Thursday, March 27, 2008


Oooo, class was so much fun today! Remember the student I was teaching and I got this weird vibe and all? Turns out he's actually pretty darn cool. He did aikido for seven years and today he taught our class. It was fantastic! I'd done some aikido before, but only briefly, but we have done the rolling and falling used in aikido in our dojo for as long as I can remember. I love the roll and today at the end of class boy did we roll! We also practiced the first escape you learn, and I have no idea what it was called. You use tenken stepping to move off to the side so that you are shoulder to shoulder with the tori and then step back using your arm to ward off and drop the tori. It's a beautiful move. I think all aikido is beautiful, but have never been around an aikido dojo. However, when we move I believe there is one near where we are going so I may just have to join. I love aikido, love the way the movements are executed. It suits my body. The best part is that it stresses the use of ki and hara, which is so important in any martial art. Muscle will only get you so far. Sensei remarked today how we will be doing more of this in the weeks to come. The trick is to practice it inbetween those days. So far I've incorporated another day in the dojo to practice. Now I just need more people to practice with. There's a kohai that's been practicing with me, but more bodies means more learning, but I'll take what I can get! This kohai is really good and he's a san kyu which means he's been around for a while. We'll see. Once the weather is tolerable we'll go outside to train, which I absolutely love. Soon enough.

Friday, March 21, 2008

It never really ends, does it...

Yesterday I was challenged on a few diffierent levels with a new student. Apparently this man had previous experience with judo and aikido but had not practiced in some time. First thing, used to those styles and not karate, which is a bit "harder". Sensei sent me over to him to go through eight point blocking. So, we commenced. Went into horse with him facing me and began the blocks. He then sat in a horse stance that was too low (down on my level, which is low since I was much shorter than he was) and leaned too far forward. I said, "you don't have to sit that low" and he shrugged his shoulders and stayed there. So I stopped with the blocks and corrected the stance. All this time I'm getting a very defensive feeling from him, and was not sure if it was me or really him. Moving on. I faced him again and this time he was standing upright. I asked him to get back into horse stance and he said, "Why." Hmm. My response was, "this is how we train. We stand in horse stance when we do blocks to train the legs and to train our bodies to get used to a different way of moving." No comment, another shrug of the shoulders. Then I stood in front of him and we both faced the mirror. I tried to move off to the side so that he could see himself in the mirror, but every time I moved he just moved back behind me. I noticed that he was watching me while we went through the blocks, if only to see the blocks. When I mentioned that he should watch himself in the mirror his blocking became much smoother. He also had asked me some other question that I cannot remember right now, but I gave him an answer that surprised me. I remember feeling surprised at how easily I had answered his question. This was an incredible learning experience for me because I've been having difficulty speaking clearly when I'm instructing. It is far easier for me to show the movement than to explain the movement. When I get into explaining I often say too much, add too many things into the equation. This time I did not do that and I was definitely put on the defense with how he was taking my instruction. I'm glad for this experience because I'm sure it will not be the last time I will feel this way. Lessons come when you need them. I'm not sure what the defensive feeling was. Maybe because his reactions seemed a little lackadaisical and it bothered me. Or that could just be who he is. I was only with him for five minutes tops, but first impressions are made within the first seven seconds (or something like that) of meeting someone. With new students sensei will send over his upper belts one at a time to teach different things.

I'm going to cut into this post with something else. I just got off the phone with a client of mine who's husband (also a client of mine. Both of them very close to me) had a massive stroke three weeks ago. He passed last night at home with his family around him. This man was in his early 70's and still working carpentry (he had his own business), going at it like a madman. This man never stopped. Every time he came in for his massage I would get the biggest hug and kiss from him, a bear hug! Full of life and love. He would do anything for those close to him. Never a hateful word from his mouth. He was very true with who he was and how he lived his life. I'm filled with a profound sadness right now. Yet another lesson to learn is about death. This may not be the appropriate blog to put this in, but I think it just may be right. My path right now is all about being okay with who I am and where I am going. Death is a major player and I'm afraid of it. Who isn't? It's also about being honest with my feelings, sadness being one of them right now. I think that when you are in the moment in karate it's your truest self performing the moves because if it's not the moves just don't work. It's so obvious, at least to me, when someone is distracted and they are in class. I will miss this man very much, but this is also life. It's a big circle.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why do I stay?

I've been reading chapters in "In the Dojo" by Dave Lowry as I get the chance. It's a wonderful book and I'm sure many of you have read it. I just finished the chapter on students and the last paragraph was a good one. If you ask any karateka why they started you will get many different answers that come easily. However, ask that same karateka why they stay and they may not be able to give an answer right away. It seems to get a little more complicated the longer you are "in it". At least that's the way it's been for me. Why do I stay? There are a few typical reasons: I love it, it makes me feel great, it's always a learning experience. If you ask me to look a little deeper I have to do a little more thinking about why I stay. At this point in my journey I have more frustration with my training, mostly due to being too hard on myself, asking to much. There is only so much I can do right now, and that's not an excuse. I train at least four days a week. I would train seven, but there are other factors in my life right now that also need my attention and I need to recognize that and respect that. There's work and there's my family. Training around my three year old is never a good idea. He gets upset, wants my attention, which he should have. There will be a time when he will be right at my side doing kata and kihones (at least I hope he will be there) and it will be easier to train with him. My husband also needs my attention. While he understands how important karate is in my life that understanding only goes so far. He is not a karateka and will never be one, and I also need to understand that.

Karate is always on my mind: how my positioning could be better, how my hara could be stronger, how do I get those two to co-exist? I stay because it makes me think about how I hold my body and how I hold my mind. There is also the ritual behind it all. I am a habitual person and karate is very habit-oriented. I stay because of the people I train with. Each person possesses a different way of training, and some people are more challenging than others. I try to train with each and every one of my kohai and sempai. It provides a more rounded experience and I learn so much from them. What it comes down to is the learning. I am always a beginner because there is always something new to learn about the same move you have been doing over and over for 9 years. It is important that I always remember that because it will keep me humble in my practice.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

An extremely entertaining clip

So I just finished watching the movie "Equilibrium" starring everyone's favorite Batman, Christian Bale. The end fight scene was fantastic and I found it on youtube (what can't you find there these days!). It's a great movie, with a "gun kata" included. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

How karate changed the way I feel about my body.

As I was paying for lunch today and chatting with a friend, the woman taking our money said, "Oh yeah, I recognize you, you're that karate chick." I was taken aback, mostly because being recognized as someone who does karate doesn't happen to me very often. It made me feel proud. The next words out of her mouth were, "You've lost a lot of weight." That made me feel a bit funny on the inside and is the reason I chose to write about this very topic today. Ever since my body became "womanly" I've harbored resentment towards it: too short in both stature and torso, my belly was always a bit poochy and sometimes more than a bit, my legs were too stocky. Those awful feelings of sadness and embarassment are still around to this day and I often find myself staring at my middle and thinking, "Man, will I EVER have a flat tummy", and "should I really care about having a flat tummy?!" Images of Buddha show him with a full tummy, laughing, not a care in the world. This is how I want to be, how I try to be. It is how I feel when I do karate. Those body image issues virtually melt away in the dojo. Yes I catch myself staring at how I look in my gi, how my belly doesn't really show, but then I let it go. Karate gave me a boost in how I look at my body and more importantly how I perceive the way I look. I look strong, my stances are low, I can do push-ups with little difficulty (okay, most of the time and depending on my energy level), I look STRONG. Karate has given me an outlet for those resentful feelings, which are not at all productive. The remark about me having lost weight really got to me. I never try to lose weight because I don't believe in dieting. Diets get you no where unless you change the way you eat for good. Most of the time I eat a fantastic diet of mostly organic foods. There are a few days during the week when I indulge a bit too much (hey, I'm from Vermont, home of Ben and Jerry's...) so the next day I eat better and lay off the crap. There has never been a time in my life when I felt the need to starve myself. There was a friend in junior high school who used to throw up. She got me to try it, and it was disgusting. How anyone can do that on a regular basis is beyond my realm of understanding. All in all I worship my body, I push it to higher and higher limits. There's just this middle of me that I wish looked differently. Perhaps I'll never get over that, and perhaps one day it will just vanish completely. What is comes down to is this: love your body for where it takes you, love your body for what it gives you, love your body for how far you can push it, just love you body. It's our locomotion, our vessel. Treat it with respect and kindness and it will last you a lifetime.

There are times in class when I just want to drop. The sweat is dripping into my eyes and I can barely breathe. So I breathe more deeply into my belly, expanding it instead of sucking it in. Once I do that I can breathe easier. I absolutely love those moments. I've always pushed myself, it makes me feel good on the inside. My goal for this month is to do one handstand push-up. Just one. Yesterday I tried to do just that and what happened was I pushed awfully hard into the floor and nothing happened. Today I tried it again and I felt lighter, but still only pushed into the floor. Tomorrow I'll try it again. I will do one handstand push-up by March 31. It's not about how you look, it's about what you can do with the body you've got.