Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Full Disclosure

Saturday night while I was getting dressed to go to my son's last college dance performance of the semester, my phone rang. I let it go to voicemail only to find out later that it was one of my adult students who wanted to talk to me about something. The performance ended late and we went out to eat after, so by the time I got her message, it was well past midnight and too late to call back. Sunday was a family function that bled right into hours of grading papers for my college students. I didn't end up contacting my student until Monday morning.

As it turns out, she wanted to chat about was her 10-year-old daughter who is also one of my students. On Saturday after karate, she'd told her mom that she had been sexually assaulted by a young male relative about a week before.

Reading her message literally made me freeze. I thought maybe I had misread her text (we were both at work and unable to physically chat) but I hadn't. The tiny silver lining to this very dark cloud is that my student actually told her mother about what had happened to her. I know that I didn't tell mine.

My abuser was also a relative. It started when I was six. About 10 years back, I wrote a story about it that I have since lost (that was two computers ago). I don't think I even told my mom until I was in my late teens or early 20s. Since she passed away 21 years ago, there were only four folks still on the planet who know about what happened to me - including my attacker and myself (the others are my beloved and my best friend, who was also sexually abused by a family memeber when she was a child). Unfortunately, me, my best friend and my student are not alone.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), one in six American women will be victims of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime - about 17.7 million folks (about 2.78 milion men have also been victms). Fifteen percent of those almost 18 million women are under the age of 12 when they were assaulted. In the US, a woman is sexually assaulted every two minutes and this year, the total tally will reach somewhere around 207,754 - most of whom will be assaulted by someone that they know. To me, those stats are absolutely insane.

Emotionally, things have run the gamut for me since I heard about my student. At first I was horrified, then very sad for my young student when I thought about what she'd experienced. Next I got very angry, thinking selfishly that some of the tools I helped her sharpen on the mat could possibly have saved her somehow (of course that ain't necessarily the case). After that, I became six-year-old me again - the same confused and scared person who thought that what happened was somehow my fault, which was the biggest reason I think I didn't tell anyone until I was an adult. Telling her mom about the abuse I suffered felt like the right thing to do when we talked. I also told training partner, Ed later in the day. Now I'm telling you.

The legal end of this is now in full swing as the police and Child Protective Services are involved and a connection has been made to SATU - the county's Sexual Abuse Treatment Unit - to help all concerned deal with the trauma via counseling and other things. Add physical exams and interviews with police and it has been very stressful week for the family. It will probably be stressful for a while.  

My adult student and I spoke a little while ago. She says she's just doing what needs to be done to protect her child - a sort of "auto-pilot" if you will. My concern is that once the immediate "Just. Get. It. Done." thinking has worn off, she will feel some sort of guilt for not being able to keep her child safe. Although it wasn't her fault at all, I can understand that thinking - because being an instructor she sees for four hours a week as well as a sexual abuse survivor, I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel some guilt as well. Misguided, perhaps, but it is what it is.

So my question is this: while there are lots of MA programs that touch on bullying, I haven't heard much about things like "good touch/bad touch"-type programs after pre-school or kindergarten, much less that are designed to be used in a martial arts setting. Do such programs exist? Can anyone point me to a curriculum? I'd really like to find out more.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Randori Blues

For the record, I freaking HATE randori. Whenever it's announced in class, my palms start sweating, my mouth gets dry and I sneak a quick glance at the clock to see just how long this torture could possibly go on. I detest it so much that if it were a choice between eating beets (the absolute nastiest food on the planet, IMHO) and stepping on the mat as the randori nage, I'd gobble down those beets, flash a peace sign and call it a day.

Why do things that work so well in my head look like a tangled heap of crap when I give it a go? Why do I think so much when it's my turn? Why is writing about it now even making my heart race?

Sure, the athlete in me knows that because I hate it so much, it is probably the weakest part of my karate repertoire, which means I should be working on it much more than I do. But that OMG - here it comes ---> rapid breathing ---> butterflies in my belly ---> adrenaline dump thing that happens in the few moments between the "OK - let's do some random attacks next!" declaration and the "You're up!" nod is just too exhausting.

Here's the problem: the mandate given is that the technique isn't over until the uke is ON THE GROUND. Since I really can't clothesline or give the uke a haito to the temple, the only options are sweeps, reaps and techniques involving unbalancing to put him/her down - and that is only after whatever technique is called for (a punch to the face or empi to the floating rib for example) is complete. What I constantly hear is: you might not want to try that on him/her because of the weight/height difference. But that's what you called! So I pause mid-way - the equivalent of a verbal stammer - and the technique bumps and bounces to the finish line. I end up feeling quite stupid - over and over again.

The solution? Go back to the two-person techniques I polished in prep for my nidan test and do them over and over again. The problem with that is that most of my training - outside of class each week - is usually done solo in the comfort of my roomy kitchen. And while my imaginary uke falls so fluidly each time, my real flesh and bones ones in the dojo don't. Yes, it's frustrating as hell.

To top off the frustration even more, one of my techniques ended up making the group tangent into a discussion on the legality of continuing with a defense when your adversary has walked away. There were no answers, just lots of opinions that had us go around and around. Seems that the law also agrees with the idea that the attacked person can become the attacker if/when he continues to pummel after the threat has backed off. Unfortunately, no one in the class did. Sigh...

Let's hear it for another frustrating night of training!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

One Tired Karateka

Not physically - but emotionally, which can be just as draining.

I've been training in the martial arts for a little over eight years now - which admittedly is not a long time. But in my study of USA Goju, I trained in sister schools who had their own way of doing things.  As a result, I can do almost every kata in my repertoire at least three different ways. Mind you, each head of each of those USA Goju schools descended from the same tree (as in all of them directly trained with/under or trained with instructors who learned directly from O'Sensei Peter Urban), but there are differences just the same. I've never understood that (because even when I asked I never got a satisfactory answer) - and I still don't understand it.

To add to the confusion, I recently began training in traditional Okinawan Goju Ryu, which is where Master Urban began. Yep, you guessed it - there are even more differences. But unlike USA Goju, my new school's association and all of its sister schools do things exactly the same way, which is the same as it is done in Okinawa.

In working with my Goju Ryu instructor (who trains every year in Okinawa for some period of time), it's clear that knowing so many versions of kata is kinda silly. Really, what it mostly does is lead to confusion - in that I have to remember where I am when I start presenting because that will dictate how the kata will be done - in everything from how it opens, to specific techniques in the dance, to whether I will step forward (USA Goju) or backward (Goju Ryu) when the kata concludes. Ridiculous, right?

My Goju Ryu instructor told me Tuesday that it might be time to let all the other ways - but the ONE way I want to always do the kata - go. And although I know he's right, it's a little more complicated than that because I still teach USA Goju. Understand that I really love USA Goju - but as what I know to date did not come in a very linear way (because of the school hopping), it feels like my adventures on the mat have been a constant exercise in re-learning a "better" way over and over again. Truthfully, much of what I gleaned early on was ineffective - which is why I had to make so many corrections - so to say I hate the fact that I'm now teaching stuff that is just as potentially ineffective is quite an understatement. Teaching is beginning to frustrate me to no end, and that ain't good - particularly because I have no real idea of how to fix it. The questions I keep coming back to is this: Can you teach something you don't totally believe in? Should you even try? I'm not sure...

Me thinks it's time for a teaching hiatus, perhaps...