Thursday, February 18, 2010

The hardest part is pushing off

So, today I learned an interesting lesson.
Rolls kind of scare me.

Obviously that's what we worked on today in class. Forward rolls.
I was extremely reluctant to work forward rolls today because it's the first time I've done them in over ten years. There's really not much to them; they're not the most complicated thing we're learning. Matter of fact, they're relatively simple: tuck your head in (of course!), push off with your back leg, and use your shoulder and forearm to roll your weight over. Simple in theory and not too hard in context.

For me, however, they are a challenge. It's momentum, I've found, that really makes or breaks the roll; it's the push-off. It hurts to do them slowly. You're not really supposed to go slow. It's a fast progression and by the end, you should be standing...not sprawled out on the ground. How useful are you on the ground, after all? The idea isn't to make yourself vulnerable, it's to do exactly the opposite.

So anyway, the rolls were challenging for me and I found myself getting a little bit discouraged by the end of the class. I suppose I've gotten to be a little bit arrogant. I've gotten used to the idea that I can pick up on things relatively quickly and refine them with a little bit of practice.

With rolls this is not so. I'm actually going to have to work on rolls if I want to get them down. See, I'm not in the same kind of shape that I was in as a kid; I'm not as flexible, I'm not as fast, I'm not as balanced, and my lungs aren't as healthy as they were back then.
But today, my biggest roadblock wasn't my body; it was my mind.

Today was the first time since I began to study martial arts again that the words "I can't" popped into my head. I've found that it's really hard to make those words go away, once they're there. The word 'can't' opens up a whole world of negativity and apprehension. All sorts of doubts and fears raced through my mind, that first time Sensei said,
"Alright Becky, go."

Go? Really? Me? I haven't done this in a billion years...I don't know what I'm doing. I'm going to hurt myself. I'm going to look stupid because I'm going to mess up. What if I pull something and then I can't do karate for a month? What if I disappoint you, Sensei? What if I find out that I'm not good at this?
What if I find out that I can't do it? That I'm really not good at any of this stuff?

Rolls scared me. I had so much doubt and fear. And even after I found out that they were possible for me, it made me angry that I couldn't do them as well as the other people in class. I wanted to be at the level that everyone else was at; I wanted to stop being the one that slows everybody else down.

So much negativity over such a little thing as a forward roll...I can't believe how much it bothered me! I was discouraged by the end of class because I really want to be able to do this stuff; I really want to be good.

It's just going to take time and patience...And I know now that if I practice them, forward rolls won't be so hard after a while.

But it's really not about the forward rolls themselves, it's about how they made me feel. Sitting here at my computer, I can think about how I felt and kind of laugh at myself. But when I get on the mat, I feel so serious; like it's so important that there's no room for error. This is obviously not true; I don't have to run. Where am I running to, anyway? Just more learning. More journey. That's how it is.

But forward rolls make me feel exposed. They make me feel vulnerable because I need help with them and I can't just BE good at them by myself. And that's weird; I like to be able to figure things out for myself, without the help of others.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned, here. First of all, it's not a race, right? And if it IS a race, in the end, it's only with myself. Secondly, it's easy to get discouraged about something that doesn't come naturally. Patience and practice might take a long time, but they pay off. Thirdly, I can't do everything by myself. If I only accept help from myself, I limit my ability to learn...And I limit my relationships with other people.

And fourth...Well...I have to learn how to trust that people are good and that they're not going to laugh at me because I can't yet do something as well as them. And I have to learn how to trust myself, that I can do more than I think I can.
The hard part is actually doing it.

When I was first in position, I didn't spend two minutes actually rolling, I spent two minutes freaking out about technicalities, footwork, whether or not I was going to hurt myself, whether or not people were going to laugh at me, and whether or not I was cut out to do it at all.
But when I stopped over-thinking it and actually rolled, it was easier to do than I could've ever hoped for.

The hardest part is just pushing off.

So while I had my first encounter with the word 'can't' today, I eventually conquered it. It was hard and it was scary...And it involved risk. But if I had settled for 'can't', I would never have discovered that I could do it.
Now that I know I can, I'm only going to get better. Which is great.

Isn't it funny how the things that scare us often hold some of the best lessons?

All the best,

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