Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pushing Through Fear

For those who know her (and those who don't), Kameron Hurley of Brutal Woman wrote a kick-ass post called On Fear and Being Stronger. She's talking about her adjustment to discovering (at age 26!) that she now has Type I diabetes, with all the scary stuff that entails. She already remade her life once, when she decided to walk away from the person she was and the life she knew to become the person she wanted to be. Now she has to do it again, only this time she has to figure out how to remain the person she is and wants to be, while dealing with a whole new set of circumstances. She likens it to stepping into a fighting ring with a bigger opponent. It's not that you're not afraid - it's that you make the commitment to push forward anyway.

Kameron's pushing forward anyway. A month after she was in the ICU, she's lifting weights again, thinking of starting a yoga class, and about to sign back up at her boxing gym.

More power to her. I've let fear stop me far more than I should. I was amazingly timid as a teenager, and as a young adult. Finding karate at 25 was a godsend. A neighbor wanted to try the local dojo, and brought me along for moral support. Since I had toyed with the idea of trying a martial art for ages, I agreed.

Frankly, if I'd known what I was getting into, I'd have never set foot in the place. Gabbard's dojo was, frankly, brutal. Good - my gods they were good - but very, very tough. I felt lucky to survive the first class, and I could barely get out of bed the next morning.I had sore muscles, sore joints, and bruises everywhere.

I loved it. I went back the next night, and the night after, and the night after that. For weeks I attended every class they would allow - usually four a week. I got stronger. I learned that getting punched might hurt, but it wasn't the terrifying thing I had always thought. I still hadn't faced my biggest fear, though - the fear of getting hurt.

Then six weeks in, we had a bit of a different assignment. Gabbard Sensei dumped everyone in the ring. Four black belts, and twelve lesser belts. The job was to pin each of the black belts. We could work in any teams we wanted, from one on one, to twelve on one. Nobody left until each black belt had been pinned. The two other newbie women and I choose to tackle the youngest, smallest target together. He put up a terrific fight, but sheer weight and size eventually brought him down. (He was perhaps 5'2", we were all in the 5'6"-5'8" range.) I was on my knees, holding his shoulders, when another black belt, being pressed hard from the front backed into me. Thinking he was being attacked from behind, he spun, chambering his leg and hit me full across the face with his knee. In all probability he cracked my right cheekbone - though it was never X-rayed. That whole side of my face was amazingly black, purple, and red for weeks. It was over two months before Gabbard Sensei let me back into the ring without a mask to protect my face.

That was my first, and so far almost only significant karate-caused injury. But what was significant about it to me, wasn't the injury itself - it was what I did about it. I held onto my target's shoulders, finished the pin. Joined in the finish of the last black belt. Bowed out of the ring formally with everyone else - and then went and got ice. I discovered that my worst fear of injury, wasn't actually fear of the injury. It was fear that I would collapse if I were injured. That I would cower, and hide, and never, ever do such a thing again. I also discovered that my worst fears weren't true. I cried - or rather I leaked tears that I couldn't stop - but I also finished what I set out to do. I showed up at the next class wanting to be there, and amazed at myself that I truly did want to be there.

If karate had taught me nothing else, ever, that one moment would have made it worthwhile for me to go. The discovery that my fears themselves were infinitely more painful than the reality I was afraid of. Also the discovery that I wanted to learn, far more than I wanted to be safe. I'm a more courageous person now than I was before, and that is precious indeed.


Becky said...

Great post Cindy. If you had to write a shodan essay, this would be a perfect one.

John Vesia said...

Fears are quite often irrational. Facing fears quite often dissolves them.

I was looking over some of your earlier posts -- you do Isshinryu! Are you still testing for green belt on the 23rd? What Isshinryu organization/lineage do you belong to? Who's your Sensei? There's not many Isshinryu bloggers out there. I'll be checking back. Take care.


PerpetualBeginner said...

Hi John, and welcome!

I have a somewhat bifurcated lineage. My first dojo was in the IIKA with Sensei David Gabbard, who was a pupil of Denny Shafer et al. (His bio is at http://www.isshinryu.nxs.net/members/Gabbard.htm ) I studied at his dojo for just about two years. Then I got pregnant, and my husband and I moved.

In the end I was away for about seven years. Two years ago we moved to Indiana, and I found another Isshinryu dojo. I currently study under Sensei T.J. Rodeghier, who is in the IWKA, and whose teacher was John Lennox.

Yes, I'm still up for testing on Friday. I would be a little nervous because our dojo manager is out on vacation this week, but one of the kids is testing the same evening. I have confidence that Mr. Rodeghier will make sure the test goes through even if the paperwork gets bolluxed somehow. He's pretty careful about that with the kids.

My current dojo is much less rough and tumble than Gabbard's was. I'm just as happy about it, since I'm not sure I could sustain the rather brutal pace that I could at 26 anymore.

[Mat] said...

:) I wish I could say I didn't fall down on the ground when I got hurt.

In fact, I couldn't get up...

I've been in countless fights with my brother, all ending when blood started flowing. And I mean flowing. Boys will be boys, it seems. But then, a single punch in the ribs is all it took. Down I went, like a deadweight. Boom. It's still hurting today and it's been two months now.

Next time, no punch will get through.

Glad you overcame your fear of hurting. It's true what they say, isn't it? That which does not kill you makes you stronger?


And Isshin-Ryu and Chito-Ryu ressemble themselves a great lot. I can't remember which bifurcated from which but I know they're related. Not like all karate styles are, but more like close cousins.

Have a good day!

PerpetualBeginner said...

It wasn't any great merit of mine that I didn't hit the floor, Mat. If I had been standing up and taken an equivalent blow, I likely would have fallen, but it's much easier to stay balanced when on your knees.

As to getting up - I think rib/torso hits are more likely to leave you immobile than facial hits of equivalent force. I have no data to back me up, but experience says you need leverage and breath to get back on your feet, and a torso hit is more likely to intefere with one or both of those. Facial hits hurt like hell, but they don't generally impair you too much unless they're dire.

PerpetualBeginner said...

Hey Mat!

I was doing some looking up. It looks like Tatsuo Shimabuku (our founder), and your founder (Chitose), shared at least two teachers, while Chitose trained alongside Shimabuku's third and final instructor. Not at all surprising then, that the two styles should bear a strong resemblance.