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Monday, September 14, 2009

Why karate seems to matter to this teacher....

Karate seems to matter more to me with each passing belt.

What started out as a funny, little activity I thought I could do with my son has encroached on most aspects of my current life.

As I stated earlier, I finally passed my green belt, but it was not until this evening that I actually received it in front of my karate student peers. And that mattered to me more than I had realized.

I have reconnected with what it means to be a learner. In fact, I have finally learned what it means to be a struggling learner, something I never really experienced in the academic or professional worlds I have inhabited.

Whenever I have to connect a right hand move with a left foot slide, I am reminded that when the professor say "Just focus, Glenn, focus", I get frustrated and deflated. Sometimes I get angry. Other times I partially give up and opt to practice some other karate move that perhaps I feel I know better. I respond "Yes, sir" and hope that he'll move on to another student, which he usually does, to my relief.

But what has distinguished me from the other beginners of the class who no longer come is that I persist. Sometimes I scratch together a little extra money and buy a private lesson to help me get over the hump. I find that I practice the tougher moves either in my head or in abbreviated fashion whenever I am walking down the San Francisco sidewalks. I try to figure out the one little pattern here or there that will help me remember or create some semblance of physical memory of the move. Mostly, I close my eyes and try imagine what the move actually looks like.

I imagine myself a strong and able karate artist. My elbows sharp, my movements crisp, my turns purposeful, my opponent: nervous. I am the black belt waiting to burst forth and I am ready!

I seem to have great capacity to imagine and reimagine what I should look like when doing karate. Only a little of this imagination is based on reality.

Nevertheless, karate seems to matter to me a lot more as I move up the belts.

I am not yet, nor maybe never will be, the graceful and strong karate artist I imagined myself to me this evening. One look at the mirror tells me that.

And yet, I am continually able to imagine that I am. That, I suspect, is the core reason why some people do so much better than others in school, in karate and, dare I say, in life.

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