When I got the email saying it was time to test it seemed like there must have been a mistake. How could I be ready? I have so many things to work through, so many questions. Every class I fumble through hoping I don't pass out, or strangle myself on the strap of my IV bag! The more I thought about it the more I realized that the point is that I keep working through them, and I will not stop.
Of course, there's a catch: I still struggle to get used to my body's limits. Most jarring are the limits that others put on me. For example, the other day we practiced takedowns. I learned how to adapt my body so that I could do this safely, and how to complete the application of the move. But when it was time for me to learn what it feels like to hit the floor my partner did not want to do it, afraid that he would hurt me. I begged, and he did it one time so I could see what it was like. Not too bad, no worse than when I fall on my own out in the wild. The floors are padded, too.
It's hard for other people to get used to my body's limits, too. Every day I am faced with inquiries: You can't do that, can you? How are you feeling, how is your pain level today on a scale of one to ten? What hurts today? Every day, all day, I am analyzed, psychoanalyzed, evaluated. Then, my responses are evaluated, too. Wow, you have such a great attitude about it! Aw, I am so sorry, that sounds really awful. I don't know how you keep such a positive attitude. These are the words of people trying to cope with my health, with their own mortality, and with their self-image in comparison to someone with major, chronic setbacks.
When someone is trying to take me down I want to know about it, be able to feel it, be ready for it, and know what to do about it. I can only learn that if I go through it while my body learns how to handle it. The first learning I have to do is how to interpret other people's apprehension as compassion. Next, I need to learn how to advocate for myself, to explain that this is my choice, my decision. Then, I need to choose wisely; I know that those teaching me are looking out for me, they know a lot more than I do about what can happen, and they have been through traumatic events of their own throughout their time in the dojo as in life. Finally, I need to try it, and if I cannot safely manage it, I need to adapt it--not just avoid it.
Rafael reminded me in his own beautiful way that I really need to be careful with my body, that we all do. He suggested that I do something else if I know I have a high risk of injury practicing mawashi geri (roundhouse kick), because I should use the strongest parts of myself to fight. He's right, but I still want to also be able to do mawashi geri to the best of my ability, which just takes some troubleshooting. Planting one leg firmly on the floor, he demonstrated a bunch of rapid-succession moves without moving that one leg.
It's a rookie mistake in the disabilities world to fall away from what we are capable of. Oops! Back on track I go, thanks to Rafael and my remarkably devoted Sensei.
The truth is, I am ready to be tested. I will not perform perfectly, but I will do my absolute best. And if I fail, I will do it again until I succeed.