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Of Martial Arts Training and Limitations

Black belt is

You are not rich until you have something that money can’t buy.

A new year brings new training schedules. It’s a year ago that I began my Kuk Sool Won journey and it has been a real roller coaster ride of successes and growth opportunities. Being a martial arts newbie at middle age takes determination and can only be accomplished if you learn to take yourself a little less seriously.

It has also been a year ago that I started this blog, along with a lovely and remarkable community of individuals because of the Seth Godin Your Turn Challenge.

I am a goal and result oriented individual while also being a time dependent personality so setting goals and making lists is an automatic practice at the start of a new year.

What is unique about 2016 though is that I did a training schedule first before writing down my goals in other key areas of my life. Given my usual approach I would add exercise and view it like a mountain that needs conquering. A necessary set of tasks on the way to taking better care of my health.

Now however I see a training schedule as so much more than a series of tasks. In the past I didn’t relish the idea of training. It just provided the means by which I could build a healthier me. Now training is like a chapter in a novel. Each one enhances the experience and within each one new lessons are learned. Taken together they all tell a story and become a collection of learnings building towards a specific end objective, in my case, a black belt before my 50th birthday.

After all, a black belt is a white belt who didn’t quit and I plan to see this journey through.

If you do what you love you never have to work a day in your life. If you train for something you’re passionate about then training is no longer a task. Every bit of training I do is leading me to a new point of growth.

It is said that an old dog can’t be taught new tricks but if the old dog is still young at heart it can still learn an amazing array of things. It’s just the willingness to do so that is required.

I am taking my body to levels of fitness that I never thought possible and it is changing my expectations with each new milestone I reach.

I expected that my age would be an automatic glass ceiling on my martial arts journey but the only limitations I’ve experienced are those I’ve imposed on myself.

How about you?

For some inspiration why not check out some of the other Your Turn Challenge Bloggers:

  1. Remarkable Runs
  2. The Positive Pragmatist
  3. Robin Estevez
  4. Women of Wonder
  5. Linens and Laurel
  6. Joyce M Sullivan
  7. Wholistic Sound
  8. Andy Stitt
  9. Listen and Hear
  10. Randall Hartman

When exercise isn’t exercise – discovering the thrill of Kuk Sool Won martial arts

Promotion Day, a highly anticipated event by every martial artist whose art has a belt ranking system. Our household was no exception given that there were four us who would be receiving new belts. On this occasion the dojang is decorated with balloons, ninja faces, trimmings and quotations to celebrate the anniversary of the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin school which was first established by Master Saidi in California 25 years ago. The kids were excited as they would receive their new belts in the morning promotion session and the adults in the afternoon. Another goal achieved.

Special Promotion Day celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the opening of the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin School in California by Master Saidi

Special Promotion Day celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the opening of the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin School in California by Master Saidi

I am not accustomed to setting sporting goals. It hasn’t been a been a part of my life as I never found a form of exercise that appealed to me in the way that Kuk Sool Won does. I enjoy swimming and cycling and even named my bike. I enjoy the fun and rhythm of a Zumba workout too. I guess it’s because with these types of exercise my focus is not on the activity itself but rather on peripheral factors. We are all unique and each of us is fueled by different drivers.

I love the buoyancy and look of water, the cool blue color of the ocean or a sun drenched swimming pool lift my spirits. When biking I enjoy the freedom, the beauty of the scenery, the feeling of the wind blowing on my face and the warm sun on my skin. With Zumba it’s the appeal of the music and the fun of shaking what my Momma gave me but in martial arts it is the actual exercise that I connect with.

My anxiety levels before a class are no longer as intense as when I first started 8 months ago but nervous anticipation has replaced it. I get to the school early so that I have some time to focus and breathe before class begins. Just doing warm-up is already a way to gauge my progress and challenge myself. My levels of flexibility have already improved significantly and I can now get my legs over my head while on my back without the fear that I associated with this posture in the past.

My husband often says that golf is 90% mental and 10% mental. My mental attitude towards doing some of the exercises needs to be re-examined with every bit of progress I make. I am completely rubbish at back falls still but the fact that I roll over backwards at all is a miracle to me!

 

Master Saidi and students with their new red belts

Master Saidi and students with their new red belts

The set up of the dojang excites me like the look of blue water, although that may have something to do with the blue springy floors!  Wavemasters are lined up along the mirrors, weapons on racks including bo staffs, knives, spears and even bows and arrows and of course my favorite – swords!

Once the training begins there are so many facets and variables it engages both my mind and my body. Eyes focused, mind clear, hands fast, stance low and kicks high are much easier said than done and you can always improve something – the permutations are endless. I notice my breathing and the ever increasing levels of perspiration. As Master Saidi says “this sweat is not like the kind you get in a sauna, it is hard earned and yields for more long lasting results.”

Picking up a bo staff is a pleasure in itself. The weight of it which seems to increase the longer I hold it. The excitement of twirling it above my head and visualizing myself in a martial arts movie. Nothing quite compares to the feeling of satisfaction of successfully navigating a sparring session dripping sweat like a leaking faucet.

Movement, meditation and mastery of body and mind – crucial elements that underpin any progress in Kuk Sool Won. I have new targets as a blue stripe belt holder that are already set by the comprehensive curriculum but I have personal goals too. To reach 80% flexibility by December in addition to being able to do more than 25 push-ups in one go and to be able to maintain a low stance for more than a minute. These may not seem like much but are quite an ask considering my baseline fitness levels.

These goals however are driving me forward. Everyone has to start somewhere. To me though it’s not like any other exercise I have done and the results are evidence of this fact. Before Kuk Sool I saw exercise as a chore, a necessary evil, now however the thought of the physical exertion is secondary to the thrill of discovering new avenues of growth. Exercise isn’t simply exercise when it connects with your soul.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Association.

Just a white belt? You need to begin to unleash the awesome!

Quote start great

My fifth Kuk Sool Won lesson and my anxiety levels still peak before class. Punctuality is something our instructors and I take seriously so I am always at the dojang at least 10min before the lesson begins.

My eyes are drawn to the brown belts in training. Eyes focused, mind clear, hands fast and stance low – that’s what Master Saidi calls their attention to. Such control and flexibility is wonderful to observe.

White belts unite

Time for my class to begin and I find my spot on the mat. Beside me a tiny and completely adorable toddler takes his place to begin his second class. We are separated in age by about forty years but in the dojang we are the same. White belts – the lowest rank.

I meet another mature white belt student who has just returned from an extended overseas trip. She is delightful and just as anxious as I am because her long absence requires her to refresh some of the skills she has already been taught.

We plough through techniques and forms together. It’s great fun and we have a sense of accomplishment completing the introductory stances and moves in unison.

A lesson about beginning

One of my favourite stories as a child was Alice in Wonderland and her conversation with the Mock Turtle about lessons came to mind:

‘And how many hours a day did you do lessons?’ said Alice, in a hurry to change the subject.

‘Ten hours the first day,’ said the Mock Turtle: ‘nine the next, and so on.’

‘What a curious plan!’ exclaimed Alice.

‘That’s the reason they’re called lessons,’ the Gryphon remarked: ‘because they lessen from day to day.’

I am glad that these kind of lessons don’t apply in Kuk Sool Won class. I need all the teaching and practice I can get!

I am mindful of my self-talk. Don’t think because you’re brave enough to start that it’s going to be easy. Don’t think that overcoming your lizard brain means that there will not be further obstacles or naysayers or moments of self doubt.

This might not work but I’m doing it anyway. “We don’t have to be great to start but we have to start to be great.” to quote Zig Ziglar. We all have something awesome inside of us to share but if we don’t start then nobody will ever know. You need to begin to unleash the awesome!

The next goal

We stop our practice to observe the brown belts. Even with their advanced skills the Master still corrects certain postures and hand positions. They are still learning too. In martial arts there is no finish line – only the route to the next goal.

I find this comforting. As much as we learn there is always more to know. Master Saidi tells us there will be tournament practice and that he expects the white belts to go to tournament too. This is a bit of a surprise as it’s less than 2 months away! A new learning goal is set.

We get to bow out at the end of class and we stand on the tape in rank order – white belts last of course. My spirits have buoyed. Even the longest journeys begin with a single step.

Have you taken your step?

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