I have learned a great deal about myself through martial arts. I have learned how to fight with a stick, the feeling of accomplishment with each belt promotion, how to put someone in an arm bar, that I never have enough white underpants (The uniform bottoms are white. You only make that mistake once.), and that in no uncertain terms I am no longer 25. My memory and my body remind me nearly every class that nothing is as it once could have been. I started this about a decade and a half too late for peak ability. I ate too many Big Macs in my 20s and ran not nearly enough miles in my 30s. In my late 30s, I'm finding my mind is not as sharp as I think it should be. While my Gram was "all there" mentally right up until she died at 95, I (at 38) have to cheat off of my daughter in Tai Chi class when I forget the next move. Or the next. Or the next. I get discouraged sometimes.
The most important thing I've learned is that I really want this. I want to earn a black belt. I want to continue learning all different forms of martial arts as long as I can physically do that, and someday I'd love to assist in some martial arts classes. For right now though, the goal is black belt. Prior to the black belt test, the back belt candidates enter a period of "black belt training" that encompasses a rigorous training schedule (5 classes a week), running (the black belt test includes a 5 mile run), crunches and push ups (I don't know how many it takes to pass - I can't bear to know that yet), a strict, healthy diet, and daily journaling. Black belt training is four months of no joke, and everyone who makes the commitment to test for black belt has a moment of "Gulp!" when they sign up.
Knowing this and taking a humble, but accurate assessment of where I am in terms of ability, knowledge, and strength, I recently decided that I needed to enter a period of "pre-black belt training". I am 38. And I am not a natural. The odds of being able to get it all together in four short months for a black belt test sound not only impossible, but downright unappealing. I have recently signed up for more classes - sparring and grappling (which I LOVE!), and have made a tentative commitment to start preparing my body for what lies ahead. I joined the running club, and yesterday I voluntarily took my first "Warrior Workout", which is an hour of intense cardio combined with 12 strength and skill training stations. (I think I lost as much water weight from tears as I did from sweat...)
About fifty one minutes into the Warrior Workout while we were doing 100 crunches, I began to doubt my ability to actually do this. Crunches alone are brutal, but doing them with the saggy pooch that once held two large babies in the way is beyond a struggle. (Don't get the visual. Just don't.) I admit, by about crunch number 38 (irony?), I was ready to call it quits. I mean, really. Quit. Give up the entire goal. Maybe it was time to admit that I probably can't do this.
And then I had this great epiphany. This is how you get a black belt. You do the God awful, paralyzed for days later, sweaty, swearing, nasty crunches. You do them. As many as humanly possible for you today. Not one black belt I know had their dream handed to them on a silver platter. A black belt trained like a black belt when they were just an advanced blue belt. I won't have the skills of a black belt for a few years, but I can have the dedication of one now.
There are so many things that I
Yesterday the answer was yes. Yes, I could squeeze out 100 crunches when I really, really, REALLY tried. (Please don't ask what may have squeezed out along with the crunches. I'm old and have given birth twice. Don't judge me.) It wasn't easy, it exhausted me, and I thought I may have seen Jesus coming back halfway through, but I did it. Can I bend over today without whimpering? Uh, no. But that isn't the question we'll focus on. Can I love and encourage and reassure my children today? Yes. Can I prepare to the best of my abilities for school tomorrow? Yes. Can I listen for God's still, small voice today? Yes. I can do all those things to the best of my ability today.
I think this is how you get a black belt in anything.
At least, I hope so.