Tough Lessons… in Life, and Play

tiredLast night was one of those evenings when I was asking myself, “why am I doing this again, at my age”? One straight hour of sparring. Round after round, with a different person each round. As a beginner in Kyokushin, and I’ve written it here before, my conditioning and gas has been a major problem, so after a few rounds I felt like I was dying. Being struck doesn’t bother me. I can deal with that pain, as I know with every punch or kick I’m getting tougher. I don’t back down. However, my biggest enemy remains me.

Perhaps I’m just being hard on myself after only a couple months of training, but I can’t stop thinking that I’m not naturally gifted when it comes to cardiovascular conditioning. Rationally I know this is nonsense. When you take into account that I was a smoker for years, and while I lifted in the gym, I did no cardio, I am actually doing pretty good after a couple months of training.

I just started reading The Fighter’s Mind: Inside the Mental Game, by Sam Sheridan. The book is a series of interviews with top combat athletes, as well as top athletes from other sports. Athletes and coaches like Dan Gable, Freddie Roach, Greg Jackson, Renzo Gracie, and Randy Couture talk about the mental side of their game. It is an amazing book and has been incredibly eye opening. I will give it a full review once I am done reading, but I can tell you that the book has really showed me how much of what we do is mental as opposed to physical.

So, back to last night. Much of the evening is a blur, but somewhere around the tenth or twelfth round, I felt I had zero left. It was at this point I was sparring one of the sempai when he clinched me and spoke into my ear. He said something to the effect of, paraphrasing, “don’t show my exhaustion. Stand straighter. Hands up. Push through and do it“. He then said “lets try old school kyokushin“! He turned up the heat and something clicked in me. I punched and kicked with every ounce of spirit I had, to the end of the round. It was a great lesson.

A few rounds later, and my last round after an hour straight, I faced another shodan sempai. He did much the same. Knowing I was exhausted, he “forced” me to keep combinations, commit to strikes, and keep my defense. Another great lesson. Osu!

I survived. At the end, sitting in seiza another student mentioned I had steam rising from the stop of my head. I glanced to the mirror and realized how wrecked I looked. I also realized somewhere along the line I had either broken or dislocated my thumb. There wasn’t pain, but something wasn’t right.

At the end of each class, while still in seiza, Sensei will have reflection and words of wisdom. Sometimes I feel like he is reading my mind. Last night was one of these times. He spoke about the dojo and training being a place to escape the stresses of your life, like work. Being a place that doesn’t have to be serious, but also a place of friendship and fun. I won’t go into all the specifics of what he said, as its something you need to experience yourself. I can’t do it justice. But when he talked about not bringing work stress home, instead bringing it to the dojo, being a place where you can get those energies out. Without getting into the details, I had a very tough stressful week at work, and one thing I’ve been working on is not bringing it home with me. So, to hear his lecture was something I needed to hear. And to remember that training and Kyokushin doesn’t always have to be serious like I’m forging a samurai, but instead a place of relaxing, smiling and camaraderie. The best lessons of the evening!

Oh, and that thumb? Well, later last night, while relaxing in bed watching TV, I was icing my hand, which was now burning. I was showing my wife and tried to make a fist when there was a “pop”. It was back in place and everything fine once again! LOL!


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