Becoming the Thing You Never Thought You Would Be

This past weekend was my very first Kempo Camp. Six 2.5 hour classes over three days: One Friday evening, three on Saturday, two on Sunday. Overall twelve hours of martial arts crammed into two and a half days.

I. Survived.

I’m not nearly as sore or injured or beat up as I thought I would be. I have a mighty crop of bruises on my arms, but that’s it. Oh, and I pulled a really deep muscle in my left hip the last day (heck, the last hour) of camp, which thankfully turned out to be minor. Oh oh, I got elbowed in the jaw, too. But luckily it wasn’t full power so not even a bruise there.

I’m bragging about being elbowed in the jaw. Who am I?

I am not the same person who started this journey nearly two years ago, that’s for sure.

When I went to class the Monday after camp (that’s right, I went to class after spending the previous three days immersed in techniques and forms), the Sensei asked what my goals were now that I’m a first degree Green Belt. I told him Brown Belt by May. He nodded in approval and said “right on track, perfect.”

On our final day in camp, as part Testing they had all of us get onto the floor and perform our Forms. You kept going until the Forms out-ranked you, and then you stepped to the side and let the higher ranks work. I noticed something: the higher the ranks, the fewer the women. When it got to all Black Belt forms, there were only two women there.

I’m telling you now, someday there will be three.

Going regularly to the dojo I’ve seen many people get a couple of belts into the beginning classes, then disappear. Many of them are women. The higher in rank you are, the more intense the techniques, and I think it scares a lot of people. I’m so pleased to see so many women in our dojo right now. There are currently four of us in Intermediate Ranks. All of the brown belts – considered advanced – are currently all men.

Again, that’s going to change soon.

You gotta be willing to take the falls, to inflict some pain, and frankly, to take the pain inflicted. It’s not for the faint of heart, and it is freaking scary. As women, we’re not taught to roughhouse like the boys do. Girls are supposed to be gentle and nurturing; to take care of the boy’s owies and bruises. Girls are supposed to squeal and scream when the boys wrestle. They’re supposed to be impressed. They’re not supposed to join in.

Guess what? Changing that narrative is one of my goals.

This is going to be effing hard work. The techniques and the forms don’t scare me: I’ve learned them once and I’ll learn them again. Refine them again. It’s the physical fitness and endurance that I need to work on. And for the next nine months, my training truly starts. Because it’s one thing to play around as a beginner, and to maybe start taking it seriously as an intermediate. I’m aiming for advanced. That’s when it gets real. It’s not playing around anymore (even though it may look like it sometimes).

So, I’m taking this week to heal from the intensity of this past weekend. Then my training starts in earnest. Losing weight, eating better, getting in shape. It will be a process, and I know I need to go slow. But I’ve already come a long way from two years ago.

This is something I can do. This is something I will do.

The Road to Brown Belt is nearing its destination…

…the on-ramp to the Black Belt Highway.

First Degree Green Belt. Did you know they made brown electrical tape? I did not. 



*In the interest of full disclosure, this entry was originally posted on my old blog. I’d give you the address, but I’m planning on closing it down soon and focusing here. So, yeah. There you go.