luck. Let’s Do This!

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My Crossroad

I’m at a crossroad. One direction is working hard and getting back in shape. The other direction is lethargy, and probably never working out again.

It’s been 8 weeks since I broke my big toe. 8 weeks without working out. 8 weeks of lost conditioning, lost muscle tone, lost reflexes.

CrossroadIn the last week or so I’ve noticed lethargy has set in like a heavy fog, and it scares me. I really feel I’m at the point of a major decision.

Do I get off the couch, work hard, sweat, strain my muscles and fight to get back in shape again?

Or do I stay on the sidelines, making excuses, and let my body settle?

It’s a life-altering decision, and a scary one. The choice I make now may be the last of its kind. Before now, I would have said it wasn’t even a choice. Of course I’d be back full strength! Of course I’d work as hard as I could, put in the extra effort to make a comeback! Why wouldn’t I?

But now, lethargy has snuck in. All these weeks it’s been quietly feeding on my frustration and lack of physical fitness, and now it’s attacking my mental fitness.

I’m tired. Seems like I’m always tired. I’m busy. But I’m always busy. There are a million excuses I can use to sit back and let lethargy take over. The question is, will I do it? Will I just take my black belt and melt back into the couch? Well? Will I?

The struggle is harder than I could have imagined! If I don’t go back to karate, I’ll have lots of free time. If I do return to karate, a battle awaits me. So in my head, I’m struggling with the decision, yet still marveling that I could even think about not going back.

Inertia is a powerful force. I know the longer I “wait” to be in good enough shape to workout, the harder it will be to get started. Rationally, I know the benefits to returning far outweigh the benefits of continuing to sit on the sidelines. Rationally.

Emotionally, I waffle on whether I can do it or not. Do I have the will to make it happen? Do I have the mental strength to fight myself, to drive myself, to endure the struggles of making a comeback?

There’s my crossroad. Which way do I go?

Realizing I’m Not Superwoman

It’s a hard realization to come to – that I’m not Superwoman after all.

All these years I thought I was tough. That I could do anything, push through any injury by sheer force of will. Mind over muscle, so to speak.

And then I broke my toe. Not just any toe, but the big toe on my right foot. And not just broke, but BROKE. As in “snapped sideways, busted open, looking like it got caught in a lawnmower, requiring surgery and a pin to set it properly” broken.

Broken toe set with a pin

Believe it or not, I didn’t request the pink bandage – the nurse chose it. It’s perfect!

It didn’t really hurt when I broke it, and it didn’t hurt much after the surgery. Superwoman doesn’t feel pain, right? So I didn’t think too much of trying to work out less than 2 weeks after my surgery, even though I was still in a boot with a big bandage protecting the stitch and protruding pin. 

I took the boot off and hobbled around a bit. I settled into a kiba dachi to do basics with the class. I even used a yoga mat so my feet wouldn’t slip! I twirled my new bo around; the temptation was just too much for me to pass up. I did maybe half of the 90 minute class. I was a little sore when I finished, but I had a broken toe so I wasn’t surprised.

And then… Then I discovered I’m not Superwoman, and what a disappointment that was! Much to my irritation, the next afternoon my foot and ankle puffed up and the pain kicked in. I spent the weekend on the couch watching movies and drooling from painkillers. Talk about a wake-up call.

It was difficult, but I had to come to terms with a few things:

1) I had a serious injury and I needed to heal before I worked out again.

2) Sometimes mind over muscle fails. That Bible verse, “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” is sometimes true, whether you like it or not.

3) And the worst realization of all…I’m really NOT Superwoman, darn it!

Honestly, I didn’t like any of those revelations, but there they were and I couldn’t ignore them. I’m not a superhero, and I had to heal. It was back to the sidelines for me. I still attended classes, but instead of working out I watched or helped teach.

Yesterday, almost 5 weeks post-surgery I did another Superwoman check because, of course, I’m still not convinced she doesn’t live in me somewhere. This time I went slower, with the memory of last time’s pain and some monitoring by my instructor to keep me in check. I did a very modified workout. Stretching and crunches, basics in a standing position, a little bit of “tai chi” self defense, and some no-step weapons kata.

Mentally it made me feel like Superwoman. Physically, I didn’t have her power and speed, but I did OK and I made it through today with minimal pain. I’m now lounging on the couch, but this time no drooling, no ice pack, no hydrocodone. I’m calling that a success!

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not Superwoman. Actually, that’s not true — I’m a work in progress. But if I can’t be her, she can be my role model, right? And while I’m waiting for my toe to heal, I’ll do my best to remember that I have to go at Michele’s pace instead of the pace of a lady in a blue leotard and boots. That’s contrary to my personality, so I expect I’ll need several reminders. But if I behave myself and remember who I am, eventually I’ll be back up to speed and acting like I’m the real Superwoman!

Blocking…with my face

“You’re gonna eat a punch!”

That Sensei — he’s one smart ninja! And he’s right – I have eaten a punch or two.

I have a terrible habit of stepping into a punch. Maybe I’m just excited to get to the block. Maybe I think my attacker needs help. I don’t know why I do it! Stepping in wouldn’t be such a bad thing if I was stepping in with an upward block or even a parry block. But unfortunately, I block with my face.

Yep, my face! I can’t tell you how many times someone’s told me I’m lucky they pulled their punch. And they’re right – I am!

Just for the record, I don’t recommend blocking with your face; there are much better ways to meet a punch. I suggest you use the conventional methods of blocking – with your hands and arms.

I don’t realize I’m leaning in, so when people point it out I’m usually surprised. I’m also surprised when, on occasion, I get popped in the face! Funny how leaning in and forgetting to block can lead to that, right?

I’m trying not to be so helpful to my attacker, and I’m working on blocking with my arms for a change. Or moving out of the way. Or waiting for the punch to come to me, instead of me rushing towards the attack. I didn’t say I’m being successful, only that I’m working on it.

In the meantime, if you need to increase your self-esteem and feel like a bad-ass, work with me – you’ll get a punch in every time. Maybe two…

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!!

Working Kata, One Movement at a Time

Last night in Brown & Black Belt Class we worked on kata step-by-step, one movement at a time.

Hanshi called out the slow cadence, with a pause after each step or block or strike. When we sped up, we paused after a short series of movements.

When kata is broken down in this way, the content of the form can be studied. One punch. One block. One kick. That’s all that matters. Not the movement that came before, and not the movement that will follow.

Moving one step at a time ensures each technique is completed before moving on. I could focus on the most important movement, the one being executed at the moment. And by putting everything into that one movement — all my power and all my speed — I was reminded that each movement should be a stopping movement, the one that would end the fight.

Working kata for content is a great way to perfect each kata movement, in sequence, at 100% power, and is an exercise suitable for any kata and any level of student.

All Aboard the Ninja Bus!

I’m getting excited! Tomorrow morning we’re loading up Renshi’s Ninja Bus and heading to Texas for the 3rd Annual ABBA Black Belt Retreat.

I’ve never been to this retreat, so I’m really looking forward to it. Master Instructors for the weekend include: Hanshi Dan Kennedy (the head of my system, the USKK), Hanshi Roger Greene, Hanshi Ken Baker, Hanshi Ron Rogers, and Hanshi Ray Montoya. Some of these 9th & 10th degree black belts will be sitting on the board at my black belt test next month, so it’ll be good for me to have more exposure to them. Hanshi Montoya is sponsoring the clinic at his dojo, Montoya’s Shorin Kempo Karate.  

Not only am I excited about the instructors and clinic sessions, but the trip should be a blast! What’s so fun about spending 12 hours — each way — trapped in a vehicle with Renshi and Captain Random? Once the energy drinks are guzzled, you never know what the topic of conversation will be!

Captain Random and I know that if we can get Renshi to laugh really, REALLY hard, he’ll laugh so hard he cries, and then he’ll have to pull the car over until he can see again.

How did we figure that out? We got him laughing so hard in Colorado Springs a couple of years ago that he had to pull over on the mountain road on the way to the Royal Gorge. Since there isn’t a shoulder to pull off on, that meant when we pulled to the side and stopped, all traffic following us had to stop, too. And that was only one of the times he had to stop driving that weekend!

I’m expecting a great weekend of both laughter and tears, along with some great instruction.

All aboard the Ninja Bus!