When I first started martial arts, everyone thought I was going to quit. When I say everyone, I mean everyone! Everyone at the dojo, everyone in my family, everyone I knew, everyone…except me. On my first day, Pitts-Sensei said to me “I don’t think you know what you’ve gotten yourself into.” He was right, but I had made up my mind before I started that I was going to see it through, no matter what. I’m stubborn like that.
The truth is, I had already waited too long before walking through the doors. I’ve known I wanted to be a martial artist since I was about 14 years old. One day in Jr. High, they separated the boys and girls, and had martial artists come in and teach us girls self-defense. I don’t even remember what we did, but from that moment on, I knew that I wanted to pursue it. Unfortunately, it took me about twenty years to get up the courage to actually do it.
Even then it was a hard thing for me to do, because you can’t learn martial arts by yourself, so I had to force myself to interact with many different people, in close proximity. Giles-Sensei likes to tell the story of how when I first started, I would not look at anyone, I only looked at their feet. It probably took me about a year before I attempted my first feeble kiai. Now he says I look people right in the eye, so I can see who I can punch in the mouth.
Slowly but surely, I started overcoming my fear of people, I started coming out of my shell. If I had known how much it was going to change me, and my life, I would have done it a long time ago. Martial arts has given me the tools to learn about myself, and to become the best I can be. It hasn’t been easy, and I still struggle, but the rewards have been greater than I could have anticipated. It’s a lot easier to learn to open myself up to people when I am surrounded by the best of humanity.
Last year when my family and I were at at a Jr. High, teaching self-defense to Girl Scouts, I realized my life had come full circle. I was finally where I should be. As I looked around at the girls in our class, I couldn’t help but see myself from so long ago. My only hope is that if there was a shy, insecure girl in the group who really enjoyed what we were doing…that she doesn’t wait twenty years to make her dream come true.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain