Saturday, September 8, 2012

In the Name of Realism

For my 23th birthday, my mom bought me a pair of diamond studs. She probably couldn't have given them to me at a more appropriate time in my life either, as I was dealing with a new career that was starting to stall and I'd just ended things with my first, real, long-term boyfriend. Suffice to say that with all that and the fact that I was 150 miles from home, I was feeling less than celebratory when my mom called to wish me a happy birthday that January evening.

"Did you open your gift?" she'd asked, referring to the little box she'd sent me back to my new "home" town with after I visited my old one for Christmas. Stuffed in a bag I hadn't even unpacked yet, she made me open it while we were chatting. My "thank you" must have sounded a bit uninspired, I imagine (I thought they were rhinestones).

"They're real, you know," she told me. I couldn't believe that my mom, a homemaker (or "domestic engineer" as she called it) from a tiny town in the middle of North Nowhere had actually spend so much on such an extravagant gift for me - which is exactly what I said.

"Why?" she asked, completely baffled. "Don't you think you're worth it?" I know there was a very pregnant pause as I thought of how to answer. On that day, I didn't think I was - and it made me cry like a baby.

Since that day all those years ago, I've worn the studs almost every day - whether rocking my work attire, lycra bike tights and a tee-shirt or dressing it up for special occasions (which is easier than you think as I have two holes in each ear. And don't worry - I do clean my studs regularly!) - because, channeling a product slogan I still hear from time to time, I am worth it, but that's another story :-).

My mom passed away 20 years ago, so those studs are, of course, very special to me because they were one of the last things she gave me. I've worn them to every post-colligate track meet I ever competed in, every road race I've ever run and to every trip to the gym I've made in the last two decades. I noticed yesterday - as I was looking for a particular photograph from my son's baby book to send him (after I scanned it) for his birthday - that I even wore them the day he was born! And yes, I wear them to karate class. Never had an issue with them in my sparring gear or anything like that, either. The few times I have taken them off for class (when grappling or working choke escapes for instance), I've been really, REALLY worried that they were going to get lost or left behind somehow, which made it kinda hard to concentrate on practical technique applications.

Some folks train where there are strict dojo "no jewelry" rules. Most of my training partners are smart enough to remove their watches, big rings, necklaces and dangly earrings when we step onto the mat, but wedding rings and small studs have always been allowed where I've trained. Always.

Lately, training partner Ed had been on a tear about the wearing of jewelry at the Salvation Army where we teach. He's become quite insistant about it, too, saying he and I should come to the dojo jewelry-free to "be the example" for the students. Now I'm all for setting the standard, but I'm not sure how I feel about this new "no jewelry" rule - although it has less to do with my studs than you think. (No, really!)

Think about it for a minute - if the crap ever really goes down and I'm not exiting the shower, on the treadmill or in the dojo, I'm probably going to be wearing a watch, a bangle bracelet, a necklace and a belt because I put all of those things on everyday when I get dressed. I don't think any adversary will allow me a few moments to remove my hoops and watch before he or she attacks, right? So, maybe it isn't that horrible a thing to know how to move around with all that stuff on. I'm just sayin'...

But I've said the same thing about shoes and pencil skirts - "girl clothes" if you will - as well. I want to know how to throw a mae geri with a Timberland boot and a heavy parka on just in case a situation has to be handled as I'm trudging to my car in the snow (I do live in a place where that could actually happen as our winter wonderland season lasts from November through March; heck, we've even had snow storms in April). Why should jewelry be any different?

Japanese culture and etiquitte aside, our feet are shoeless and arms/necks unadorned on the mat to keep from hurting our dojo mates and instructors, although keeping from hurting ourselves is part of it, too. But if the three broken and one dislocated toe I've managed to hobble away on in the past few years is any indication, being barefoot can be just as bad, I think.

Trust and believe, I'm not going to class in a big medalion or gargantuan hoops - just like I wouldn't fall in with a pair of Stilettos or a mini-skirt on. But there has to be a happy medium somewhere as far as realism in training goes, right?



  1. Ah this is such a tricky issue! I think if things are small and unlikely to catch or scratch you or anyone else, then there's no problem. But hoop earrings, necklaces etc. are definitely no good. Personally I think long fake nails aren't a good thing to have in the dojo - I've seen girls lose nails during sparring before, which is funny bit probably not very safe!

    1. Tricky is right! My studs are tiny and I only worry about an uke possibly being scratched when we work techniques where my head, neck or ears are grabbed or we grapple. I've worn them for 20 years, been training in them for eight and no one has ever gotten scratched or poked. Me either, for that matter...

      Never trained with anyone with fake nails, but long ones have scratched me on many occassions - and mostly from guys or folks who don't seem to own toe nail clippers - ICK. I've gotten more boo-boos from rings (especially engagement rings) than anything, though...

  2. If you're safe and you're keeping your partners safe, I don't see the harm.

    But then some styles and some schools are a lot more focused on formality than I'm interested in. Part of the issue here is sentimental, part of it is practical, but then a lot of it is the culture of your style and of your school.

    It's a toughie, and there's not one right answer. Were it me, I wouldn't ask you to remove the earrings, unless it were for sparring or some other safety issue.

    1. My sensei is fine with it. Ed is my training partner and we teach lots of little ones (6-16 yr olds) closer to home. I'm not trying to be defiant at all - I just don't see the point of trying to sterilize the environment just for the sake of sterilizing it. Hoops, chains, bracelets - of course they should be removed, but studs and wedding rings? Perhaps then we should also be making all the girls wear their hair in scrunchies, too (tangled hair or hair that gets pulled is very much a safety issue), IMHO. Yep - no one right answer for sure...

  3. Never having worn earrings I can only suppose that they do pose a mild puncture risk to the wearer if struck in the ear. Or from being pulled out during grappling - even by mistake. And as for myself, I always leave at home my own wedding band even though it is a plane piece of tungsten. But I am a guy - jewelry isn't my thing.

    However, I dont really see much harm in two studs. Like you said, they aren't giant hoops begging to be yanked out.

    1. Maybe it's the way my head is built (no jokes from the peanut gallery, LOL!), but the posts of my studs don't even come close to touching my neck or the space behind my ears even when I push the ear lobes back as far as they will go. We almost NEVER do ground stuff/work guard, but when we do, I take the studs out. I think formality is important, but comfort is, as well - and naked ear lobes make me very yuncomfortable, like something is missing...

  4. You are clearly attached to those earrings Felicia and understandably so! But I'm afraid I'm in the no jewellery in the dojo camp. We don't operate a complete ban on jewellery but definitely no watches, earrings or necklaces. However, personally I don't even wear my wedding ring - it just doesn't feel right to wear any jewellery. I'm surprised you're not worried that you'll lose an earring during training or that one may get torn out of your ear! I think I'd just be fiddling and checking them all the time...

    1. The posts have screw-on backings, so they aren't going anywhere at all.To me it feels completely wrong to have no jewelry on when training because I wear at least a (flat wedding-type) ring and my studs everywhere else (and I fiddle when they are out/off because it feels like something is missing). Again, my sensei does not have a problem with them at all, although my training partner wants to establish the rule where we teach, mostly for discipline/formality reasons and much less for safety ones. I just don't happen to agree with him, but it's much less about my studs than it sounds - although I know that seems hard to believe! :-)

  5. Received via email:

    Hey Felicia,
    Just read your post on the diamond studs. I think you should keep wearing them to practice -- they represent more than jewelry, but a connection to your late mother.

    I had a pair of diamond studs, both in the left ear, that were a gift from my late mother (passed in '93). I wore them for 10 years straight, from age 20 to 30 (when I decided I was "old" and should take them out). I did not take them out at karate, against the insistence of presiding Black Belts. Told them I would take me lumps for the infraction, take my chances on nicks from the post, etc., but would not disrespect a gift from my late mother.

    Protocol IS important, but in an honor-bound pursuit like Karate, must give way to honor our dead.


    1. Wow, Sensei. I never even thought about it like that! Thanks for the perspective :-)