Tag Archive | training

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.

Advertisements

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?

Doesn’t that feel good?

Matt: How was class?

Me: My legs were shaking and I was out of breath.

Matt: Doesn’t that feel good??

Yep – it did feel good! First time in class in two weeks, and I made it through.

Fortunately, Renshi took pity on us and didn’t have us do circuits – I probably would have needed oxygen. We worked basics, kata, and a little bunkai. My legs were shaking from holding the horse stances, and I admit I wasn’t at my best, but I didn’t expect to be. I made it through both open hand and a 30-minute weapons class. Yea me!

Oh, I did have a little “whoops” tonight. My hands were so sweaty (seriously? why do hands sweat?!?) one of my tonfa went flying out of my hand. Good thing I was on the end and it flew away from everyone else!

Welcome back! Haha!

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!!