When people find out I am a martial artist I often see a surprised look on their face followed by “Wow, I would have never guessed.” My close friends think it’s an insult. I consider it a compliment.
For almost 10 years, I was the consummate Dojo Mom. I was very good at this – supporting my husband and sons, laundering gi’s, cooking for potlucks, tournaments, cheerleading, ohana events, karate movies, and so much more. Martial arts has impacted my family in such positive ways and it’s always been an honor to be a part of the experience. But I was always on the bench, never on the mat.
Sure, I had trained a little bit here and there. But I never made the real commitment to stick with it and go for black. In my mind, there was no way I would ever be THAT good at it.
Then, an instructor suggested I get off the bench and experience first hand what my family was doing.
Was he crazy? I certainly thought so! After all, I was overweight, uncoordinated, beyond non-athletic, clumsy, 37 years old and quite frankly, afraid of getting hit. I made up every excuse imaginable. He smiled and said I “owed it to my kids” to try it. “Martial arts is for everyone,” he said.
Did he not realize how safe it is on the bench? You don’t sweat when you are cheering. You don’t get taken down when carrying water bottles. You don’t feel the anxiety of testing when you are watching on the bench. It’s easier to remember techniques when it’s not you. Trust me: it’s safe on the bench.
Out of respect, I decided to try a class. I thought I would be the one student my instructor would realize he couldn’t help. We set a date and time and I invited three other friends so I wouldn’t have to go it alone.
I almost cancelled about 25 times. As I walked into the dojo I was as anxious as I was on my first date with Professor Kelly. How many times had I entered before and not been nervous? Too many to count! The class consisted of stretching and basic warm-ups. In terms of numbers, I did not do an enormous amount of pushups (maybe 5?), crunches, squats (still don’t) and I discovered muscles I did not even know existed (still do). We learned basic self-defense techniques and before I knew it, the 45- minute class period was over.
I was hooked. I felt empowered that my mind was really able to control my body! Sweating felt great! I was able to experience a bit of what my family endured. It was awesome! My friends felt the same way. All four of us signed up.
Of that class, I am the only one that had the desire, dedication and discipline necessary to get my Black Belt. I have seen a lot of fellow students come and go.
Becoming a black belt is one of my crowning achievements. Why? Because martial arts represents EVERYTHING outside of my comfort zone. I overcame my biggest fears through my training. Are my kicks the highest in class? NO. Have I finished learning? NO. Can I knock out the most pushups in class? NO. It’s not about that.
Martial arts has made me stronger physically and mentally. I routinely push the limits of what I can do in all aspects of my life. On my knees every day, I punch the mat and announce that my mind controls my body, not vice versa. My martial arts training has made me a better person.
I used to lead the cheering during tests. Now I have my own fans.
Instead of just watching my family from the bench, I train right next to them.
I no longer just attend class, I teach it.
I hit as many times as I get hit. I can hold my own in a self-defense situation.
Boxing and karate movies are my choices on date night.
I am not just married to a black belt. My husband is too.
And when I feel like I have nothing left to give – in any life situation – I remember how I mustered up just a little more effort to finish a particularly hard training session. I think about how I relied on nothing but desire when I couldn’t get the technique right. I remember how I did not let a broken foot keep me from testing. I think about the countless times I came back to class when every single muscle hurt from the last training session. I remember how I never quit even though my body had given up during the last three minutes of my tests.
Martial arts improved my life, my thinking, my family, and my heart.
27 years ago I would have never thought I would be a Sifu, working side-by-side with Professor and my sons in our own dojo. It’s been an amazing journey that keeps on getting better. Becoming a black belt made it all possible.
So, when someone shows their surprise and disbelief at my martial arts achievements, I am happy. I know I don’t look like the “typical” martial artist. But one thing is for sure…martial arts is for everyone. Even me.