Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Killing Flies with Sledgehammers

As the regular Tuesday night dojo is closed this week for Spring Break, last night, three of us packed up the van and headed across the bridge to one of our sister dojos. The night didn’t go well at all as one of my training partners was put on the spot by a sensei who yelled and hollered at her endlessly in front of the entire class, not in private, constructive corner of the room. And each time he barked at her, this karateka felt like he was yelling at me.

A remarkable practitioner, the sensei so reminds me of the very first oncologist I had shortly after my BC diagnosis: while the other doctors on my treatment team raved about her knowledge and skills, I was quite surprised to find when I finally met her that she had an extremely harsh personality. Gruff with a "my way or the highway" demeanor, she never returned my phone calls with the questions she assured me I could ask and seemed a little too comfortable referring to me as the patient number on my chart. She definitely knew her stuff, but how she shared information with me left me feeling like somehow I was doing something wrong. She finally did find time to call me back when I requested all my records be transferred to my new oncologist. No plans on coming back to her office because the vibe was just too...OFF...which I felt might actually hinder my treatment and recovery. I needed her to help me learn how to fight cancer; it didn't seem right to have to fight her, too.

I may not have instructed much karate, but from my time in front of the lectern, I've learned a bit about offering criticism in a way that makes the folks you're instructing WANT to do their absolute best. Barking orders and demeaning students’ efforts net nothing but frustration and animosity from the very people you are trying to assist. Not that anyone should expect only compliments, but there is a way to offer criticism and his way doesn’t seem to be the most effective. Why he acted in such a way is beyond me, but I’m not sure what budo dictates that we should do about it. I understand the reasoning behind it – his desire to help us become the best karate practitioners we can be – but I don’t understand how debasing anyone really fits into that. It is possible to can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, after all.

My training partner showed the restraint of Job last night, however. Although upset, she told me later that she always manages to take at least one piece of info home with her when this sensei teaches – and that last night was no exception, which is a very good thing. But something just didn’t feel right about the way it all went down. And just like my old oncologist, it feels like continuing to train with him might actually hinder our growth in the art instead of helping it. What the heck to do with that, though, is the real question.

That's my two cents. What's yours?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My Time in the Ring

This weekend, I competed in a local karate tournament. Four years ago, it was the very first tournament I'd ever been to. New to martial arts, I promptly got disqualified for contact to the head. I felt like an utter idiot.

Flash forward to Sunday. I sparred against a young man who thoroughly kicked my butt in about 20 seconds. Again, I felt like an idiot - not because I got beaten so badly, but because of how I fought. I actually didn't really fight at all - just stood there flat-footed and out of my element, reduced to the human equivalent of a Wave Master. Tough to get any points in JuKumite if you don't actually throw any techniques.

But not only didn't I fight, I did the "deer in the headlights" thing, standing there like I had never been in a ring before and had no idea what I was supposed to do. The reality is, had I met my opponent in the street instead of a sports environment, I might not be typing this right now. Yeah, it really was that bad.

I was so pissed off that I wanted to scream. Instead, I cried, which made everyone within a 10-mile radius assume I was really hurt physically, prompting them to ask over and over if I was OK. That, of course, made me even more upset, which made me cry harder. Stupid vicious cycle! I even get teary now thinking about what I didn't do in that ring.

We train to react to "situations" with real, live, evasion, kicks and punches. Blocking/throwing techniques is supposed to replace paralyzing fear enough so you can do what you gotta do: fight or flee. But for some reason, not only did instinct abandon me, but my training did as well, as I didn't fight or even move the heck out of the way to keep from getting hit. Doing nothing hardly seems like the appropriate response in such a situation, but that's exactly what I did. What the heck is up with that?

The tears came from the realization that perhaps I really don't at all know how to apply the techniques I train to grasp. If when confronted by something new or something unexpected, I freeze, am I training for naught? What is it I'm doing if I only use what I know in the controlled environment of the dojo? Will I be able to apply it when I really need to? And I'm supposed to be testing for my black belt in a few months. Yeah - I feel totally ready for that (insert eye roll here)...

Even two days later, I want to hide under the covers when I remember my time in the ring. GAWD...

Anything like this ever happen to you?