Sunday, August 30, 2009

Reflections on a Journey of Many Years

The blogger's dilemma is that the busier life is, the more things you have to say, and the less time to say them.

I've been busy lately.

Last night, I threw a party at my house to celebrate getting my black belt back in May. When I throw one of my infrequent parties, I enjoy inviting people from very different aspects of my life and watching them interact; this party included people who have been at my martial arts school for a long time like me, a few old friends from outside martial arts, neighborhood friends, friends from church, and family. I got my wife's cousin to cater the event; in keeping with the martial arts theme, there was an Asian flavor to the food.

It was fun, and it was nice to celebrate once again all the blood, sweat and tears that went into getting the belt.

Lately I've been reflecting on my own journey in the martial arts.

I've been thinking about modern v traditional martial arts--I attend a school that 8 1/2 years ago, when I joined, was called a karate school, and now is mixed martial arts. A lot of the bloggers I follow practice traditional martial arts. I envy the cultural exploration they get to do.

But as my wife recently reminded me, my own journey in the martial arts has also been an extraordinary path. I've discovered things about myself: physical strength; joy of movement; mental discipline; an inner warrior I had no idea existed. On many occasions, including recovering from ACL surgery, I've had to face my fears to get to a new goal.

Re-entering martial arts in 2001 also was an effort to gain control over one sliver of my life at a time when life felt wildly, disturbingly out of control, as a person I love increasingly fell into the grip of mental illness.

On the invitation I sent out for my party, I put a photo of Mr. Miyagi, the instructor in The Karate Kid played by the late actor Pat Morita. Dave Berry once hilariously said that karate is a martial art where, after years and years of effort and discipline, and using only their hands and feet, people have made some of the worst movies in history. But I'm not embarrassed to say that it was The Karate Kid that got me to first go to a Tae Kwan Do school in Queens for six months. And if I hadn't done that, I wouldn't have returned to martial arts in 2001.

What I was searching for (beyond better health) was a Mr. Miyagi, a strict but patient instructor who would affirm my worth while teaching me new things.

Occasionally, like this morning, I glimpse that the real Mr. Miyagi is within.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cake vs. Training

As I write this, I'm eating a birthday cake instead of attending a very interesting martial arts class at my school. On the whole, I'm disappointed. :-)

On Saturdays, my school now offers a special class where 1) brown belts get intensive training for the black belt test, and 2) black belts get advanced/refined/different training. Today, I would be learning to work with weapons--nunchuks in particular--something my school no longer teaches in the ordinary course of things. I was looking forward to taking the class.

Instead, I'm watching over the birthday party my daughter is throwing for one of her best friends; my wife is out attending to our son. I'm pleased that I could help out my daughter. She had a few teary moments before the party, and she's happy now. And family comes first.

But I do feel like I'm missing a rare opportunity. I have to remember it will come round again.

Life has gotten in the way of training and also of this blog in the past weeks. There was the mild food poisoning the night of sparring this week. Last week, I was in the Berkshires, planning to do some running at least--and I caught a cold on vacation. Work has spilled over so late some days I was unable to make class or, in one instance where I showed up nearly 10 minutes late, I was fairly distracted during training. One of the consequences of the recession and cutbacks is everyone at work is trying to do more things.

I did get to class on Tuesday and Friday nights this week, and I felt refreshed physically and mentally the next day.

I'm sure one of the reasons I felt so refreshed by my classes was that I hadn't had much training previously; funny how training and not training can go hand in hand.