#ybbastrong, canes and me…

They say that the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. Indeed, for many it does. But for some, that single step is too painful to take on their own – whether physically or spiritually. And for others, that step is no longer, or never was, physically possible.

Since I was a kid I have battled with ankle and fallen | no arch issues in my feet. Somedays, the orthotics work wonders, others I still feel like I’m walking on shards of broken glass and that my ankle will roll under at any moment. This past year, I have fought it more so than I have in the past. Part of that was becoming overactive after not being active – taking class 2-3 times in a week, working with my trainer, Lloyd, just doing more. It was a welcome distraction from the chaos that was my life. But in doing so, I injured it more than I have ever before, requiring a walking boot for many weeks, and physical therapy. It took a long time to heal. It may never be permanently strong and stable.

Being in a boot made me actually have to slow down and take care of me and put my health first. Even though, paradoxically, that meant not working out as much as I had started to. It meant admitting that there was a problem, that there was something needing strengthening, accepting help when offered.

As I look at my journey in taekwondo, it has been a journey moving forwards and backwards, starting and stopping, stepping to the side and jumping into the center of the ring. It has been long, involved a complete restart, and never run in a straight line. While I know that the standard weapon of choice wumbrella5ithin United TKD is the Bo staff, I am set to learn the cane once now that I am a blue belt. For a variety of reasons, starting with the realization that none of us gets younger with the passage of time, I feel that the cane would be an apt choice for me.

As we grow older, whether through age or injury, there is a likelihood that at some point in time, we will all need to use a cane. In my own instance, because of the weakness in both ankles, marked by the tendency to completely roll under one ankle, it’s more than just a likelihood. It is a probability. Yes, continued weight loss will aid in the repair and recovery, but it’s also quite possible that given the length of injury and repetitive nature of it, that it will never be fully healed. A cane, more traditionally, is a device for support in cases like this. As a mobility device, a cane cannot be legally taken from you, even on airplanes. Sure there are restrictions – you can’t carry on a cane sword, nor can it be made of metal in many instances. It is a weapon that hides in plain sight, and most do not view it as such.

Additionally – as I approach the rank I previously held, I find myself wanting more of a previous weapon back in my life. The pen. Then pen, being mightier than the sword, is tool that I am quite at home with. I know I’ve spoken at times about writing. It’s part of who I am and what I do. I’m gearing back up. I’m finally feeling that I will make it to a black belt (maybe not in the next 2 years…but will make it there.) One of the things I want to do is get writing and researching again. I’ve spent a long time building up my library of books on TKD, on martial arts in general, martial arts teaching, hapkido, etc. It’s getting to be quite sizable. I want to feed this side of me again as well. I know full well this is not the focus of training for everyone in the martial arts. But I think that having this focus will help keep me going as I get stuck in the quagmire of injury.

As I think of learning cane and cane defense, I think back to the Zumba classes I led for  breast cancer survivors, people with mobility issues, and seniors etc. They were so joyous, gritty, and appreciative. I would one day love to do something again with a focus of both fun and safety when I make it to black belt. Not to run a school, not to train students. But to offer both the joy of movement and self-protection. As much as I gave them, they gave to me. The day the lady who relied on a cane for everything told me that she was going to climb Mount Philo and felt she could do it in part because of class – it gave my heart wings. I couldn’t then, and likely couldn’t now, climb Mount Philo. But she did it. I think that the gifts I’ve been granted in TKD both in training and the people who have become my chosen family deserve to be reflected back to others.

I’ve broken 4 boards, rappelled down a 9 story building, volunteered at summer camp for 5 years now, made it out of my house when feeling complete depression, panic and borderline suicidal – in large part because of what I have found at YBBA. Unconditional support, love, and respect. My heart, my soul, and a sense of self. And if that doesn’t help you to rise above, damn it, nothing will. #ybbastrong


(Just Like) Starting Over

It’s like we both are falling in love again
It’ll be just like starting over, starting over…
John Lennon

This spring I returned to taekwon-do after a long time away from the dojang. Years older, pounds heavier, spirit broken, and in some ways wiser, I started my martial arts journey again.

More than a decade earlier, I trained at another school. Training had changed my life – I worked out, wrote essays, took photos, worked on what was to become the black belt manual for the school. It was a space that brought me face to face with a body that I fought with constantly, and, simultaneously,a space that offered me sanctuary from my daily world of fear, pain, and depression. The clearly stated and understood expectations, as well as the rituals offered me a place to leave the world I knew for just a short time to challenge myself and feel strong. It allowed me to challenge myself in a way I’d never known before. I left having just earned my red stripe.

In the years between, my father had died. My mother died two weeks later. My remaining grandparents died with in the next 8 months. I had to find the strength to move on, to figure out who i was now that they were no longer alive. I fell in love. I got married. I’d found a new passion – Zumba®. I started teaching a specialized Zumba class for people living with chronic pain and seniors. But all of that had started to fade, and I found myself in a place where I was giving up on things that nourished me and giving up on myself.

I stopped teaching my classes. I stopped going to Zumba. I threw myself at work and found joy in some parts of the job, but not as many as I had previously. I no longer danced, and I no longer felt a spring in my step. I started pulling inward. By January, I was in the middle of some really rocky spots with Geoff. In February, I was diagnosed with diabetes. Something had to change.

I emailed the instructor at a school where I had watched classes where two daughters of a friend were training, and I found that piece of me slowly calling again. I returned to training this spring, hoping to recover what I had once experienced in the dojang. But, I’d forgotten my patterns. And more than that, I had forgotten who I was along the way. He and the other instructors met me where I was. We talked about my return to taekwon-do.

In a tear-filled moment, I decided to cut my previously earned taekwon-do belts prior to training again. The rank was no longer mine; the belts were no longer ‘alive.’ I honored all that I had done to earn those, was grateful to the instructor who I had trained with, and let them go. That world was foreign, forgotten and no longer mine. I entered the new dojang a white belt, having retained some technical knowledge, but needing to rebuild my stamina, my knowledge, my muscles, my spirit. I returned, white belt wrapped firmly around the waist, ready to start again.

I could no longer do jumping jacks without killing my knees. Patterns were a thing of the past. Training required faith – believing in myself when I didn’t feel like I deserved anything, let alone the effort to bring me back into the training spirit. I was nervous, broken and determined.

It’s been a little over 7 months now – and I am glad I took that jump. It’s hard. I still struggle with my weight and my stamina on a daily basis. I probably will for years to come. But I am rediscovering my voice and my worth. Finding pride (not ego) and safety enough to challenge myself. Some days advanced techniques are easy and fluid, and some days the simplest wrist lock baffles me. But there is joy in my heart as I train, as I take photographs for fellow students.

Taekwon-do, as one of the many tools, has helped pull me through an otherwise terribly dark time in my life for a second time.

My training is personal, and not at all about the color of the belt holding my uniform together.