Today I have been training for exactly one year at Martial Arts Refinery. It seems fitting that it was around Thanksgiving last year that I started training again. The first class that I attended was held on a cold Monday night...and I hadn't worked out in years.
I distinctly remember that during warm-ups that day, Sensei had us say what we were thankful for while doing straddle-splits. We held that position until everyone got a chance to say what they were thankful for. I said something generic like "martial arts", although I was probably more thankful for water breaks at that particular moment.
Today, I led warm-up and we went around the room during straddle-splits saying what we were thankful for, just like last year. This time it was a much longer process, though, because our class size has increased greatly since then.
A year ago, during that first warm-up session, if you had asked me whether I thought I'd help teach at the Refinery someday, I would've laughed and said something like, "Yeah right, there's no way I'd ever be good enough to do that."
It's a testament to the quality of training that I've received from Sensei Frank and my classmates that today I cringe when I reflect on those words. The words "no way could I EVER be good enough" were once part of my vocabulary. They were once part of my thought-process. Looking back, it seems like a different lifetime where my attitude was so negative about myself and about my ability to do martial arts...but it was only a year ago. And now, just a year later, I help teach kids and adults how to do martial arts. Now I recognize that hard work and spirit will triumph infinitely over doubt, so long as you have the willingness and desire to see yourself improve and grow. Now I lead warm-ups and have something to truly be thankful for when we're holding the straddle-split position.
Now when I say that I am thankful for martial arts, it is not just a generic answer. Now it means something to me; to reflect back on who I was a year ago, when I began training, and to see how much I've improved...there's no feeling like this one. It is truly unique and is deeply satisfying.
It's a feeling I would never have been able to feel if not for Sensei's patient instruction and my classmates' willingness to help me learn. While I realize that I have improved because of MY choices, it is THEIR spirit and generous giving of time, effort, and experience that truly helped me grow this year. They push me to want to be better, every class, all the time. I bow to Sensei and my classmates every day, multiple times, to show my thanks...but I don't truly have words for how thankful I am for them. They have truly been an example of indomitable spirit to me and I'm not sure they realize how important they have been (and are) in my life.
So tonight I say thank you. I don't know who reads this blog of mine, but if you're a student at the Refinery and you've stumbled on this post, or if you're a parent, or especially if you're Sensei, my sincere thanks to you for all that you do and have done for me. You are truly amazing. It is an honor, today and every day, to train with you and I am extremely, extremely thankful for you.
Domo arigatou gozaimasu. Thank you very, very much.