I remember the fright I felt at these words, “Remember, what you give out is what I will respond with…”
I was tasked with sparring with my one female sensei, a 2nd or 3rd dan, and immediately felt overwhelmed. I had no idea how to hit, or kick, or where to aim. I certainly didn’t desire to feel more pain than necessary, I had only just started my journey as a ninpoka. I swallowed the lump in my throat and made an attempt at a strike, which was easily countered by my way more experienced partner. I paused and considered the next attempt: a kick. Again, this was easily countered. On we went for what felt like an eternity, but was only like two minutes. That was two years ago. I have traversed many of the same nerve-wracking scenarios since then, faced with far superior opponents wondering how I would get through.
I am an average height woman in her prime (some would call this “middle age”), who has very little real-world experience with fighting. Anything resembling fighting in my life has been in the dojo, under controlled conditions. Facing down someone bigger and stronger is my weekly bread and butter. What I do intentionally to overcome my biggest opponent yet: myself. I got into this crazy mess because I felt a strong call from my (Heavenly) Dad to get myself into the dojo as soon as humanly possible. I was 45, why in the world would I join this crazy train? But, being an obedient daughter, enter the dojo I did. Two years later, I find myself reminiscing and remembering my super-scared self facing fear and harm. I didn’t want to give it my all that night, I wanted to run away. And now? Bring it on.
Whoa. That was bold. Considering the knocking knees of the first sparring I ever experienced, I must ask myself, what has changed in so little time that you’d be so brash? Consistency. Bruises. Sweat. Humility. Confidence.
Showing up saved me from myself. My femaleness, with all its gloriously wild emotions, needed taming. I was one-woman wrecking ball of panic and unadulterated fear, flailing helplessly at the real enemies of my life. I sorely needed several variations on seoi nage to my spirit more than a few times to wake up my true self.
Overcoming self needed to have cleaner throws, and focused strikes. Facing down something, or someone, bigger and stronger than you requires a mental toughness not easily obtained in the arms of a comfy chair. Heck, it’s not easily obtained on the mats either, but the lessons, though more punishing, are purer and more thorough. Facing one’s self, quite the likely the most frightening of life’s enemies, takes grit. One can’t get there sitting and dreaming of the illusory “some day.”