Weeks 8 and 9 have been more than intense; it started with a 1-2 punch delivered swiftly on Monday evening of Week 8 when I should have left my training session, having ended on a positive note: throwing a very tall, very strong man to the floor from a full-Nelson hold. This was followed by a conversation with the head instructor that ended with, “Go home and go to bed and think on what I just said to you” in reference to him telling me that I could do this, that I was strong enough and good enough and all of those wonderful sentiments you hope to hear from your teacher. But I was greedy. And instead, I suited up and decided to spar with a 6’2″, twenty year-old, male black belt. I’m 5’1″. I threw a front kick to his chest, it got caught on his gi, and I promptly fell in pain having strained my calf thirty seconds into the round. I was dehydrated. I was tired. I was not properly warmed up. I knew it would not be a good night for me to spar and yet I did it anyway. And now, my friends, I am paying the proverbial piper.
I have not missed one day of training. I am wearing a calf compression sleeve. I have taken two weeks off of sparring, breaking, and running, but have managed to complete every training session: working my forms and defense, kicking dry (without the resistance of a pad), practicing blocks and strikes, and doing all of the strength training. I also earned this badge at our final Candidate Class after hitting a pad with a back fist upwards to twenty-five times:
And so today, I went for my first run at one day shy from the two week mark of my calf injury. Picture this: a small woman is running uphill in driving sleet and wind. It is around thirty degrees and her once black running clothing is now completely white from snow. Did I mention that it is the first week of April? Her gait is best described as a limp-jog-walk. Her earbuds are delivering the lyrics “…Makes me that much stronger/Makes me work a little bit harder/So thanks for making me a fighter/Made me learn a little bit faster/Made my skin a little bit thicker/So thanks for making me a fighter.” She has tears in her eyes thinking about how badly she needs to finish this. How it has become so much more than a black belt. And wondering why the challenges are being thrown like daggers from the universe. There are, literally, chunks of ice falling on her head from encrusted tree branches when the wind kicks up. There is a metaphor in here somewhere.
A black belt told me a few weeks ago that you are “dealt what you need” during your training. Since I heard that snippet of inspiration, I am trying to see the roadblocks, detours, and obstacles as opportunities to learn something about myself. I have been confronting some demons. I am feeling more in tune with myself and I am listening to my body more. I have sought help. One example of help that was sought (and provided lovingly) was from my friend and owner of Still Point Massage in Providence, Rhode Island (http://stillpointri.com) who distributes products for USANA Health Sciences (michaela.usana.com). She hooked me up with the HealthPak – vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants to help keep me at peak health, as well as extremely helpful information about using my foam roller daily to prevent injuries and assist in recovery. She also was there for me in an instant to provide advice, support, and friendship at a critical time – and for that I am grateful.
Truth: I would not have been able to get through these two weeks without the help and encouragement from my friends, as well as from my loyal husband who has been helping me ice, roll, massage, stretch, buying me every accoutrement needed to heal injuries, and rubbing Arnica and Tiger Balm on any and every sore muscle daily – not to mention taking over the cooking, cleaning, and taxiing of children most days. I am quite lucky to have his support and, hopefully, he feels my gratitude.
Although I have focused a lot on the physical, much of what I am learning is mental. A goal for the rest of my training is to “get out of my head” as every single instructor has told me, as well as the chiropractor, for goodness sake! When trying to articulate this to a friend, she asked me if I ever doubted myself and the answer is “NO, NO, NO!” Never. From the moment I tied on my white belt, I have wanted to be a black belt. For me, “getting out of my head” is to quit the perseverating and over-analysis. To stop thinking so much about the training and just “do.” To start feeling the forms and defense instead of trying to memorize. To “trust thyself,”as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said.
There is definitely no quit here – and never has been – but I still think it is important to be human and show the struggle, because black belt training is a marathon, not a sprint. It is not for the faint-hearted, and it requires stamina, persistence, and grit. While I was running today, I also heard this gem from Macklemore that hit home and felt like a fitting mantra going into Week 10:
“Now, this is my job, I will not quit it/Pulled me out the depths when I thought that I was finished…/Listen, see I was meant to be a warrior/Fight something amongst me, leave here victorious.”
I may have a slight limp, but I am still fighting.