Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Evolution of a Martial Artist

I first started training in martial arts at approximately age 15.  I recall that I was at a neighboring school  doing some accent training for an upcoming play that I was to perform in.  The room that we occupied was situated near the school gym and throughout our practice I could hear the loud yells of a group of young people.  After my accent training, I went to the gym and was instantly drawn in by the collective motions and energy.  "I want to do that", I decided then and there, and so I did.

For a number of years, I continued training in Tang Soo Do, striving to be the best in the class.  I'm not an outwardly competitive person, but inside, I was only satisfied with being on top.  One night in class, I was practicing Chi Sao (sticking hands) with an older gentleman who, admittedly, was better than I was.  It was much to my relief that our instructor announced that we were to switch from Chi Sao to traditional sparring.  Very soon after that transition, I caught my partner with a spinning kick to the ribs.  It was a few weeks later that I learned that I had injured him.  Though my actions were unintended (causing injury at least), they struck a painful chord in me and taught me a valuable lesson: the understanding that I could, and did, hurt someone.

After that point, I backed away from karate, going infrequently and eventually falling away from that class and the friends I had made there.  Life took a number of unexpected turns, leading me overseas and, upon my return, around the states.  Whenever I found myself in one location for a period of time, I would check out the local studios, join for a while and wish for the old days.  I didn't know it back then, but my first instructor and the classes he held were of a standard that I have rarely seen since.

Another realization that became depressingly clear over the years was that, though my training had been broken and inconsistent, I often found myself at the top of the class, wherever I went.  For many years, despite my desire to be the best, I found this to be a great discouragement.  After all, how was I to learn if it seemed that I was above those who were to teach me?

I have often referred to myself as a perpetual learner.  I have always thrived on new information, even as a young child.  My mother still has no hesitation in telling me what my favorite question was while growing up - "Why?"

After many years and experiences, I eventually came to realize that every one, every single person, has something to teach you, as long as you are open to learning.  Sometimes they teach what you are looking for, sometimes they teach something completely different.  And occasionally, if you open your mind and look inside, they teach you something profound about yourself.

Martial arts, I have come to understand, is not simply about the physical movements that I yearned to perfect as a teenager.  It is about improvement on every front - an evolution of the body, mind, and spirit.  My intent for this blog is to share that evolution.

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