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