Monday, 11 June 2012

The Journey Of A Thousand Miles....


There's a very famous old Chinese proverb that says that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Now, I haven't travelled a thousand miles (probably not even a metaphorical tenth of that) but I have come a long way in my karate journey in the last 3 years. With things as they've been the last few months I think it's time for a little self reflection on just where that journey has taken me, and just how far I've come.

It feels like a decade ago I first stood nervously in the dojo for Sunday evening senior class. Nervous, excited and terrified in equal measure, not knowing a single thing about karate and not even knowing if I cared enough to find out. Flash forward to now and things are very different. I look at the new people starting out in our classes and see (with a little amusement and a lot of trepidation!) that they look at me the same way I looked at the higher grade students when I started. With that "OMG, I could never do that what have I let myself in for?" expression. It's comforting to be able to say "hey, I've been where you are, just give it a shot, you can do more than you think".

So, what have I learned in this long and sometimes tumultuous journey? Well....

I've learnt some karate. Quite a lot of karate. Kata (13 in total - blimey, I think that's the first time I've actually counted them); kihon, kumite, taisabaki, pad drills, controls, escapes. Not to mention the less practical but no less important side - how to bow in/out, how to behave in class,  how to tie an obi, how to tie someone elses obi (imperative for anyone who teaches kids!).

I've leant to ride out the ups and down. I've had moments that have felt like shining brilliance (where I thought "wow, that's the best X, Y or Z I've ever done") and moments when I've considered giving it all up as a lost cause and investing in one of those signs that says "Bang head here". Both of those are important and it serves you well not to get too hung up on either the highs or the lows.

I've learnt that is okay to question. In fact, its good to question. I've learnt not to assume that just because something is the best thing for one person that means its the way forward for me. I've learnt to adapt my techniques to account for my weaknesses, and for my strengths.

I've learnt that I have more. That I have more power than I thought I had (and that it doesn't necessarily come from strength but from technique). That I have more stamina than I ever would have believed possible. That I can take a 3 hours pummelling (both physically and mentally) and still come out (almost) smiling at the end.

I've learnt that I can impart what I know to others and do a pretty reasonable job of it too.

I've learnt that I can control a room full of small, chattery, easily distracted small people, and have fun doing it.

I've learnt that sometimes what you're doing becomes NOT FUN. And that at those times its okay to step back. To take a break. To find the enjoyment again. That ultimately if you're not enjoying being there, then really, you shouldn't be. Life is too damn short to do things you don't love. That its okay to stop loving something for a little while and then come back and find the fun again.

I've learnt (and continuing to learn) that its a fine juggling act between embracing being where you are and looking forward to where you need or want to be. Sometimes you need to concentrate on the present, sometimes you need a push to move towards the future.

I've learnt that my motives for doing what I do are all my own. Unique to me. No one can tell me that my motives must be the same as their motives. That's never going to happen. We all come to this journey from different places and travel along separate paths to the destination.

I've learnt that you're truly never to old to take up something new.

I've learnt that fencing is about the most fun you have have with a pointy metal stick (more on that some other time).

I've learnt that sometimes it's as important for me to say be able to say "No" to doing something as it is to say "Yes". That I can't do everything and do myself and other people a disservice by trying to.

That's barely even touched the surface of the lessons and skill I've learnt from my karate journey, but my self reflection has been somewhat halted and cut short today by pesky work commitments. More on this rambling at a later date then, maybe. Certainly more about the aforementioned fun and pointy metal sticks to come anyway.

TTFN




Tuesday, 3 April 2012

When Life Kicks You In The Teeth.



For all of our martial arts training, there really is no defense against those times when life chooses to kick you in the teeth!

We've had one of those moments around here lately. Sadly my Mum passed away suddenly on 14th February. She went from being in reasonably good health to not being with us any more in the space of around 36 hours. It was quite the rollercoaster (one I definitely wouldn't pay to ride again!) and completely knocked me for six.

As well as dealing with the loss of Mum on an emotional level there have also been a lot of changes in terms of extra responsibilites coming my way -  dealing with issues regarding my younger brother who is profoundly disabled and still lives at home, assisting with financial organisation/ practical arrangements for my Dad etc.

In the beginning I did try to just maintain everything as it was. I was clearly kidding myself. I made the mistake of being imminently practical and not really allowing time for my own grief. I learnt that lesson the hard way and eventually ended up having a week off sick from work and from all other responsibilities (including karate training and assisting at classes).

When I finally felt my head was back together enough to go back to training I was struck down with THE most appalling back and neck problems. I haven't done any injury to my back, I suspect a lot of it has to do with maintaining a level of tension for so long (I tend to carry my anxiety in my neck, shoulders and back when I am dealing with stress.

So, in terms of training I'm pretty much feeling like I've taken about 4000 steps backwards. I've gotten to the point where I've been absent from it for so long that finding the motivation to go back becomes increasingly more difficult. I feel it's really difficult for me to make a commitment to the assisting side of things when I still don't know some days if I'll be able to get up and function for even the simplest of tasks.

I have already asked to lessen my teaching commitments to one class per week which I think will be a huge help in terms of balancing everything that's going on. I just need to muster up the motivation, and I suppose the courage, to get back on the metaphorical horse.

Classes are on a break over the Easter period so providing my back has improved I will be back to it on the Saturday after Easter. I just hope I haven't forgotten everything I've learnt! LOL

TTFN



Monday, 30 January 2012

Welcome to Hell. We hope you enjoy your stay!

I graded for 1st kyu-ho yesterday (black tip on brown belt). Far and away the worse grading experience of my karate journey so far. I'd had a very broken nights sleep the night before (if you cobbled together all the snippets of actual shut eye I'd manage it might total about 4 hours) with my little boy who is poorly with an ear infection. Coupled with other issues I've had with my back this week (a recurrance of sciatica) it was the first time I have felt so completely unprepared (both mentally and physically) at the start of a grading.

Beginning the session with already wavering confidence my performance was definitely affected. I was faced with questions I wasn't expecting (despite knowing to expect the unexpected on grading day) and by the end of the 2 hour session I was so tired that I couldn't even muster the brain power to implement the number 1 rule of defense......get out of the goddamn way!!

I will blog more about the gory details when I've had more time to think about the experience and assess what was good and what went wrong, and perhaps more importantly how I dealt with what went wrong. Not my finest karate hour.

If I had to sum up how I'm feeling about the whole experience right now I'd have to go with "irrationally over-emotional" to the point where thinking about parts of it has almost reduced me to tears even today.

I suspect I need more sleep (another broken night last night has not aided the catch up) and a little more time to be able to think about the experience more rationally and less emotionally. Thankfully, for my senior instructor it was very much a case of a fact finding mission to assess where I am up to in terms of where to begin with preparation for 1st Kyu and ultimately Shodan. That at least means that there will be tangible and constructive outcomes from the process allowing me to work on my weak areas.

When I've had more time to process 2 hours of hell I'll try to get into more sensible analysis.

In the meantime. TTFN.