It may seem a little odd for ( to quote my son) ” for an earth muffin hippy wanna be” to go find my health both mentally and physically in the art of Shotokan Karate. I know that on the surface my lifestyle seems to have no connections to my current studies of Marital Arts. Well lets just talk about all this for a minute. If you have been following along for any length of time you should know that I had foot surgery last year and quit my physically active job when my beloved mother in law came to stay with us after her surgery and radiation treatment for throat cancer.
Well after the 13 months in an air cast and 6 months at home I had lost a lot of physical strength,tone and balance. I gained a lot of weight somewhere in the area of 40 pounds. I hear that this is totally normal for some one who has to sit down and rest as part of the recovery process. But I was not going to go back to work any time soon and my foot was now with out a bone. That little bone meant that I was not running. jumping or doing aerobics any time in the future. But the Dr did say that I could do exercise that was less stressful to my feet like walking, bike riding, swimming, yoga and most of the Marital Arts. The key here is “Most”, Shotokan is not really on the list of gentle activities. So after getting back on my treadmill and not really loving it, I was lucky to met Larry a 5th degree black belt in Shotokan. After a very long talk and a beautiful smile Larry said that I was perfect for Karate and that my age (46 is a little old to start Karate) and foot would not be a problem at all. The conversation in my head argued with him for a while with everything we always say to our selves,”I am to old, I am in terrible shape, I may get hurt, I am not good at this”. Then after a few minutes, I thought to myself with a deep breath “so who are you going to trust in this life a 68-year-old black belt who does this every week or your Fear. I put my hope and trust in Larry and started a new journey that following week.
I am not usually a fearful person, I am not shy and I am alright with making a fool of myself. So no need for fear as the new student in class but I was and still am on some days. I have in the past been physically assaulted, I have been a victim of domestic violence ( not from my current husband but my first) and intimidation. I do not like men to touch me and I certainly do not like the thought of fighting them. The class is full of large male strangers and strange men mean that I get a little unsettled. To become a Karate student I would at some point have to face all of these men in an active aggressive way and fight with them. This was harder than just showing up for a work out. This was training for my mental strength and my emotional strength too. Facing them in sparing is still unnerving and will be for a long time. I have not totally fallen apart yet but I am sure at some point I will. The best part is that it is a safe place to fall apart, I have nothing but support in my Dojo.
Most people generally understand the amount of time and energy getting physical fit takes, it is a part of a process. Some people want to lose weight to look good for the appeal from the outside world and that is fine. Some want to get fit for the health benefits (me included). But Karate is about strength, not so much about fitness. Strength of mind, body and spirit. Fitness is a huge part of the training but it not the end result that we trying to achieve. It is a place to push your limitations to the edge and find that the limitation has moved and you are stronger and have new limitations. Some things in this life I can not change, my age for example, or my sex or some physical limitations, but just about every other thing is under my control to change. If I am fat I can eat less, if I am sad I can doing something to make myself feel better, If I am weak I can work out to gain more strength. If I am frightened I can discover what it is that is making me scared and face it. This is my journey to strengthen everything about myself… my body, my mind and my spirit.
I hope that with the help of my new training I will be better able to face what is coming in the future of our families life. That as the sun is setting on one life that I will be better prepared to face the future of my life with out my best friend and mother in law. That in the future I am tempered by fire, hardened and strong when I need it most. That my Karate student life will continue and I will be able to have another year of breaking my own barriers.
In the immortal words of band the Eagles from the song: Already Gone…
Well I know it wasn’t you who held me down,
Heaven knows it wasn’t you who set me free,
So often it happens that we live our lives in chains,
and we never even know we have the keys,
And I am already gone,
And I am feeling strong,
I will sing this victory song… Whooo.hoo,hoo, whoo,hoo,hoo!