Progress

I ironed my patches onto my uniform. I feel accomplished, yet also not. I have to sew all around the edges of them tomorrow, using the machine, and I’m more than a touch nervous about that. However, the patches look reasonably straight so far, and I am glad that that step is finally finished. I had intended to do both today, but the first one took so long, figuring out how to line them up properly and make them stay in place so I could try it on, and then adjusting over and over again, and then finally trusting it enough and the pins enough to flip it over an iron it down… It took much too long. But it is finished, and for that I am grateful. 🙂

Thank you, God.

Post-a-day 2021

Karate

In the weapons practice tonight, we were doing defense for knife attacks. I discovered that I am not cut out to be a knife attacker. However, I am totally capable of the defense. 😂

We were using washable markers, so as to see where exactly we were ‘cut’, so that we could evaluate the degree of success of our maneuvers. The only two times I had more than a gentle little graze were both when I was the attacker. She got me good once and decently the other time.

However, when I was defending myself, I was a bit of a beast, even against the teacher. Perhaps it is just real enough for me, that the only reason the person attacking me doesn’t end up on the ground, is because I continuously remind myself not to hurt but to disable only – there were far too many occasions where my instincts were ready genuinely to kick out knees and knock a person to the ground…

I think I want to bring back sock wrestling in the near future. My brain could use the tactical efforts combined with genuine physical efforts, all under the shelf of knowing not actually to hurt the other person. In the defense practice, it is difficult not to hurt the person attacking me, because that is the training realm for my brain: attacker here, so destroy!!! In sick wrestling, I’m not caught off guard and am not merely defending myself – I am also attacking and strategizing to last and to win, without the idea of threat to my actual safety.

Anyway, yeah… it was a good night at karate. We sparred again, too, and I was the sample to go against all the kids by the end. But I also got to spar the other instructor first. He and I both knew that I got some really, really good hits on him, but that they were unseen by the two judges. So, he won the three points first by their eyes, but he and I both knew that that wasn’t really the case. I was honored to have tied and to receive his compliments via surprised awe afterward. It was really cool, actually.

I think that might have been the first time that I didn’t win a match but didn’t cry… it didn’t even show up as a possibility for me… I am genuinely only just now realizing it… and that is very cool.

Post-a-day 2021

Ready, go!

I was nervous about sparring.

Extremely nervous.

I was actually shaking while I waited for my turn. So, I kept breathing consciously deep.

When I began sparring, I destroyed.

Both of my classmates, I utterly destroyed. Yes, the first got in a few points – we were doing practice, so there was no stopping just because a point was made – and the second finally did, when I purposely slowed up on him. And the third opponent was the main instructor. She definitely got me several times, but I was right there with her, getting point after point against her.

In my second one, I initially just went for it. When, however, my opponent’s splotchy face caught my eye, and I saw tears brimming, I found that I all too clearly could relate. I was, basically, pummeling him. Just as we were told to do, I gave combination after combination. And almost every strike hit home. In his first bout, he and his opponent had rather fooled around, hadn’t maintained stances, and hadn’t done almost any combinations, despite the real-time encouragement from both instructors. (The lead is his mother.) I was matched with him, I believe, to help teach him a lesson.

And he learned it hard. No, the locks and punches were not hard. Just the lesson was. When I saw his brimming tears, I knew the lesson had settled. I calmed my attack, gave him some words of encouragement to, ‘Come on,’ and allowed him some breathing time and space between my attacks. He eventually rallied himself and got there, landing a few points with his combinations and my relaxed defense.

I patted him on the back and shook his shoulders after we finished. We both knew exactly what had just happened a all of it. He knew I had seen him crying. He knew I had let up. And he knew I had wanted him to figure it out and get it right.

And we necessarily had bonded over it.

It was really cool. And I was certainly grateful to be on the other end of such an encounter for once – so many times have I been in that intense space of frustration and tears. I imagine I likely will be back there again at some point, if not many points in my future. For this time, though, I am grateful that I was able to help the person on that end, to encourage and empower him, and to remind him that, despite his frustration, he has enough to offer and he can do it.

Nonetheless, it’s still a bit silly: I made a kid cry. 😛

When I sparred with the instructor, I was ready to be the one not as prepared. And I took it on comfortably and with gratitude for the opportunity to spar against one who is much more experienced than I am. And, I believe, it is because I maintained that calm comfort that I was able to do so well against her.

A lot seems to be amiss in my life right now. This is not one of those things. For whatever reason, karate is exactly where I need to be right now.

Thank you, God and Cosmos.

P.S. Happy Earth Day, folks!! ❤

Post-a-day 2021

Karate and Confidence

Yes, this American Karate class is the right place for me the be. Sure, I felt like I nearly pulled a major muscle when I switched to kicks with my left side, and had to acknowledge that I am definitely older than before. However, even with that acknowledgement, I still felt perfect where I was.

I had actually been messaging with someone just before class tonight, discussing how odd the little things have all been regarding getting older. The awesome workout yesterday at the gym – 100 burpees, 50 cal assault bike, and 70 can ski, combined with EMOMs of box jumps and Russian kettle bell swings – left my knee really sore today, limiting what I could do in today’s workout. I have to rest more intentionally, and purposefully rub out certain muscles now, if I want not to fall apart. However, by doing those things intentionally, taking the necessary better care of my body, I have put myself in a position of being in better physical shape and function than I have ever been in life.

I’m not sure if that is ironic or not… avoid falling apart by taking better care, which results in better fitness than ever…

Whatever the case, in the karate class tonight, things were easy to do. They were easy in a way they had not been fifteen and twenty years ago, when last I was doing karate, doing these same movements. Sure, certain movements require additional stretching now, but I am better at them from the get-go. My efforts tonight for these kicks and leg strength practice were calm and easy for me. I knew I could use more stretching next time, so as to reach my true current abilities. And yet, even without that extra stretching, I was doing better than fifteen years ago, as a youth.

I am strong. Physically and mentally, I am very strong now, and in so many ways more than I was back then.

Even on the mental front, I used to be afraid of sparring. I still am now, but I can see it differently than I did back then. I was timid and afraid and ashamed when sparring as a child. I was not comfortable being assertive or aggressive in sparring. And so I almost always lost. And it was very jarring for me with every physical blow I received – they scared me, somehow, and it was more than just a physical blow each time. My cheeks would end up flaming hot with shame and embarrassment as they pulled the gear off my hands and head, and turned me from the square, so the next two kids could enter. I had known that I was better and could have won, but I had also known that my fear stopped me almost every time. And, for that, I was embarrassed.

Tonight, when the instructor mentioned that we would begin sparring next week, while I felt fear and nerves rise immediately within me, I also felt a challenge… a good challenge. Could I – who I am now – take this on with confidence? I understand that I am not aiming to hurt anyone now. No one is aiming to hurt me. It truly is a challenge, purely to see what I can make happen, what I can do when sparring. How much have I prepared myself for the unexpected moves and responses and style of the person facing me?

In dance, I will compete without a second thought in the category called “Jack and Jill”. It means that I will be given a random partner and song, and we will dance together, possibly for the first time ever, and usually in front of a whole ballroom full of people. When I did this in Korea a few years ago, I had only danced very briefly with the person I was assigned. I did not know the song that came on. We were the only couple dancing, with all the other couples seated in chairs behind us, the the ballroom packed with dancers in the front and on the sides, watching us and us alone. I merely looked into his eye, smiled, and had an amazing dance with him. I was scared of messing up, of disappointing everyone looking for a good dance and show, of looking stupid, of tripping, and of dozens of other things. But none of them held me back. My love for dancing guided me forward to put my best, confident, comfortable self forward. And the results were wonderful. We delivered. And we both had a blast doing it.

I am wondering now, if I can bring that same feeling forward into sparring. I am confident and comfortable in my self now. And also in my strength, both mentally and physically. I am in this class, because it fills me with joy and fulfillment, without my even having to ask anything of it. I like doing American karate. Period. I feels right right now. So, let’s bring forth those feelings to the sparring, and just see what I can do. Like the workout at the gym yesterday, I know I could have done more than I did, but I judged for safety and still gave it my best within those bounds. (My knees need care!) But I look forward to doing that same workout again in the future, so that my efforts between now and then can show me improvements that next time. Sparring can be exactly that for me: a benchmark workout. Go in with no idea how I’ll do. Develop baseline expectations after doing it a bit. Work outside of it to prepare for further bouts. Go into the next sparring opportunity with specific goals for improvement from the last time.

Yeah.

I can do this.

And I think I really will enjoy it, and very much.

Post-a-day 2021

ASK

Tonight, I came across the American Society of Karate on Facebook, the organization through which I used to take karate lessons and attend and participate in competitions. I found it through an awesome video from 1985, which was of a special bout between Bill “Superfoot” Wallace and Joe Corley. It was ten years after their original world title fight, which had been won by Bill (he was never defeated, apparently). Joe has to get himself back into better shape for the bout, but Bill was apparently a nonstop trainer, despite his competition retirement in 1980.

It was really almost magical to watch. The way Bill’s legs moved, it was almost a shadow – it’s like the brain has to do a mental pause-replay-slo-mo process in order to comprehend fully that Bill just threw a double roundhouse kick, because it happened so quickly, so flawlessly, and so nonchalantly, with no sign on the rest of his body that he had just kicked at all, let alone kicked as high as someone’s head.

And the best part, perhaps, is the fact that these guys were 38 (Joe) and 40 (Bill) years old, moving like super fit men half their ages. It was really cool. Super respect for the both of them, and absurd awe for Bill’s legs… I guess I can see the nickname still at work.

Hopefully, this link will work for accessing the video! 😀

Post-a-day 2020

Karate

Whenever I do this teeth whitening thing, I have to keep his little blue-light mouthpiece in my mouth, gripped between my teeth, for five minutes.

Afterward, I spit out the excess gel in my mouth and I wash off the mouthpiece.

Whenever I’m in the cleanup stage, I’m always adjusting my jaw, stretching its muscles, and feeling around my teeth a bit with my tongue.

As I do this, I find myself remembering strongly my days of American karate in my youth.

For sparring, we had to have a rubber mouth guard to protect our teeth… I remember how, every time I got a new mouth guard, my mom and I would be in the kitchen, trimming edges, boiling the rubber, and mashing my teeth into it to make it mold perfectly to my bite and teeth.

It was always so exciting to me, for some reason I cannot yet understand… perhaps it was the specialness of the whole process, like we were doing a whole (and real) science lab experiment, tongs and boiling water and all… and it was for me… so it was something unique and special and process-filled, specifically being done for me…

Perhaps that was a large part of it…

Whatever the case, I always enjoyed it, forming my mouth guards.

Especially the bit of biting down on my mouth guard, squeezing my teeth tightly, and wedging them each into the rubber, claiming specific territory to be forever theirs in that particular mouth guard…

Whenever we did spar, and I got to wear my mouth guard, I rather enjoyed sucking and chewing slightly on my mouth guard, tasting the rubber, feeling the tiny rebound it provided when I clenched my jaw and released, hearing the squishy sounds of saliva being pushed around and in and out of the mouth guard’s coverage area as I clicked my teeth (with the rubber between them, of course) together several times in quick succession… and then tasting again, as I held my jaw snug and sucked everything out of the mouth guard.

It all seems odd to me now, considering it and sharing it, but also still quite familiar… I don’t see myself doing half these same things nowadays, yet I remember them fondly nonetheless.

And, every time I whiten my teeth, I am filled with a few drops of that excitement and delight brought it me for years by karate…, making it a unique and somewhat special experience so far as teeth whitening goes. 😛

P.S. I love finding words that I’ve known for years, but whose language of origin I didn’t initially speak, but now speak, and, therefore, as I cross the word anew, I suddenly see it from the eyes of this language I now speak, instead of as a foreign word with meaning I must struggle to remember… karate is one of those words… from my American eyes and ears and mind, it is pronounced the American way and means merely a form of martial arts… from my Japanese eyes et cetera, it is pronounced with a Japanese pronunciation, it means 空手 (からて), which literally means “empty hand”, and it is a form of martial arts… and, somehow, the two are simultaneously the same thing and two totally different ones… so it goes… 😛

Post-a-day 2019