Good grief, I’m exhausted. Every free moment of every day over the past several months have been devoted to my martial arts training. That is my focus right now, like a second job, except without a paycheck. I have eliminated everything else in my life except work and training. I have stopped going to ballet class, stopped socializing with friends, and put projects on hold. I’m not even going shopping. I’m trying to focus.
I have been organizing notes, reviewing techniques, taking extra classes, and meeting my number one training partner for additional time on the mat. I am memorizing Japanese words and phrases. I am diving into the historical, philosophical and cultural roots of the art I study. I am teaching some classes, helping other students, and collaborating with my fellow student instructors. I am really trying to focus.
There isn’t a lot of extra room in my head for mundane things. I must focus on what is important. Deflect, evade, escape; throw, pin, lock, strike. Hand weapons, heart weapons, spirit and intention is far more critical to remember then where I parked my car. I am testing today for my next belt. This level is a comprehensive review of everything I have learned since my first day of training. I was told to be prepared to spend three hours on the mat for the test. That seems like a long time, but I’m sure I’ll be fine. I just need to focus.
I’m training and I’m studying. I’m training so hard that I can barely get out of bed in the morning. Every bone in my body aches and my muscles are begging for mercy. I’m studying so much that my head is full of Japanese words and phrases that keep bumping into each other, something that they particularly enjoy doing at three o’clock in the morning. The smell of tiger balm follows me wherever I go, but I guess it’s better than the smell of the sweaty guys I’ve been working out with. The good news is, I’m learning how to focus.
I am so focused that two days ago I lost my checkbook. No worries, I found it in the ficus tree at my office. Yesterday I misplaced my cell phone. Not a problem; it was in the dog food, right where I left it. I accidentally locked one of my dogs outside, but fortunately heard him barking before I left the house. I got mad at my husband because he wouldn’t talk to me before dinner a few nights ago. Then I remembered he was out of town. Focus, focus.
Every day I train. Every day I study my notes. Every day I wear my little gold earrings that have the Chinese symbol for “courage” on them, even though the art I study is Japanese. I think it’s probably okay. Most of all, every day I wonder why I am doing this to myself. I don’t have to, and I’m not even sure that I want to. I just want to be normal again. Then I focus at the task at hand.
I say that I have been working toward this for the past few months. The truth is, I have been working toward this for the past eight years, but I didn’t realize it then. Had I been able to look in the future and see where this journey would take me, I would have run screaming into the woods, never to be heard from again. Actually, that almost did happen two years ago, but that’s another story.
I might not get through this test. I might succeed, or I might fail. But that’s not the point. The truth is, this test and this level is not about me, or the belt, or the honor of achievement. It’s about the journey. It’s about the art. The art I didn’t choose, but chose me instead. It’s about patience and perseverence. It’s about humility, and learning how to embrace and accept something that is so much bigger than myself. It’s also a way to discover more about myself than I ever knew existed. And it taught me how to focus.
Well, I’d better be on my way. I have a test to take. If only I can find my car keys. I know they’re around here somewhere….focus, focus, focus!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP