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.

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