March was sort of a bad month for writing blog entries. We're in the middle of the semester and I have more than a full course-load, so I've been writing less...but I HAVEN'T missed any class, which means that I've learned quite a bit even though I haven't written about it.
A few things have changed at the Refinery over the past month. Bruce went to a different Shotokan school to try and earn his 4th degree black belt, (which we can't supply him here at the Refinery), Zak's work schedule has made it impossible for him to come to class, and Blake's mom was pretty severely injured...so our classes have been kind of lacking in advanced students. Also, since school is in full swing, there has generally been less attendance over the past month, so on many days it has just been me and Sensei during the last class of the day.
Now that nobody is able to attend the 4:30 advanced class, it's just Sensei and I, as well. Let me tell you: if you want to really learn a lot, one-on-one training is absolutely the way to go!
Anyway, today during the 4:30 class, Sensei spent most of the time pushing me around. He told me to take a fighting stance and the object of the exercise was to stay on balance, no matter what. He pushed me, pulled me, tried to throw me, tried to sweep me, arm-barred me, tripped me, and the whole time I had to keep my base wide and my weight dropped in order to stay on balance.
Sensei has this new way of telling us to drop our center of gravity. Instead of saying, "Bend your knees" he says, "Be humble". Humility means serving, and in order to do that, you place yourself beneath those you serve...and it's also a lot quicker than saying, "Bend your knees".
Anyway, the wider my base was and the lower my center of gravity, the harder it was for Sensei to push me/pull me off balance. He said that this is because when you have a strong foundation, you have a strong stance. We practice stances all the time, but it really put things into perspective for me to be knocked over a few times.
Foundations are really important. Ask any home-builder. If your house isn't built on a strong foundation, when the hard times come, it will sink into the ground and collapse. This is why we spend so much time practicing the basics in karate. Every advanced move has basic moves in it...and every basic move will help prepare for advanced moves. Just imagine a jump-spinning-hook-kick without a bent front leg! Guess what that sounds like? WHAM! It feels even worse than it sounds. Trust me.
It's important to build our lives on strong foundations, as well. Sometimes we see something good and we realize that we really want to make our whole lives about that thing. Sometimes it becomes our job. Sometimes it becomes a well-treasured hobby. Sometimes, it's even a person!
But at any point in our lives, those things can be taken away. We might lose our jobs. We might become sick or injured. Our houses and possessions might be destroyed in a natural disaster. Friends and family eventually grow old or sick and die. Our lives and the very things that we believe to be so strong and steadfast...aren't. They are fragile and finite. Eventually, even the human race will cease to exist on Earth. Nothing lasts. Everything passes through the natural cycle of life and death.
So what foundation of this world can we hope to build our lives on? Nothing on Earth will last forever...but God is not of this Earth. He created it and lived on it, but he is not of it. He is not finite; he will not die. He will not even shake or stumble or sway in the wind. He is a solid foundation...the ONLY solid foundation. God is the only one that will not grow tired or crumble to the ground. He won't decay. He won't lose his luster or his strength with time. He won't even be out of breath from a series of sparring matches. He is not of the Earth, which makes it difficult to base our Earthly lives around him, but nothing else in the world will hold. Nothing else will last.
All of it will someday fade away...but God will always remain. Our orange belt verse is Proverbs 18:10, which says, "The name of the lord is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and are safe". There is no greater foundation; no better place to build your life than on God. God, who commands the oceans and calms the storms; at whose whisper mountains shudder and nations fall to their knees...God, who is on his throne; who is reigning and who is never shaken; who never falls. Never fails. Never abandons.
The ways of this world say that we will die and ultimately lose...but God's promise is that we will win, either way...because through him, we cannot lose. If our God is for us, then who can ever stop us? If our God is with us, what can stand against us? Nothing, because our foundation is everlasting, eternal, true, and good.
We will be pushed and pulled in our lives. We'll be swept and arm-barred, thrown to the ground, choked, pinned, and rolled. We will be hurt. We will fall. But we will fall on something greater than the nicest martial arts mat, and we will stand back up with our base wide and our knees bent. And nothing will defeat us, because when the day is done and our time here is gone...we win.
And that's that.