Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kung Fu Black Sash Year II

Last year you all followed along as I worked in "cycle training" from January to June and tested for my black sash in Kung Fu.  It was the most intense physical activity I had ever pursued and I learned so much going through the "cycle."

This year the cycle has started again.  From January to June we will meet once a week for a 2-hour intense session that will test our endurance, strength, and stamina.  This year I will be working to earn a progress stripe toward an eventual 1st degree black sash.

Because of a snow day, and a day I had to miss, I have only attended one cycle class thus far.  And that one class was somewhat of a disaster.

I had let my Kung Fu slide and had only attended class a couple of times in December.  In the past, when I had taken a couple of weeks off, it wasn't too hard to get back up to snuff again.  But this time I had been out a couple of months.  Don't know how that happened.  I guess "I'll go back next week" just kept turning into another and another week, and before I knew it I had put on a LOT of extra pounds and had lost a good deal of conditioning.

So, I was pretty much dreading the first cycle class.  I already knew I was going to modify everything, and kind of hope that I could kind of "hide" or something (although that really is not too possible in cycle class).  It turned out that half-way through the class I began to see stars and started feeling really queasy.  I had to drop out of the class.  My Sifu took me in the back and gave me freezing cold water shock therapy on the back of my neck.

The thing that struck me, however, is that I had always discounted anything I had accomplished over the years in Kung Fu.  I always felt like the weakest and least in the class.  But as I experienced how much more difficult everything was that had once seemed easier, I realized that everything I had accomplished up until then really had been something.  Maybe I needed to have it taken away from me before I realized what I possessed.  I made a decision to from now on never minimize any physical accomplishment, no matter how seemingly small.  I also made a decision to not compare myself to the others.  (I actually thought I had not been comparing myself to the others, but just the fact that I had minimized what I could do meant that I had been comparing myself all along without being conscious of it.)

SO ...

I made a little plan.  A little plan to use the time during the week between cycle classes to get myself back into condition.

Yesterday, I went out for my mile-and-a-half run, and then I put myself through the conditioning exercises and some basic Kung Fu drills: punches, stance-work, etc...  Just the very basic stuff, to get my body moving again and my joints and muscles headed in the right direction.  Although we do 60 jumping jacks during cycle class, I only did 10 at a time on my own.  The same thing for the pushups, crunches, etc... I did a few.  I'll just gradually increase the ones I'm doing at home, and somehow grit my teeth on Saturday mornings to get through the more intense version.

Tonight's plan was to get myself back into some Kung Fu classes.  I chose to go to the Intermediate/Advanced Forms class.  My plan for this first night back was to take it easy.  The real goal for me was to just make sure I showed up.  That would be enough.  I didn't need to kill myself or anything.  Just show up. I would stand way in the back in the back row, and I wouldn't go all out.  I would modify, and do less of the conditioning, slower jumping jacks, etc... (Just for the first couple of weeks). I would shrink and try to make myself as inconspicuous as possible, even make myself totally invisible if I could.  Maybe I could do it this way for a few weeks and by the time anyone noticed I was there I'd be all back in shape!

Well, sometimes the fates have another plan!

When I got to class, my instructor called me and some other black sashes to stand up in front to be "role models."  I winced and protested a little,  indicating that I was in no condition to be standing up there in front of everyone.  But he insisted.  He gave the class a little speech and said that we were a family and you don't feel embarrassed in front of your family ever.  Ever!  If you are just getting back into shape, he said, that's okay.  We have to leave our egos out of it.  Period.

So, that was the lesson for the night.  I did not get to hide in the back.  I had to be who and what I was at that given moment in time and I had to be where I was at right up in front of everyone:  all the purple sashes; all the red sashes; the brown and the green.

And after that ...

It was testing night!  Oh my gosh, no!  I had returned on testing night!!

Each small group had to get up and do Long Fist I.  I had not done Long Fist I for at least 6 weeks.  Did not even know if I would remember it.  "This is going to be just great," I thought.

It did not go badly.  I guess all the hard work I had done on Long Fist I over the years had solidified my knowledge of it so that I was able to go 6 weeks without doing it and still had it in me.

All in all, everything that happened tonight happened exactly the way it should have.  The contrast of the actual first night back to my plan of making myself invisible was just too great for it to not be some kind of message to me. By absorbing how things went, I hear the message, and I'm ready to plunge back in.

My plan is to use my blog as a little running journal of my time through black sash.  I will be most happy if you follow along my little journey with me. Stay tuned for more.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Beginning Again -- Part II

About an hour ago I posted that I was going to head out for my first run in quite a while and that I was planning to wear my new Merrel Pace Gloves. because it was too cold.

I stepped out the door but looking down at the shoes I did not feel very good about it.  I had a frown.  "It's okay," I told myself, "you can run barefoot a little later when it gets warmer."

Still not happy.

"You only need to do this because you let it slide.  Before you know it you'll be back in barefoot shape and you can run barefoot all summer."

Still not happy.

"You need to run in these things some time because you can't run barefoot all the time and you're going to have to use these for certain things."

Still not happy.

Finally I just couldn't do it.  I couldn't even take a step.  I had to take the shoes off.

Immediately I felt happy.  In fact, happiness flooded into me.  I had no idea what would happen out there, having not run for so long, but I knew I was back where I wanted to be -- barefoot running.

And waiting for me, like a big beautiful blue reward was this:
It was 35 degrees and sunny!  And my feet never felt cold at all!

What had made me unhappy about having the shoes on? What did I love about having taken my shoes off?

It was that I had missed coming in contact with the ground. I really love to feel the ground.

I do believe it's true about getting that feedback from the ground.  The Merrell's are really nice shoes.  Really great shoes..  I used them to run the first mile of the 2012 Disney Family Fiesta 5K just a few weeks ago -- that first mile on that painful nubby parking lot that I described to you from last year's Disney 5K.  I didn't feel happy about wearing the shoes there either, but it was something that was necessary because I was not conditioned to run on that sharp nubby pointy stuff.

But it seem that no matter how well they make these very minimalist, barefoot-style shoes, there always ends up being a layer between the nerve ending and the feet and the ground.  Sometimes the soles of these shoes are very good, and you can feel much through them, but it is just not the same as that direct contact with the ground. It's just not the same!

I think I now know my destiny.

I think there are lots of ways to run.  I don't believe my barefoot is some kind of doctrine that must be adhered to.  If someone hated it they should not do it that way.  But for me, there is nothing like it.  I won't cease to get a big kick out of the fact that it can be done this way.  After all those years of believing and thinking and just taking for granted the "truth" that I needed some kind of support in my shoe in order to run, I can't stop thinking it's so wonderful that I can just run without any shoes at all.  It's such a feeling of bursting free!

By the way, I also wrote in that post an hour ago that I would just walk/run out there.  But I didn't.  I ended up running the whole time.  Only ran about a mile and a half but that is enough for the first day back.

Beginning Again

Hi there, everyone.

Here I am standing at the threshold of a new beginning.

I have been invited to round 2 of black sash training in Kung Fu.  This time working towards a progress stripe on my belt.  This is an intense, like last year, 6-month training event that ends in a big test and a graduation.  I wrote about my last year's first experience with it here.

This year I'm in big trouble.  I let myself lose a lot of my conditioning -- actually most of it.  Same with my running.  I've put on a lot of extra pounds and I can really feel those extra pounds in everything I do.

So today is day one of enacting the plan to do two things -- get through this black sash training, and run a 5K on Mother's Day with my friend and her daughter.

Today is going to be a running day, but since I haven't gone out there since the 2012 Disney Family Fiesta 5K (which I shall write about later), I am going to just get out there and walk this first day.

I'll walk, and test out a little running, maybe a minute here and a minute there..

It's cold and I have a pair of Merrell pace gloves.  It's not THAT cold, and last year I would have gone out with bare feet, but just to get me out there, I'm going to use the pace gloves.  I don't like it, but I think it would be best because if I'm more walking than running it is colder and my feet are more in contact with the cold ground.  When I'm totally running there is less ground time and they are less cold.

I'll let you know how it goes.