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March 10, 2005

In which I paint myself into a corner...

I've mentioned karate here several times, mostly in reference to my children taking it or me taking them to it. What I don't usually mention is my personal connection and commitment (and the reason behind it) to the sport.

In college, I needed PE credits to graduate, which makes no sense, really. I mean, I'm PAYING to go to school, I should be able to CHOOSE whether or not I want to take PE. Anyway, I've never been athletically inclined (could explain why I didn't want to take PE!) so choosing a 'sport' in college was a challenge. I had been taking theater and dance classes most of my life but I'm not exactly a 'team player' unless that 'team' is a 'cast' and by 'playing' you mean music. After some procrastination, I finally chose my sports in my junior year. Since I had practiced Archery for many years when I was younger, I took that as an easy A. I also took Fencing, which I absolutely loved.

Notice a trend? Yeah, no team to rely on, just me, my weapon, an opponent and a lot of aiming. Any wonder why I like darts so much?? If only there were an opponent on the board, I'd probably throw better.

Anyway, even with both Fencing and Archery, that still left me with another credit to fill. One day while playing Uno in the Commons (which, by the way, SHOULD be a sport IMHO), my friend Brian mentioned that he was going to be helping his sensai teach karate to earn credits toward his sports therapy degree. Until that moment, I really didn't know Brian was a jock. He was one of the more stable of our stage crew, always quick with a joke and ever the peacemaker when troubles came up. The fact that he was one of my favorite people to be around made me start asking questions about the karate he took (which was, for the record, Tang Soo Do under Master Richard Byrne).

At first glance, I worried that taking karate might not be a good match to my *mostly* pacifist nature but I couldn't deny the thrill I got when taking fencing. I actually got very good at reading my opponent and reacting to whatever they threw at me. I also found I enjoyed training myself to be focused and using subtle intimidation techniques to feint my opponent out of position. The elegance of fencing was what hooked me, though ... there I was, unathletic, but I could use my dance background to my advantage.

Brian was taking fencing with me and, after being beaten several times by yours truly, he began encouraging me to take the karate class with him. He said he would be glad to help me out and provide any extra tutoring I might think I needed. Well, that was the dealbreaker ... what girl in her right mind would say to to 'private lessons' from a guy who also happened to be funny, kind, cute and unattached? Hey, I was 20, what do you expect? I needed incentive to exercise and that was good enough for me.

Class started the next semester and when I reported to the dance studio/dojo, there was Brian in his gi with a black belt. He had failed to include that little detail. My respect for him shot through the roof ... not once had he ever shown off or even mentioned the color of his belt, nevermind a black belt. His humility showed through in class, also, as he became a mentor of sorts to me on my quest to understand the sport. You see, I'm not just someone that follows directions blindly. I like to know history, philosophy, strategy. I didn't just play the sport ... I became an advocate of the sport.

I enjoyed it tremendously, though I never did as well as I had hoped I would. I had a few injuries, probably from stretching myself too thin that semester and not getting enough rest. After all, I was in school full time, working two jobs and performing the lead in that semester's play, along with nightly 'study sessions' at the local pub. Brian had to reset my finger when it got jammed during sparring. Full contact, no protection, what were we thinking? He helped me rehab after a hyperextended hip and a twisted knee almost derailed the play. He gave me tips on how to make sure that didn't happen again. He held my hand when I felt like quitting and cheered me on when I finally master something. The high point of the semester was a road trip into Boston to see a demonstration by Master Byrne and Bill "Superfoot" Wallace. Abso-frickin'-lutely awesome.

I didn't get far that semester ... 'stage fright' makes testing a bitch for me but I did my best. I got my yellow belt and was happy. Most everyone in the class got to half-yellow or yellow.

I got much more than a credit and a yellow belt that semester, though. I gained a sense of confidence that I had never had before, a surety in my abilities, a safety within my own skin that I had always lacked. As a two time survivor of violent crimes (one by a friend of the family and one by a stranger), I had lived most of my life up to that point looking over my shoulder, afraid to draw attention to myself for fear someone would try to take advantage of me again. Through this class, not only did I learn how to be still and be aware of what was going on around me but I was pretty secure in my ability to stop another violent attack from happening. The few times I actually drew on my 'skills', things were over before they started. Amazing how the threat of someone fighting back will actually scare most bullies pretty effectively.

That was then ... a long time ago. A lifetime. 20 years to be exact. Unfortunately, the techniques work better with the devil you don't know. The devil you do know can get in your head, make you wonder what the hell you were thinking, trying to stand up for yourself, as if you were worth the fight. Yeah, the last time I tried to stand up for myself against a threat, I got pushed across a room and landed on my pride, proving the aggressor's point that I was worthless and clumsy. Yet I still went on with the wedding. Sometimes it makes me wonder ...

ANYWAY ... this is now. I'm going to be 41 in May. I'm overworked, overweight, overextended yet here I am, seriously contemplating taking karate again. How seriously? I just bought a gi. I've discussed it with the sensais where my kids take. I've even discussed it with my kids (and they haven't laughed too much). I've been stretching and doing the exercises for months, along with yoga and pilates to build up muscle strength. I've caught myself in the mirror, seeing if I can still throw a good punch, chamber right, augment my blocks. I haven't practiced my keyah yet but you know I'll be all over that when the kids aren't around.

See, not only am I not athletic, I'm petrified of making a fool of myself. I don't know how much my ego can take but we'll have to see.

I start soon. Gotta back up the talk with action.

*Rei and Prepare*

(for inspiration, here's a bit about Bushido posted by a friend of mine that I refer to for inspiration and guidance.)

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Prosemonkey published on March 10, 2005 8:01 PM.

Decisions, decisions... was the previous entry in this blog.

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