In my previous post, I talked about taking a class at the local YMCA. You may have noticed that I didn’t mention which class I was taking; that wasn’t by accident. I didn’t feel like talking about it until I knew it wasn’t going to be another fad.
Well, last Tuesday, sensei awarded me my 9th Kyu blue belt, so now I feel comfortable announcing that I’ve been taking Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Matsumura Karate for the past couple of months. I started it in the beginning of July, the same week of personal vacation that the kids started their summer introduction class. Since that time, I’ve lost 20 pounds — desperately needed — and have started to gain some measure of confidence that I can do this. I’m no prodigy, but I can plod step by step really well, and I’m already seeing huge benefits to my physical coordination.
More importantly, I’ve discovered three very important things about myself:
- I am no longer afraid of pain. I walk into every class knowing that the workout is going to wipe me out and that it’s going to, on some level, suck eggs. I am always right — I’m badly winded, have sore muscles, and more than once have been so dizzy I almost passed out. Yet I keep coming back for more, and I’ve finally gotten to the point that my brain isn’t desperately trying to find excuses for skipping class.
- Somewhere along the way, I’ve started to internalize the philosophy of “one step at a time.” I haven’t really dwelt on the whole “Devin with a black belt” thing, because that’s a heck of a lot of work and is way beyond my capabilities now. Heck, being asked to test for my blue belt was a surprise (albit a pleasant one). Our dojo teaches that it’s discourteous to ask sensei if you’re ready to test; he knows when you’re ready and will tell you. For the first time in my life, I have absolutely no difficulty in following that advice. I really do not look beyond what sensei tells me to do in a given class; I’m content to work on that and trust sensei to keep track of the big picture. (For my autistic self, this is a HUGE step.)
- Probably the biggest one: I enjoy this. It’s probably one of the most physically demanding things I’ve ever done. I’ve spent hours of time at home slowly walking through each phase of the simplest technqiues. A simple step-double punch technique is really hard for me, because it involves coordinating so many things — hand positions, feet placement, breathing, wrist rotation, proper fist alignment, and more. I don’t find this stuff at all easy, and now I have lots of things to keep track of. My response is to treat it like choreography for theater — break it down into small components and practice each of those. Unlike dancing, though, when I put the pieces back together, the results aren’t laughable — and I’m totally enjoying the process.
Since the classes are at the YMCA and not a dedicated dojo, things are relatively informal. We’re tied in with several other dojos in the area (most of them also in YMCA facilities nearby) and are part of a bigger federation. The teachers and students are all great; very supportive and not at all competitive or dismissive. I don’t feel ashamed for letting my health slide for so long; I just feel like I have help in going where I want to go. I’ve gotten to the point where I look forward to each class.