Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Pursuit of What?

My wife and I had a serious talk this morning. I wanted to talk about her comment to me that she's "concerned about this pursuit of health that leads to injuries."

I said that for me, health is a wonderful byproduct of the martial arts, but not the reason I do them.

I tried to figure out, and to explain, why I like an injury-prone activity like sparring. I think some of it is hard-wired--as Sam Sheridan says in A Fighter's Heart, you can make the evolutionary argument that in a world of conflict and risk, the strongest father benefited his family/tribe/group.

I also enjoy the self-testing of physical combat. Will I be brave? Will I cower? That's also a topic in A Fighter's Heart.

And I enjoy the technical and mental challenges to improve. Can I stay calm and see where my opponent is leaving openings? How can I set up openings with feints? Can I execute that triangle choke?

My wife said she understood it's my decision to pursue this path. But when I walked into the house after sparring two Wednesdays ago, and said I had hurt my knee, she felt both empathy for my pain, but also anger that I had gone willingly into a situation where I've gotten badly hurt before. And she said, with some trepidation, that she doesn't want to see me try to get the black belt again. It was too painful for her to see me hurt the last time.

I told her I understood that feeling. I wouldn't want to see someone I love get hurt.

I said that one reason I did martial arts was to impress my woman; that when she (and my daughter) offer me encouragement when I'm, say, doing push-ups at home, or when she talks about how I've gotten into good shape, it's very encouraging to me.

She said she understood I wanted to impress her, but felt I should factor into my thinking that she strongly doesn't want me to get hurt.

We discussed how she might need to make use of a concept we call "letting go with love," a kind of Buddhist effort not to try to let go of a situation where you're concerned about someone you love, but aren't in control.

Now I have to sign off, because we're going out for dinner and a movie.


Alex said...

Good post.

As a father and husband, it's the same issue I have, and the reason I've cut back on my kickboxing and judo - the risk of traumatic injury is too high. (I mostly sub grapple now)

But giving up completely isn't an option - it helps me define myself, takes away the stress, and most importantly, it is something I do 'just for me'. I work to provide for my family, my leisure time is mostly spent with them - fighting is what I do as me. It could just as easily be stamp collecting or swimming or somesuch, but for whatever reason, fighting is MY thing.

Good luck with the knee, and I hope your family will continue to support you

BobSpar said...

Thanks, Alex, I agree, giving up completely isn't an option. Finding the right balance can be tough.

Steve said...

With baby number three on the way, I've been mulling over similar themes. Balance for sure, but I can't imagine a life in which I do only things that are safe. What a boring non-existence. There is a difference in my mind between taking risks and taking unnecessary risks.

Riding a motorcycle is a risk. Racing on a motorcycle without a helmet in rush hour traffic and popping wheelies on the freeway at 70mph is unnecessary risk. People (idiots) do the latter.

In my mind, life involves risk.

I feel like one of the responsibilities I have is to model for my kids the life I hope for them, and a life in which being safe is paramount is not it. While I don't want to encourage them to be irresponsible and wreckless, I want for them to be willing to take a risk, doing the things about which they are passionate.

BobSpar said...

Steve, thanks, that's profound.

I've occasionally wondered what my devotion to martial arts models for my kids. Nobody else in my family is interested in joining.

But my daughter has recently been exercising in ways that she enjoys. I would be quite happy if what she learns from me is pursing something SHE enjoys for fitness.