Comfort

In karate tonight, there was a real adult-only class that followed the mixed (Aka kids) class. We began sparring for the session. As usual, I was extremely nervous. Even as I was, in a way, destroying my opponents in matches, I was dealing with those nerves, with that fear, allowing and releasing that sense of panic that always comes up for me around sparring.

The instructor even commented on how I had been so worried before, and yet see how far I had come… I told her that just because no one else noticed didn’t mean I had no fear or stress around the sparring…, as is the case with most anything in life. Just because we can’t see something on the outside, doesn’t mean it isn’t there on the inside for someone. As we put on our gear to spar, I had noticed the distinct reeling of my heart, panicked at what was potentially to come.

And, tonight, one of those things did come. The assistant instructor hit me hard in the center of the face. Though we wear helmets, his glove and hand hit the face cage so hard, it rattled everything, and it knocked me back a couple paces. No, my head didn’t jolt backward – I keep myself braced enough to avoid that -, but it shook me. And it frightened me. Just the sound from a hard hit on the helmet, from the inside, is jarring. The physical sensation addition of the hit itself just adds to the whole experience. When it happened tonight, I had to wait a few moments before I could return to the ring to continue. I was a tad dizzy, but only from the shock, not from any physical damage. I communicated that it had been too hard (he asked immediately, likely knowing, and I confirmed), and that I needed just a few moments to gather myself before continuing. And they allowed it easily. And everything was okay. I had I remind myself that I was safe and that everything was okay, including that I’d been hit so, and I put myself back in the ring before I fully felt like I wanted to be there. I knew I wouldn’t want to go back ever, if I didn’t just breathe and go back then. So, I went back in. I was nervous, and focusing on calming myself more than on sparring to win. I don’t remember the outcome of that match in particular, but I do remember that achieving the calm I sought was the best thing I could have done for myself. And I am grateful to have reached it, and to have been able not only t continue with other matches, but to do them calmly and stellarly. At the end of the night, I was clear that I had had a wonderful, fun, and free-feeling time… sparring. Which is awesome. 🙂

Post-a-day 2021

Volun-cheering

Today was awesome, yet stressful, but both in very good ways.

First, I had an awesome time volunteering with my gym at sunrise for the Bayou City Tri Series 2021 Sylvan Beach Paralympic Triathlon. We had the honor of physically and verbally assisting paratriathletes in their transitions, as they worked toward earning points to be part of Team USA. I think we all look forward to the next such opportunity – it was a blessing and a blast for us all. ❤🤗🙏 💪👊🏻

And it brought me to tears multiple times, it was such an honor to be a part of it all.

It also brought back memories of my many sports volunteering days, and had me wondering yet again if I don’t want to find actual work in that world, somehow… There was a lot that, unfortunately, had not been sorted out properly for the event as a whole – there were other races happening this morning, too. Our little crew took it upon ourselves just to go ahead and handle many of those things, making a tremendous difference for all athletes that were out there racing today. And I enjoyed doing even that stuff.

From there, after the sun was well over the horizon but not all that far up, I headed to a karate tournament that was nearby. It was my first one in roughly 18 years, and my first one ever in the adult division. I was absolutely nervous, but I had all day to get even more so, since my division wasn’t until mid-afternoon. But I had volunteered to take photos, and so I got to enjoy working with that throughout all the kids’ sparring all morning and midday.

I did take a good couple minutes at one point in a private room with myself to talk and make noise and jump and move, fully on my own. And I did give myself close to a minute to go ahead and experience all the pent-up emotion that had been building all day, just a short while before my category was going to be up. (Aka I cried brief tears of stress and anxiety, and let a lot go with them as they lightly tripped out of my eyes.)

I had someone record my match for me, and he did so well enough. It turns out that I actually did better than I had thought I’d done at the actual time of the match. After watching the matches of the adults at the end, the highest ranked individuals, I have been able to see styles of everyone, and how much comfort makes a difference in a match. When someone is comfortable, he or she almost always does very well. When someone is uncomfortable, he or she usually does not very well. That isn’t to say win versus lose – I mean doing well, sparring well, technique-ing well (both attack and defense). Yes, that usually also results in winning, if those are all done well. But it isn’t about winning to me these days, so much as it is about doing well. Winning when doing well, however, just adds to the fun and joy of it all.

I have some specifics on which I want to work – reacting with a point-earning move to being blocked, practicing different point-earning trio combinations, and backward spinning kicks (one would have created a beautiful point today, but I had neither confidence nor comfort in it, so didn’t even consider it – only the video afterward showed me the opportunity [I’d spun and everything, but didn’t even try to hit her with the foot]). Now, just to find the partner to work with me, and the place to do it.

Oh, and this was one of the very few times that I 1)didn’t lose a match at a tournament, and 2)didn’t cry after the match. Good start in my eyes, even just for those two facts! ;P

So, yeah… today was a really great-for-me day, all of its stresses included.

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