Martial Arts

Can a shiny sticker lure me out of the doldrums?

I’ve quoted Sherlock before, about how “the Universe is rarely so lazy” to allow things to happen by mere coincidence. And this week exemplifies why I believe that.  Every time I get in the doldrums about my progress in Taekwondo (Argh! Damn you, Jumping jacks!) and weight loss, Mr. Ninja shifts something in class or I am gifted something from the Universe.


Over the weekend, doing my workouts and having to buy a pair of pants, I was feeling low about my fitness progress (and what size pants I had to buy.) I was a bit doldrum-y as I headed into class this week, and during the first class of the week I had that moment (at, oh about jumping jack 200) of “why do I do this to myself ??”


Then, this week, Mr. Ninja switched up the beginning of class, and it gave me just the boost I needed. (Obrigada, Mr. Ninja!) When doing jumping jacks, we go around the room and everyone counts out ten (in Korean, perhaps a bit macarrónico, one of my favorite Portuguese words for, to say it nicely, not speaking like a native.).  Almost every other class, we just keep going until we get to whatever (crazy, astronomical, (so-high-I-can’t-keep-counting-and-breathe-too) number we are heading for. (Anywhere in the 300-up to 500 range. And I think this is my challenge–I don’t see anyone else struggling the way I do.


This class, sparsely attended because of gorgeous spring weather, a ‘round’ of jumping jacks was 70.  Mr. Ninja stopped at 70, then we did push-ups, sit-ups and a poomse before starting another round of jumping jacks, push-ups, etc.


Why was this helpful, revolutionary, and a gift from the universe to little ole me?


Because I can do 70 jumping jacks, legitimately do them properly with legs and arms moving just how they should.  And then before my calves cramp up, they get a rest during push-ups and sit-ups, then a little stretch during poomse, then ready for another 70 legit jumping jacks.


So it wasn’t making it through ALL the jumping jacks–my eventual goal–but I felt really proud that I had done four sets of 70 in good form.  Now, the last set we did 140 straight through and by 90 I was having trouble moving my legs again.  But it felt like progress.  Like an accomplishment. Like all those Bob Harper videos with endless lunges, squats, step-overs and step-unders had finally started to pay off.  Like I had shown, in class, to me and Mr. Ninja, that I could make progress. Maybe ME doing taekwondo ISN’T quite as crazy as we think.


And somehow I rode that wave of physical fitness through poomse, got new moves, and then went through all my self-defense moves and got a STRIPE!  I’m telling you, I was as happy as a first grader who got s shiny metallic star sticker on math homework. As parents we may speak humorously or condescendingly of sticker charts, but I am proof they work at any age. Give me a shiny red stripe to put on a yellow belt and I’m back in elementary school! And I know in my head that I should be all non-attached and “I’m just in it for the intrinsic reward of learning” but ya know.  Shiny sticker. 

Pretty shiny stripe.


I’m cool with that.




P.S. My other favorite Portuguese word is pipoca, or popcorn.  Just say it a few times.  Liz Gilbert talked in Eat, Pray, Love of her fascination with the Italian word “attraversiamo” and I think we all find those words that tickle our fancy and make us want to repeat them over and over.  

Pipoca. Macarrónico.


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