Before I begin chatting about form, function, and the habits of most women, I would like to take a moment and discuss something of utmost importance to a parent. Many of you may have heard about the tragic story of Jessica Ridgeway, who was a young lady that was abducted on October 5, 2012, just feet from her home and she was subsequently murdered by a violent predator. As you all know, this happens across the United States everyday and it is tragic, every time. I am taking this moment to ask – no, I am begging – each parent to talk to their children about the potential for “icky people” and give them tools to ensure their safety if they were ever placed in that situation. In addition to talking to them, please take them to a self-defense class so they can have the knowledge of how to fight back and get away. Most community centers, martial arts schools and local schools have some sort of program or can guide you to a program. For example, 5280 Karate Academy is hosting a children’s self-defense workshop. If you are in the area and interested, please utilize the 5280 Karate Academy phone number at the top of this page and get your child enrolled. Please, let us prevent another tragedy from happening to any more children. Many thanks to you all.
Before I began sparring classes, I had the realization that I would be placed in situations that would require me to become more self-aware of my physical body. I knew the speed and control of my punches and kicks would be something I would have to analyze and focus on. I knew the speed of my reflexes and reactions would directly impact my ability to block, and in essence, not get knocked the eff out. I knew all this, and I had accepted it. What I didn’t know was that the physical awareness would also require me to alter my most basic instinct. One that I had made as essential as breathing. Maybe, even more essential than breathing…
As long as I can remember, I have had this reflex. My guess is it started somewhere in middle school, right about the time that boys went hormone crazy and thought that any contact with a girl, no matter how benign, was an awesome occasion. So what did these hormonally water-logged creatures do? They poked you, in your stomach. What did we do in response? Why, we sucked in and flexed our abs, of course.
Now some would say that we flexed and sucked in to minimize the organ damage from pointy index fingers. But let’s be honest… we sucked in to make our abs appear stronger and more prevalent, resulting in a slimmer waist. We wanted to appear thinner than what we were. Duh.
Fast forward to our mid-thirties, and that reflex has become more instinctual. That is because through the years, we have added more around our middle due to stress, carrying babies, not enough exercise and too much bad-for-us food. The instinct becomes even more necessary and even less deliberate. We breath, we suck in. Period. For me, it has never been an issue. Until a recent sparring class, that is.
photo credit: Little Flower’s Fan Club :) via photopin cc
In sparring, you are expected to learn offensive and defensive moves, and one of the defensive moves is the art of defensive breathing. This breathing is designed to absorb the shock of a kick or punch to the torso, and minimize the pain. Basically, as you exhale, you push air into your abdomen and extend your stomach. That’s right, it is the exact opposite of sucking in. And the best way to detect if you are doing this properly is for an instructor to place two pointed fingers onto your solar plexus.
So there I was, a woman with someone else’s extended fingers in her stomach, who was expected to exhale and extend her abdomen, which happened to be the exact converse of my immediate instinct when anyone’s anything comes within three feet of my stomach. You know what all that is (other than a pretty twisted run-on sentence)? A recipe for disaster.
Yeah, attempting to exhale and extend my stomach with tense, contracted abs was not a successful endeavor. After many, many attempts and coaching from an incredibly patient Grand Master, I finally had to confess my conflict: I was a fat girl who, since she was a ‘tween, has tried to make her stomach appear smaller than it actually was and that was the exact opposite of what was expected in this exercise.
After a few head shakes, anecdotes, laughter and the distinction that I am less “fat” and more “tonally challenged in areas,” I finally was able to produce the correct breathing technique. But only like, twice. It was a small victory in combatting the habits of the past twenty years. I think we can put that in the ‘work in progress’ category.
Maybe my next class, I can do the breathing correctly three times. I know, my goals are lofty…
Today’s black belt characteristic I would like to highlight is perseverance and I dedicate it to my son. Tonight was the first part of our test for our next belt ranks, and it focused on all the curriculum we have learned thus far. Ben, being a typical seven-year old, had a tendency to get distracted when others are doing things at a different pace and lose his place in his curriculum. The worst time was about six months ago, and since then, he has worked incredibly hard to hone his focus on his performance. He isn’t at his goal yet, but he is gets better with every progress check, and his perseverance has not waivered for a second. Tonight, he passed his test and will not need to re-test later this week. The kid rocks (my world and in general), seriously…