Martial Arts

martial arts–at my age?

   I needed something different.  We’d just moved from Florida to Colorado and I was invigorated by the dry mountain air.  Around here yoga seems to be something you do to complement your climbing/biking/running, and I didn’t find my usual gang of yoga peoples to have class with.  Years in the humid, flat swamps had left me sluggish, hesitant to exercise, especially if it meant leaving the A/C).  Now living next to a mountain trail, I wanted to be able to effortlessly walk up to the clouds like others were. But gym memberships are unmotivating to me and I’d gotten a stress fracture in my last 5k (I blame the shoes.) What’s a girl to do?

My son also needed some ‘organized movement’, since year-round swimming was his previous activity. Luckily, I found a Taekwondo class very near our home.  I sat outside the classroom (dojo) for a few classes until another mom said, “you should try the adult class. Our whole family works out here.”

Huh.  I’d been wanting to be and to feel different with this cross-country, cross-climate move, to transform myself in some way with the opportunity of a fresh start that relocation brings.  I didn’t overthink it, I just said “Okay.  Why not?”

Well, if I’d taken some serious time to seriously consider the decision, I would have come up with a list of why nots.  I’m glad I didn’t because being older and fatter than most of the class would have kept me from trying.  One big advantage has been that my son can’t complain about coming to class–I do too.  I’m not asking him to do something I’m not doing myself.  (And my classes are a half hour longer, kid.  So there.)

Here I am, two months in, and I’ve participated my first tournament.  (Notice the word ‘win’ or ‘rocked it out’ wasn’t in the same sentence as ‘tournament.’  Participated keeps it positive.)  And I’ve decided that, since I am committing to doing this for at least another year to see what can happen, then I should blog about it.  Because what I’ve found in yoga, gym classes, pilates and taekwondo is that having a bigger body can keep you from going in the door.  But our larger bodies–Kapha types in Ayurveda–are the ones who need it the most.  And walking in the door can absolutely be scary.  For me, it can create hyperawareness about what my midsection and thighs look like compared to everyone else’s.  Having been a larger body type in basically ALL my yoga teacher and yoga therapist trainings, I have a little bit thicker skin about these things.  (Well, most of the time.)  When I start to feel like perhaps I’m too big to be in class, I defensively counter that with “I’m here, and I’m doing it, so I belong as much as everyone else.”

What I noticed first is that it was FAR more enjoyable than the three months of personal training I signed up for a few years ago.  I had HATED personal training sessions.  Burpees come straight from all that is mean and cruel in the world and make me believe there is indeed a hell. And in that hell, you do burpees. Pointless boring repetitions of up and down and up and down…  I would yawn if I were able to breathe that deeply. I dreaded every session with every fiber of my being until the last couple of weeks my trainer, I’m guessing, gave up on me and just started doing pilates moves with a machine called The Box.  I LOVED that, and later realized I like working out where my brain is busy and has to focus on what I’m doing.  All other thoughts, lists, worries are drowned out by needing to know where is my leg going? and where’s my arm supposed to be?, am I breathing? and ooh, I’m already supposed to be moving!  It becomes meditative and grounding in its own way.  During taekwondo I’m never thinking of my phone, or a to-do list, or if my son is going to bed on time.  That’s a good thing!!  (I do wonder longingly when I will reunite with my water bottle…crisp, dry mountain air+sweating=lotsa thirst!).

Showing up that first day was pretty nerve-wracking, especially since I’d be doing class in workout clothes until they had a uniform that fit me.  And, yep, my squishy middle-aged body was relying on a twenty-something 3rd Dan black belt (heretofor known as Mr. Ninja) to determine my size.  So it was a few classes ’til they got THAT size uniform for me from another location.  A little uncomfortable but he was professional about it.

I was bolstered by one red belt who told me “Only the brave walk through the door.” (Thanks, Mr. Red Belt!)  I think of that sometimes when I’m only 100 jumping jacks in and we have a BUNCH more to go.  Brave is walking through the door–the rest gets easier.


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