I wouldn’t call it bad kokuro, bad attitude. No—that’s note quite what I have. But there is indeed some level of resistance developing as I train and it’s starting to show up on the tatami.

Tonight we practiced rolls to warm up for jui jitsu take downs and the narrating voice in my mind that never stops was ornery: What the fuck are we doing? I’m not messing it up on purpose, it’s just that I don’t know what to do. I have absolutely no desire to fall face forward and catch myself with my (bruised) forearms and the balls of me (surgically impaired) feet. I can’t get through a single drill without him adding one more thing for me to think about. What the hell is going on?

Maybe it’s that I’m tired. I’m ready to be done with grad school (and I almost am). Maybe it’s being the least skilled in the class, every time, all the time (we have no more white belts—they all dropped out). Maybe it’s the impossibility of the White Pine Tree test that we’ve been asked to train for. Maybe it’s the knee pain, the gas costs, the late nights, maybe it’s, maybe it’s, maybe it’s…

Maybe it’s the fact that all of those things are ego-related and in karate there is no place for the ego.

Hanshi wasn’t impressed by the grotesque bruise on my arm. He said it was a spleen deficiency (in Chinese medicine it is).

“Has anyone seen it yet?” he asked.

“No sir, but they will soon—every time I had someone a latte, in fact.” I motion with my arms, handing him a mock cup, the puffed flesh of my forearm turning bruise-side up.

“You should be proud of that bruise,” he said. And then he kept talking. I don’t know what he said because the bitch in my head was too loud: I’ve played that game before. I was proud of my bruises for four years and I never want to have that attitude again. It’s not something I need. What’s he talking about? This bruise is because, in drill practice, I missed my punches (on purpose) and got blocked every time. Proud? Of what?

It’s not until I get home that I realize what he meant.

I should be proud because I’m training and that is not something that everybody does. Just as the muscles on my quads are starting to noticeably firm up as a result of training, I’m going to get other marks that are signs of training too—in the form of bruises. No difference between the two.

I’m not sure how I can get my opinions to quiet down in my own mind, but something’s got to give. I’m doing over an hour of PT a day, including pushups, crunches, sit ups, and punches with 10 pound weights to train for the test. The PT is slow and meticulous but it’s what will someday allow me to run again—a necessary component of the test. Next month, I’m dropping $250 on personalized Feldenkrais appointments for this same purpose. I’m writing down everything that I eat and drink everyday and exercising six out of seven days a week. Hanshi doesn’t know any of this. Only I know it and that should be enough. Am I so externally motivated that I’m going to let my own mind prohibit my advancement in this practice?

Hell no. I can’t be. Enough.

  • "Lis"

    Ah, ego. As in leave your shoes and ego at the door.

    I thought you did very well last night. And I was in the kids class right before tai chi where Hanshi got very frustrated with the kids who looked but could not see and who heard what he said, but did not listen.

    So, don’t exactly brush off what he says, his critiques but take it with this thought: you are learning to move in totally new ways to your body. It takes time to learn to move that way. Take it from me, I fall down all the time with my drop of the bucket 9 years attempting to learn karate. When you get a black belt, that only means you have learned how to learn and are ready for advanced lessons. Which I am fumbling with at the moment, because I too, am learning new ways to do things I’ve already been taught. Relearning/retraining muscle memory takes a long time to accomplish. But enought of me, this is your blog.

    If you didn’t get the rolls last night, you may not get them the next time, but sometime in the repetition of lessons that is karate-do, you will have that epiphany and get it, only to lose it at the next class.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.