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.


[Mat] said...

"It's not about how you look, it's about what you can do with the body you've got."


Those words cannot be more right,true, excellent.

Sometimes, I wish I was closer to some bloggers, we'd have much fun.


somaserious said...

We can all be close, us bloggers, as long as we read each other's stories and comment when we feel the need. It's almost impossible not to feel close to those you read. I know you mean close as in seeing the person, but that's the beauty of bloggers, the almost anonymity of friendship. Anyway, thanks for the comment, and I, too, wish I were closer to some bloggers. Fun indeed!

Patrick Parker said...

Awesome post. Great lesson.

Steve said...

Good for you! We should never, ever allow gi's to become Americanized and be tight and spandex-like! Can you imagine?!?!

somaserious said...

Patrick: Thanks for the comment! I put a lot into this post.

Steve: uck, can you imagine?! :)

Michele said...

Excellent post. I agree that karate pushes people to be their best. Nothing could be better than to feel and look...strong!