Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hot Summer, Hard Lessons

I have had good luck staying conscious most of the time this summer. I only blackout a few times a day, and I can sometimes predict when it will happen so that I don't fall.

I blacked out right at warm-up on Saturday. Bummer! But I did everything I could do, gently, by adapting. I missed a solid forty minutes of instruction, during which time I performed other meaningful tasks to help my dojo. I had tried to lie down, start fluids and elevate my legs to restore my blood pressure, but with three different leg injuries and a cloudy head my mind and emotions were like a bad neighbourhood and I didn't want to spend time there by myself.

I'm not exactly sure what is wrong with my legs, these are pains with which I am not familiar, but they have lingered for a few weeks and several times my legs have dropped out from under me. Most of the time I'm fine, but those occasions really get to me. I'm sad about it because my ability to kick will be set back...again. I'll just get back to it when I can. It will be okay.

Summer is very hard. I'm able to withstand more heat than I could last year but not much more, and not without hypervigilance about hydration, sodium, potassium, and calcium levels. The Nausea is back too, and thank goodness for IV anti-emetics.

Next week is Warrior Week!  Hard training, a shiai (tournament), Spirit Training, grading (for others this time around), and a potluck.  I love this time! But I'll have to be very careful. I want to make it count and do my best, but I think I should be conservative about my participation because one more injury will make it so that I can't function. Right now I can still prepare meals but it is hard to shower and do laundry. I have to sleep a LOT.

When I'm in the dojo I want karateka to know I am as dedicated as they come! But when I'm unwell, and I stop to take care of myself, I still sometimes get this little hint of doubt: "do I really need to stop, or am I just bring lazy or unmotivated?" This doubt is not useful, and no one else in the dojo doubts me, so why would I doubt myself? Well, there are a few reasons. For one, when we are in pain or tired we can get discouraged easily. Two, I have been hugely doubted in the past. Three, karate is technically contraindicated for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which I aim to change with a modified curriculum someday. My Sensei never doubts me. He just says to get back in as soon as I can. This keeps me motivated because I do want to be with my friends in the dojo, not on the side in a personal fight to stay conscious or alive. It's just so dramatic a problem, but I have to take it seriously. If I were not realistic and responsible about my body I would not belong in a dojo, because if I'm not careful I can really get hurt. Such is true of anybody. And on that plane, we are all equal.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Gasshuku - MCF 2014 Karateka Kodomo (Karate Kids)

In small group training I had the pleasure of working with a young lady from Oklahoma.  She's already tough as nails, she is going to be someone very important someday, I can see leadership and patience in her.  She is like a cherry blossom, and when she blooms she's going to be so green and so strong that she will give shade and beauty to the world around her for as long as she is in it.

By the recommendation of my wonderful partner, we moved toward the back of our small group and worked on Bunkai with two other young karateka, a brother and sister who love one another enough to even stick with one another when they have an opportunity to work with karateka from all over the hemisphere.  These siblings have a sweetness to them, a camaraderie where one will not move without bringing the other along.  They have a lot of love and a strong mother, so they will move up, and bring one another along for the adventure.  This is as it should be, and to have had a few moments practice with them fills me with satisfaction because I shall have been a part of that story.

My partner and I split up the siblings so we could help them improve their skills.  The younger one, a boy, was very gentle with me.  I asked him why, and he said, "I don't like to hit people.  I don't want to hurt anybody.  I would feel really bad if I hurt somebody."  It was a moment where I had to decide whether to roll with it, or to try to guide him.  This is someone else's child, with their own way of raising him.  They are trusting other karateka to be good senpai for their children.  So I said, "You know, that's a great attitude to have, that's exactly as it should be.  But when you're working with a partner, you're going to be careful, but you will be teaching your partner what it feels like to get hit, and to be brave, and to respond well, so that they will be able to protect themselves if they come upon someone who is not as friendly or as caring as you are."  I don't know if that made sense to him, but it seemed like the right thing to say. At dinner I got to sit with that family, and I should like to know them forever because they are fantastic people.

It was a genuine pleasure having the privilege of working with IOGKF kodomo. My goodness, what hope I have seen in the youth this weekend!

Gasshuku - MCF 2014 Part 3

Sure, I feel a lot of pain. But today I also feel power. For me karate is not about avoiding pain or injury, but is about the willingness to keep going despite them.

As the sun set on MCF 2014 my Facebook page lit up with the brilliant stars which will continue to shine long after the event. I have met so many new people whom I will surely come to cherish as fellow karateka. My Karate-Do family continues to grow.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Gasshuku - MCF 2014 Part 2

When I met Nakamura-Sensei for the first time I had just begun karate a week prior. A year and a half later I have just had the privilege of training under his watch. I learn a lot because he speaks clearly and precisely.

I skipped juunbi undo and went swimming. I came in for small groups with Sensei Villa and stayed for the seminars. My Sensei worked with me! That was a treasure because he is too busy running a school to work with me at home. We have similar backgrounds which makes it easy to trust him and to stay focused. Time of my life. TIME. OF. MY. LIFE.

I have made an enormous count of new friends this weekend and I couldn't be happier for that. There is nothing more satisfying than hearing, "you've inspired me" spoken in tender humility, or "you motivate me!" hollered down the hallway while I'm laying on the floor with my feet up on my wheelchair, in a splay of IV supplies, trying to get my blood pressure back up.

At the dinner tonight I chatted with Higaonna-Sensei for a few minutes. He said he is very proud of me, keep training, don't worry about the injuries.  I had passed out earlier, he said it's okay. He's a very caring man and I have no doubts about the Japanese government's decision to canonize him as a national treasure.

Sensei Bob, who organized this entire event and still made time to brew beer for everyone, put together a fantastic video montage of what Nakamura-Sensei has done to become the man he is, giving us all time to reflect on his succession under Higaonna-Sensei. The presentation itself was energizing (and flashy!) and I was glad to see reverence for all he has gone through in training. It was an endearing video and I enjoyed it very much. I hope I'll get to see it again!

It's been fun and challenging to think in four languages. I haven't done a very good job. It's impossible to hear in a hotel. At some point I gave up on my hearing aid and just went deaf. That's another story.

I'm feeling good about myself for the impression I have left on others. It reflects warmly on my Sensei for having made the brave decision to accept me into his school. I want people to understand what a big deal it is that he has taken me on as a student but I have accepted that such is a very long story and I'll let my progress speak for itself.

I have more to write but it's time to pack up, access my port and get fluids running! Today is spirit training. The last day. ONEGAISHIMASU!

Be well.