I have come to enjoy sitting in my car, surfing the web on my phone, waiting for my body to calm down so I can drive home safely from karate. I run fluids, drink water, catch my breath, wipe my face, and just sit peacefully for a little while. This is also usually the time I blog, while the feeling is fresh.
Randori is a very slow, controlled spar. The moves we make need to be extremely gentle, and no contact should be audible. Randori is a space to practice technique. It's essential. I am very unfocused during randori because I am primarily thinking about not injuring myself. Moving slowly means more energy, more muscle tone, and quicker fatigue. During a fight I would be dead meat.
Feeling brave, and not wanting to waste the last class of 2013, I practiced break falls with the class. Left, centre, right. I learned pretty quickly that nothing is more important than protecting my head.
Break falls are something that I really plan to master, as every step is a fall risk when you have EDS. Falling safely is the best thing I can train myself to do because it is simply an unavoidable part of life. While it would be nice to not fall at all, such is unrealistic.
We did a few new and challenging drills today. As I struggled to keep up I realized that I was still in fact keeping up. What an epiphany! And how humbling, that I have been supported throughout. I was overcome with grief that my wife has given up on me, and her entire family is gone from my life, my support system. I felt so lost in realizing that, although they have all gone, I am not myself lost. I have followed my Sensei's directions, listened to his advice, and held the dojo more closely in my heart than any place I have ever loved, including my home town of Buffalo.
Here are some of my biggest successes in 2013:
-Moving from 9-kyu to 7-kyu
-Getting off IV fluids during class
-Getting through almost an entire class without stopping
-Learning to adapt movements according to pain and tolerance, without compromising technique
-Learning Geki Sai Dai Ni, Sanchin and Saifa kata
-Connecting with other karateka online
-Attending outdoor events with my dojo
-Making new and wonderful friends
-Making karate a priority
Something happened between my 8-kyu and 7-kyu belts. I have changed. My body shape has changed dramatically, my self-acceptance has kicked me around a bit and I've learned to cope. Karate has become a much more serious practice. Every decision I make in life is based on how it will affect my performance in karate.
After my wife left I started looking into moving back to Buffalo, where I got my start in karate, as with life. But my Sensei is a father to me, and one of my best friends. What is a real father, but a humble man, aware of what he can and cannot offer to the world, who spends his top efforts on the impact of love on impressionable minds? What, but the impetus behind safe and healthy decisions in the darkest times that help a vulnerable person emerge stronger and better? I hesitate to write this, not because he has not been all of these things, but that my biological father was the bleakest opposite.
What is a Sensei, but the same? Either way, there is plenty of kicking and screaming.
Everyone in my dojo is such a pleasure to work with. I love every last person in my dojo, I feel part of a family. How could I leave? I need to stay here and become what I have set out to be.
Regarding EDS, I'm baffled: how could medical school have been too high a benchmark, but karate so approachable? My only hypothesis is that, at the dojo, I adapt in any way I can, and my karate family works with me. Med school is far more competitive and exclusive, to the detriment of people with disabilities who could really do something fantastic if they had better access. Now that I am no longer planning for a family I often wonder whether, after my first black belt, might I actually become well enough, able to endure enough, to attempt school again? What might the prognosis be for a medicine career if I were to become stronger and healthier? Will the zebra monster still get me? Is there anything worth fighting this hard for if not my dreams?
At the loss of my wife and our plans for a child I have realized that the best person who will always be there for me is my future self. I had better get ready to meet that person. They are much stronger than I am, and I want them to be proud of what I did on the way to meeting them. I did not break my wedding vows, I have not given up on faith, and through the grace of hundreds of people--literally hundreds--I have not given up on myself.
The holidays are killing me. This is my current opponent. It's great to say all those things I just said, but I am still grieving tremendously. My friend accurately described this time in my life as "fucking brutal." It's even so hard to pray that I just stick to my school's Dojokun:
Through discipline, strength and humility, I will strive to bring out the best in myself and others. I will use common sense before self-defense and never be abusive or offensive. I will strive to have patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.
Mokuso yame. (Meditation complete.)