I started my karate lessons tonight.
(I'll pause here to give some of you time to stop laughing...and you know who you are, bitches.)
One of the local dojos offered those of us involved in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program a special rate--and I jumped on it. In the time between learning about this offer and actually starting tonight--well, as we know, some shit hit the fan. And as any Breakup Expert (like me) will tell you, finding a hobby and something to focus your time and energy on can be a crucial step in the healing process. So can taking care of yourself physically, getting in shape, etc. Well, this takes care of both. And if I can do all that for $25 a month (and that includes 3 classes a week), I'm definitely in.
I went tonight originally to fill out the paperwork, get my uniform, etc. Well, the sensei, Annie, stayed and worked with me one on one for about an hour (after the advanced group finished). And THAT was awesome--because now, when I start MY first real class on Saturday, I'll at least be somewhat familiar with some of the basic turns and moves. Plus--it was ONE ON ONE. With a real black belt. It was SWEET.
And I gotta tell you--I wasn't half bad. She commented a couple of times that, for my first night, I was hitting a lot of the positions pretty well. And at one point, as she was demonstrating a particular move, she told me to put my hand on her shoulder as she pulled down on my arm (obviously, we used my left arm for this). She said that as she pulled down on my arm, I had to resist by pushing back up against her. Well, this lady is a 4th degree black belt, and she had to really pull down hard. "Wow," she said. "You're stronger than you look." (Was that a compliment or an insult? LOL) And when we stand in the starting position (which is actually a lot like ballet, with your heels together and your feet pointing outward), I noticed that it's actually a little difficult for me to keep my heels totally together because my calf muscles kind of get in the way (from all the walking I do). So maybe I'm not as completely out of shape as I initially feared. "I'm not the most coordinated person in the world," I confessed as we were walking out. "Then this is exactly where you need to be," she answered.
Oh--and speaking of body parts getting in the way: my boobs are already quite the hindrance. Once the last male student had left, I turned to her and confessed that I was having an issue with certain moves. I also told her that standing up straight with my shoulders back was difficult for me psychologically, since self-conscious about that area and I'm used to kind of hunching forward and disguising/hiding my breastal area. She said that yes, larger-breasted women DO have to find a way to "compensate" for that particular "handicap" in certain moves but that it CAN be done. (She also tactfully suggested that I invest in a very sturdy sports bra.) As for the more mental aspect of it: karate is all about being strong, self-confident and poised. "I can tell that you're not that way now," she said. "But you will be."
As I walked out of my first lesson (which, again, was basically one-on-one with the sensei, which is a very rare and special opportunity--but she has a small and more private, personal dojo, which I love), I realized: holy crap, this is absolutely PERFECT for me. It will help me rebuild my self-confidence and self-esteem after being unceremoniously dropped earlier this week; it gives me something else to think about, even if it's only for an hour; it gives me an outlet into which I can direct my anger, pain and frustration; and it gets me out of the house. So frankly, right now, I am SO EXCITED about it and feel like I may just be embarking on something pretty big, something that could be a part of my identity, of who I am.
"But Jen," some of you may be thinking. "You just told us that you're coming off of a manic high--which is characterized, in part, by the tendency to throw yourself into a particular endeavor full speed ahead--only to get bored with it once you come back down again. I know you're all about becoming the next Ralph Macchio NOW--but what happens once your brain chemistry stabilizes again? Are you going to drop it?"
I'm not going to say that that's out of the realm of possibility. But honestly, I feel as though this attraction to karate is more than just a manic reflex. I truly feel that this is calling to me for a whole different reason--one that will prove to be more than just a passing phase. In fact, as we were leaving, Sensei said that that's why she stayed late with me--because she could tell that I was "a sponge," soaking it all in. (And there's SO MUCH to take in, obviously--not just the moves themselves but the words for those moves, etc. It's literally like learning a second language.)
And it's awesome, because this woman is, obviously, in great shape--thin, of course, and strong. And this--karate--is all she does to stay in shape. Now, I'm going to keep up with my walking, of course--but I have to tell you, that after just an hour of karate, I'm already feeling it. I feel it the most in my stomach--standing up straight with my shoulders back automatically makes my stomach muscles tighten up and constrict. And just from the basic moves she showed me tonight, I can tell that my arms are going to get an incredible workout, too. The deliberate, controlled movements work muscles that I didn't even know I had. (I'm also getting sore because we were actually sparring--but, since I didn't know any of the moves, she would basically arrange me in a certain position like I was a poseable Ken doll, tell me to throw a punch--and then she'd block it by twisting, hitting and kicking various parts of my body. And I gotta say, I took it pretty well. Oooh! And she showed me how I could take down a man using just one strategically placed finger. And, if I had someone on their back, how to place that finger to prevent them from being able to get up, regardless of their size or strength.)
Overall: I am SO EXCITED. I'm going to practice some of the moves she showed me tonight and tomorrow. It's funny, because she said that with time, everything about me will subtly change--the way I walk, the way I stand, etc. I think that this will do incredible things for my self-confidence--it will remind me of both my inner and outer strength. It will give me something larger than myself to focus on.
(FYI: she said to plan on being a white belt for a good 7-8 months. So I have a lot of work ahead of me. Oh--and this "type" of karate, isshin ryu, has just 4 belts: white, green, brown, and black--although you may earn "stripes" on certain belts before moving up, so that each color may have more than one step).
Check out http://www.isshinryuinfortmyers.com/instructors to see Sensei Annie. She's a total badass. =-)