Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Becoming a martial artist

My daughter started at the dojo over four years ago. She is currently a candidate for black belt for May.  At our school, for those of you who don't know, achieving the black belt is more of a marathon than a single test.  Basically, over a cycle (4-5 months), a candidate must succeed at a number of prechecks, checks, and power weekends as well as maintain an intense level of attendance, 4 classes and 3 SWATS (assistant teaching) per week.  They must also succeed at the weekly timed running of 2 miles in under 16 minutes. Plus being able to do a good array of pushups and situps.

My daughter goes off to college in the fall and our school recently shifted to two (from three) cycles a year so if she doesn't make it in May, she won't have another chance (previously, there was also an August cycle) so this is a make-it-or-not situation.

Me, I'm psyched. I think finding and meeting (or not) challenges is a very maturing experience and this is a good one.  So far, she had struggled with the runs. She's had some challenges such as asthma and back etc and until this past week, her personal best was 16:08. Close but not good enough. She's now getting into the part of the cycle where they don't like to see people not meeting their run times.  I urged her this past week to leave it all on the track this time.  "Use your inhaler to prevent problems, show up loose and ready to go fast, and don't let anything distract you."  Ok, I'm not sure that I said that or if I did, that she was listening, but I sure was thinking it and saying it to myself.
Three at Daniella's Run This Fall

She ran a 15:10!  Fifteen minutes and ten seconds for a two mile run!  She shaved a minute off her personal best and  I'm so pleased and  proud that I can get almost teary.  I'm thrilled for her.

Here's a question.  Am I putting too much faith in this sort of accomplishment as a character- and confidence-building exercise?  I totally believe that character and confidence and maturity are earned.  Your parents and teachers can complement your ears off and tell you how great you are until the cows come in.  At the end of the day, when faced with life's challenges, I think people rely on their own proof of their own ability to find the grit to overcome obstacles and do the right thing.  And for me, this is the heart of the value of martial arts and any other set of intense sports training.

 My kids, in this day and age, lead pretty cushy lives.  When trouble arises in school, the parents are quick with assistance and tutors. Nobody walks to school through the cold any more and life is generally pretty "soft". Other than dealing with family and friends, kids get a lot of help as they get through high school. So how are they supposed to grow up? Well, sports and other self-selected challenges are one way.  While it's an old idea that the officers of England were trained on the sports fields of Eton and at other British schools, I think it's also a modern one.  Sports challenges are intensely personal. You all stand at the starting line together but each and everyone has to make their own way to the finish line.

The whole martial arts ethos, of respect and goal setting and seeking to live purposefully with goals properly defined and pursued rests (or falls) on a foundation of confidence in one's self.  As Kyoshi puts in, we come to the dojo to learn discipline, not to be disciplined.  While that message continues to be a mystery to me, I put great faith in watching my teenage daughter, under pressure, achieve new levels of performance.  And while I hope that she proudly puts on a blackbelt this May, I'm sure that the striving for it, and the success or failure, will stand her in good stead.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Life goes on

It's 2012 and the National Training Center of Lavallees, the change in years in heavily punctuated by discussions of goals. We were urged to finish 2011 strong and to celebrate our achievements. We were exhorted to start 2012 with SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-stamped) goals for 2012.

The school itself did some readjustments so that Kyoshi himself teaches classes many times a week and there is a renewed focus on intensity and foundation details.
Typical Street Scene in Placetas, Cuba Dec 2012

I completely buy into this process and went through the planning steps.  I have goals for my weight, increased flexibility, building my bugo skills, and getting my endurance up to where it should be.

Then, as happens with the best laid plans of mice and men, things went awry.  The trip to Cuba over the holidays  to visit relatives in their small town for a week was great in many ways but not for my training. My doctor finally got me to do a little procedure that men with my age and history should do (a colonoscopy) and that knocked me out for a few days.

Saturday, I was reaching for something (I think putting a dish in the dishwasher) and my back went into spasm.  At first, I thought it would pass in a few minutes. By mid-day,  I couldn't walk.  Now I'm deep into working with a chiropractor and trying to control the pain.  The next two weeks are looking really tough since I was supposed to travel but frankly, the way I'm feeling (and moving) right now, it doesn't make much sense for me to try to go to a trade show.

Of course, with a little luck, I might get the back straightened out and be back on the floor this week.Last year, I also had a back problem (I think it was February) that ended up costing me about a month of training.   Either way, happy new year to all and I'm looking forward to this year, whether the original plan works out or not.