My Guest Post: Are You in a Martial Arts Cult?

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Be careful, folks, it’s culty out there! Martial arts breeds loyalty, respect, and a sense of community. These are all great things, but when taken to the extreme people can be taken advantage of. In this month’s Martial Journal I share my martial arts cult experience and share some warning signs of when martial arts can go from good to bad.

Are You in a Martial Arts Cult?

 

Learning Taeguk Forms

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I’m still calling walking stance “broken knee stance.”

There sure are a lot of outside-to-inside blocks in Taeguk forms.

When I joined my new dojang at the end of 2018 I began learning Taeguk forms. I’d learned the Palgwe style in my other dojang, and since I can’t remember which forms I learned as a child (other than the universal kibon), I’ll claim Palgwe as my foundational set.

I started thinking about the new language I was learning. If Palgwes could be summed up in one or two moves I’d say they’re very heavy on using the front (or long) stance and double knife hand block (in a back stance of course).
Taeguk’s main theme seems to be the outside block…from the back hand…in walking stance.

Sigh…

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From Therapy Every Damn Day to Making It On My Own

Two weeks ago I saw my orthopedic surgeon for a six-month check up. We wanted to see my progress after I’d returned to taekwondo training, took up strength training (not the first time in my life, but the first time since my injury), and continued deep tissue massage treatment from a chiropractor. The possibility of a third surgery to remove additional scar tissue still hung in the balance.

He was so happy with my progress he shook my hand and all but released me from care unless I just wanted to visit the office again.

The following week the counselor I’d been seeing shared she was leaving the practice and wondered if I needed to continue sessions with another counselor. We’d gotten down from sessions once a week to once a month, and I admitted to feeling much better overall about my personal and professional woes. I still have lingering depression sometimes, but I am much better at recognizing and addressing it.

We decided to end my therapy knowing I could always come back if I needed help again.

Today I saw my chiropractor for more torment–I mean treatment, and he reduced our visit cadence from every two weeks to once a month.

Meanwhile, I’ve noticed some recent reader traction on last year’s post Therapy Every Damn Day. 

In that post I wondered if the “down for maintenance time” was necessary for rest and renewal. I spent so much money on healthcare last year that I was able to get a tax break. Was it worth it?

Short answer–yes.

Nearly a year after I wrote that post I have to appreciate how far I’ve come: I DON’T need another scar tissue surgery and am finally seeing more movement with knee extension and flexion–scar tissue build up has been the bane of my existence since ACL reconstruction in July 2020. I don’t hate my job or my life any more, and when I do feel down I have better ways of coping. I’m NOT starving myself any more and pretty much kicked the habits of a thirty-year-old eating disorder.

Life is good. I’m doing well and am able to fully enjoy being back in taekwondo. Third dan test, here I come.

 

Frustrated, Disappointed, Burned Out — So I Changed My Outlook (and Went to Taekwondo Class)

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Last Wednesday I found out that I did not place in a book contest I’d entered my memoir in. This came on the heels of a disappointing (and expensive) marketing campaign and seeing a smarmy swath of authors from my publishing cohort bragging (rightfully so, to be fair) on social media about sales, interviews, awards, or other book-selling wins. Their books are good…but g-ddamnit, so is mine. It’s really good.

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Reducing Martial Arts-Related Stress

Stress in martial arts? No way! Relieving stress is why we started training!

…and yes, sometimes even the thing we love can bring some unexpected and unwanted stress. It happens to the best of us, and the best of the best of us, ha ha.

Check out my article in this month’s Martial Journal for ways to reduce martial arts-related stress: https://www.martialjournal.com/reducing-martial-arts-related-stress/

 

In Recovery, Focus on Gain Over Loss

My V is gone.

The lower ab muscle definition I’d longed for and gained nearly overnight in taekwondo (what with the kicks and all), has finally disappeared. While my ACL injury happened in an instant, it took about a year since my last taekwondo class for the muscle definition to fade away.

It’s hard to chamber my kicks because I still don’t have full flexion, and my second knee surgery slowed down my ability to snap a kick into (almost) extension.

My left leg kicks are limited. Pivoting and turning on my right leg is still a little precarious, at least at faster speeds. 

My right quadriceps muscle still doesn’t match the left.

It seems I’ve lost a lot over the past year and a half due to my ACL injury. Not only did I lose muscle tone and physical capability to execute taekwondo moves, I lost my built-in community (at least in person) and activity to look forward to each week.

But…of course there’s a but.

But…what I’ve gained in recovery for both my injury and my mental health has been invaluable. 

I learned that I am more than the martial art I practice. I learned how to respect and honor my body. I learned that I need to put my mental and physical health above my ego or aspirations. 

Now that I’m back at the dojang, at least part-time, I’m rebuilding my technique and getting back in touch with my community. I’m retaining the whole and more balanced sense of self: body, mind, and spirit. 

I’m thankful for what I have gained rather than dwelling on what I have lost. (Who needs an ab V when you have a healthy mental state?)

This is a short post, and that’s okay. That’s all I needed to say to my dear readers this time around: when you have gone through something difficult, focusing on what you’ve gained rather than ruminating on what you’ve lost helps you stay strong in your journey.

A Search for Authenticity Drove Me Into a Mid-Life Crisis

Like everyone else in the world for the last two years, I’ve been reflecting a lot…like, a LOT, a lot. In my quest to break free from misery-inducing perfectionism and find my authentic voice, I’ve discovered who I am NOT just as much or even more so than who I AM. 

I think I’m having an identity crisis that may be coinciding with a midlife crisis.

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Finding a Happy Medium After a Two-Year Emotional Roller Coaster

My life since March 2020.

Some time in late November, my publisher advertised a webinar focused on preparing authors to give a TED Talk or TED Talk-like speech. 

want to give a TED Talk!” I thought. Why not? My book is interesting; talking about mental health is very timely; and I have ten years of public speaking experience. 

The problem was…I wasn’t really living my imaginary TED Talk. With my memoir and various articles and podcasts I’ve told a compelling beginning and middle of a story, but I find myself further from the end (or a picturesque “happy ending”) than I thought I’d be. 

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Bonus Book Chapter: I Am Enough

Dear Reader: For the remainder of 2021, to continue celebrating the release of my first book Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts, I will be posting a monthly bonus chapter. While these stories didn’t make the final cut, they were still important moments in my life and in my black belt journey. Enjoy!

[Note: This event would have occurred between chapters 29 “Sucker Punched” and 30 “Aftermath,” late April 2015.]

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