When the mind is willing….

During ballet class a few days ago, my ballet mistress was giving us a complicated and challenging combination. I followed along closely, marking the movements in my imagination. I have learned that using my imagination is a powerful tool in helping me move through complex movement patterns.

One of my barre buddies sidled up to me, and began telling me the reasons why she couldn’t do the combination. My attention was divided. I didn’t want to be rude to my friend, but I certainly didn’t want to be disrespectful to my teacher. Most of all, I didn’t want to lose my concentration. I smiled at my friend and said, “The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

I moved to another spot. I found myself surrounded by another group of dancers who were commenting on how difficult the choreography was, reciting their physical limitations, their injuries, their short comings, and why they weren’t going to be able to do the combination. I began to wonder why they even came to class.

These strong, beautiful women were defeating themselves before the music even began. Instead of focusing on what they could do, they were telling themselves what they couldn’t do. Hmmm, maybe it wasn’t the flesh that was weak; maybe it was the mind that wasn’t willing.

I wondered what my friends were teaching themselves. I also wondered what would happen if they trained their minds instead of their bodies. Instead of programming their minds for failure, what if they imagined themselves moving through space with ease and grace, power and strength? Just imagine what they could accomplish!

What we believe is what we become, and sometimes our belief system needs a tune up. Our brain is inherently flexible, and is always willing to explore new ways of thinking, feeling, sensing and moving. Be careful what you tell yourself, because your nervous system is always listening. And remember to use your imagination to help you move when the going gets tough. You may be surprised how much easier life’s challenges can become.


Be healthy!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP

When the dog bites….

    I was driving home from work on Friday and just turned into my neighborhood when I saw a little white dog run across the street a few blocks ahead of me. As a devout dogaholic and previous owner of a doggie rescue, I immediately went on high alert. The dog looked lost as he randomly ran in the street.

    When I got closer, I saw an SUV along the side of the road looking toward the dog. I pulled up in front of the vehicle, hoping that the precious little dog was their pet. The SUV pulled up beside me. There was a young couple inside (about my age), and they asked me if that was my dog.

    “No,” I answered, “Isn’t it yours?” It wasn’t. We all looked in the direction the dog had run and wistfully in the direction of our homes. I sighed and unbuckled my seat belt. “It’s okay,” I told them, “I’ll help the little guy.” They sure looked relieved and grateful as they drove off to start their weekend.

    The mailman just happened to pull up along the curb. He watched me get out of my car and asked, “Is that your dog?”  I answered, “No, but I’ll see if I can help him, poor thing.” The mailman looked relieved and continued on, happy to finish his route and start his weekend.

    I was on my own, just me and the sweet little dog. I sat down on the sidewalk, in spite of the fact that I was wearing my favorite white capri pants. I spoke to him, softly and quietly, to reassure him that I was here to help him get home so he could start his weekend. He slowly began walking toward me, and I continued to speak soft words of reassurance.

    All of a sudden an older woman (about my age) came across the yard and started calling the dog. It that instant that helpless little dog turned into Cujo. I’m not kidding. He started barking, snarling and running in a huge circle around me. Shocked at the sudden transformation, I asked the woman if he was her dog. “Yes,” she replied, “And don’t walk away from him; he might try to bite you.”

    Well, that’s a fine howdy do and thanks for your concern. Sheesh! I stood there, immobilized, while the woman ran around in circles, chasing her dog and trying to get him in the house. The situation went from being strange to absurd as the two of them ran around in circles in the hot sun. In the meantime, the circle was getting smaller. And tighter. And the psychotic little beast was getting closer.

    Finally, her daughter pulled up and opened her car door. The woman assured me that the dog would get in the car because he thought he was going to go for a ride. Geez, I thought my Italian Greyhounds were high maintenance. He ran up to the car and just before he jumped in, I sighed with relief and turned to walk away. My bad. At that moment, he saw his opening. He changed direction, lunged at me and bit me on the ankle. That’s how I started my weekend.

    There are a lot of important lessons in this story. First of all, just because you think someone needs your help, they may not agree. Next, if you find yourself in a ridiculous situation, you may want to think twice before you turn your back on it. You never know who may be nipping at your heels. Another thing is that size doesn’t matter. A nip where the Achille’s tendon attaches can hurt. I guess we all have our Achille’s heel, and my devout passion for dogs is one of mine, although I wouldn’t have it any other way. Finally, and the most important point, is that I’m glad he’s not my dog.

Giovanni and Chocolate Guido….they may be high maintenance, but they sure are sweet!

Be healthy!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP

The Delicate Dojo: The stories begin….

I got a fantastic text message from one of my Delicate Dojo students a few days ago. If you’ve been following me, you already know that I am a black belt in the ancient Japanese martial art of Ninpo Tai Jutsu, and I recently began teaching self defense classes for women only. I knew that eventually I would hear stories about how the classes came in handy in a real life situation, but I didn’t expect them so soon. Here is her story.

She and her 3 children (two girls aged 7 and 9 and a son aged 5) were sitting together outside an ice cream store enjoying their treats when a strange man suddenly approached them. He came right up to them, and without a word began picking lint off of her son’s shirt. She was in a corner with her son sitting on her lap and her daughters on each side. He literally had them backed into a corner. Instead of panicking, she looked him directly in the eye. Calmly but firmly, she said, “Don’t touch him.”

Incredibly, the stranger began to argue with her, and the situation became more threatening. Without taking her eyes off of his, she said, “Give him his space.” She continued to look directly at him and kept her focus on his eyes. He immediately changed his demeanor, backed off,  then turned and walked away.

How creepy. And what a creep! My student referred to him as “deranged.” I’d have to agree with her, because I can think of no situation where it would be appropriate for a perfect stranger to approach a woman with her children and starting touching one of them. I don’t know what his intention was, but I’m guessing it wasn’t good. However, she was able to clearly communicate that she was the one in charge and in control of the situation.

My student is very petite and looks like a kid herself. Maybe he figured she would be an easy target. She wasn’t. She told me that during the encounter she was as calm as could be, and admitted that she would have gone into full blown panic mode prior to taking the classes. By the way, she’s only taken two classes. So far. My petite student was able to react calmly from a position of power and strength. She also taught her children a valuable lesson. If she had responded with fear, they would have as well. The entire family would have been traumatized. She would have lost her power, and the “deranged man” may have become emboldened. Instead, she effectively defused the situation and empowered herself.

I love stories like this. I love hearing about positive outcomes. Most of all, I love hearing about women being able to find their power, strength, grace and confidence. I especially love it when the bullies lose. And that is why I started The Delicate Dojo, and began teaching women the art of self defense.

Be healthy! Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP

Celebrating Independence Day….

    The past few days people have asked me how I plan to celebrate Independence Day. I said I was going to ballet class in the morning, and I was going to clean my house in the afternoon. I was asked, “No picnics, cookouts, going to the mountains, or fireworks?”

    No. I didn’t want to celebrate in the traditional way. I prefer to have some quiet time for myself, which happens to include taking a ballet class on the 4th of July when I have a ballet mistress who is willing to teach. I also like to have time to reflect on this date and what it means to me.

    The past few years I developed a fascination for the American Revolution and read many books on the subject. I love history, but not the kind where you memorize names, dates, places, etc. That’s just boring. I like the kind of history where you get to know the people who made it and hear their personal stories. I love to learn how they became involved in the birth of a nation.

    Their stories are amazing and inspiring. I am overwhelmed when I think of what these men and women sacrificed and the risks they took to build this great country. They put their lives on the line so I can have the freedom to go to ballet class, on a picnic, to the mountains, or do anything else that I chose to do. Not just today, but every day of the year. As a first generation American, I sincerely believe that is well worth celebrating. Don’t you?

Be healthy!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP

A strictly forbidden learning experience….

My journey into the world of martial arts has been interesting, as well as educational, to say the least. I have often been the lone female in a testosterone filled environment, but I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve even learned to enjoy it, but that’s probably because I’m a natural born flirt.

However, I love training with other women, and I am fortunate to be in a school where there are several other women who train. Women seem to have a natural ability and spirit, which is something my Sensei told me during the three years that it took him to get me on the mat. I didn’t believe him then, but I certainly do now. I just wish more women would train in some form of martial art, but I know how intimidating it is to walk into a male dominated Dojo. .

Which is why I began teaching self defense classes for women only. It’s a lot less intimidating for women to enter a safe and fun environment, learn from another woman who’s been around the block a few times, and also knows her way around the mat. It’s an idea that came to me early in my training, and something that developed through the years.

During the course of my training, I became acquainted with a group of men that practice an art that is different from mine but has similar roots. I’ve been invited to their seminars and workshops and have attended several of them. Even though I was from another discipline, I was always invited, and they continue to update me on upcoming events.

Since they always keep me in their circle I sent them my information regarding my women’s self defense classes. I thought they might be interested in what I was doing, and I’m sure they know plenty of ladies who would like to learn a few things to protect themselves. I received a terse response from one of their instructors.

He told me, “Well, we don’t have any women students, and I do teach men and women.” I giggled. If they have no women in their school, how could he possibly teach them? And, if they did have women in their school, why would those women need of a basic self defense class? That’s just silly. Then I wondered why they didn’t have any women in their school.

He informed me that the lineage of our arts are different. Of course, I’ve always known that. So has he. He concluded by telling me that while he has the utmost respect for my art, he must follow directives which strictly forbid cross training between us. Yikes! I wish I had known that before I took their training seminars. If I had known I was engaging in an activity that was strictly forbidden, I would have enjoyed it more. It would have been even more fun, and I would have felt a little naughty.

I guess the flow of information is a one way street. How disappointing. Even more disappointing is the women who may have benefited from just a few classes who will now never receive this information. I understand that he was trying to protect his territory. But, he doesn’t understand is that I am trying to protect women. Or at least teach them how to protect themselves.

The ability to learn how to defend yourself should be easily and appropriately available to everyone, regardless of their age, gender, level of ability and personal belief system. We should be encouraging those who are vulnerable to find their power and strength, not holding them back because some one’s ego got in the way.  Hmmm, maybe that’s the reason there aren’t any women in their school.

    Opportunities to learn are everywhere. Each one should be supported and celebrated rather than discouraged or tossed aside. No learning opportunity should never be strictly forbidden, for anyone, but especially to those who can benefit the most.