Your Guru of Imperfection…Mind the Mess in the Ashram

Last night I dreamt about flying side kick.

The first time I attempted it I landed square on my bottom in a pile of kicking pads. I had just gotten my green belt and joined the upper ranks in my first advanced class. Frustrated and embarrassed I was ready to give up. A year later and I’m looked up to by other students. I have this blog. I have my red belt, which is further than I ever got as a child over 20 years ago on the dusty lonely plains of west Texas. I still can’t do a flying side kick.

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Sit (and Spin) With the Discomfort

Last Monday I finally executed a beautiful spinning hook kick. It might not have been able to do much damage, but it was crisp, balanced, and graceful, making the “rainbow” arc with my leg that Grandmaster had asked for but usually got a falling tree stump in response. Spin kick has been the bane of my existence for a year. It holds a raw, scrubbed mirror up to the illusion I have of my athletic abilities. It contradicts everything my body has been telling me for years. How is it that in yoga I can boldly pop upside down into a standing half-moon but timidly hold my body upright (until I clumsily topple over) during that damn kick?

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Happiness Ultimatum

“What’s your plan?” asked one of the instructors as we warmed up before class. I had just gotten my red belt so I thought he meant my training plan in preparation for the downward slope to black belt. I was about to list some of the cross training exercises I did, perhaps make a vague promise to cut back on wine, but he had a funny look on his face and narrowed his eyes. “You mean am I going to get black belt and then quit?,” I said. “No way.”

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Red Letter Days


“I hate red,” I heard myself saying several years ago. It was a phrase I had parrotted from the adults around me. I didn’t know why I hated red; I just thought I should say it. I think I felt threatened by red, plus a little jealous. In high school I weighed 110 pounds (proud to say I’m still not much more than that) but hid my body in baggy T-shirts and unstylish jeans. I scoffed at women who got manicures and massages but never really understood the reason behind my snarkiness. In college I didn’t wear makeup and floated around in sweatshirts that could double as blankets.

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En Garde!

“Hold back, slow down,” Grandmaster said when I threw an axe kick at a young bo dan during a sparring class a few months ago. The command to fight had barely dissipated and I thought I’d try something different–jump in aggressively and take the offense. “He’s high-ranking. You don’t know what he’s going to do. Watch him and then respond.” That bit of coaching changed my entire outlook. The kid still got in some nice hits, but I felt much more relaxed and calm during the match.

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