We get hit a lot in life. It’s just one of those facts. Nothing you can do about it, except live a life hidden away in bubble wrap. But even under that condition you’ll suffer from the effects of not getting enough sunlight, not socializing with others, not building goals or seeing the results take form. So no matter how you look at it, a life is one that we are going to get bumped, bruised, scraped, and sometimes even broken.
Being an instructor, but not the head instructor of my school, means that I get called up on occasion to take some hits when techniques are demonstrated. Last night was no exception. My instructor has an inward and outward block which feels like a truck just ran into your arm. And this is what we were teaching, was how to use bracing angles as well as properly use the sharp end of the bone to create that sting – every good block is also a strike. So after that experience, I got to thinking, if I, as an instructor/student, follow the addage “out of the dojo and into the world,” then there should be an important message here.
And there is.
There are a few things that I do in this situation to get through it, and they can all apply to daily life.
1) I squarely face my instructor. In life, sometimes we try to turn away from the things that we know are going to be painful, thinking if we avoid it, it will go away. Doesn’t work that way. If we face it dead on the first time, we take it, learn what we need to learn from it, and can walk away from it with a greater understanding.
2) I breathe. I know I’m going to get hit, I cannot do anything about it, nor do I do it out of distress. It’s an honor to be the Uki to be able to assist with teaching the class. Problems can be dealt with when we can breathe through them. When we can take those couple of seconds to focus on our breath, get present, and tense up or relax right at that perfect moment. There are plenty of times that we need to brace ourselves, but if we walk around tensed up, not knowing when we can relax, then life gets pretty stressful. And when you do get hit, at that moment you needed to take a breath before you pass out, the capacity to deal with it is diminished.
3) I shake it off. It is not pleasant getting thrown off a horse. Be it that you got fired, rejected, physically hurt, emotionally hurt, or embarrassed, no matter what – it just doesn’t feel good. And when people are present to it – it just adds layers to coping than if you were able to be off on your own and just ugly cry about it. In a group of my students, looking to me for a reaction, not knowing what that hit entirely felt like (they learned in a few minutes practicing!), I had to body scan for damage, and pull up a mental script to set the pain aside and let it dissipate on it’s own to move on. I could have stayed in the present moment of how much it hurt. I could have then talked about it, went on and on about it, living in it – being stuck there instead of moving on to the next phase. Which is what we can tend to do sometimes when we are faced with something big – we become consumed by the pain that we cannot see past it.
4) I use humor or some other coping skill. I choose to use humor a lot when I am teaching, because ultimately, while people come to learn martial arts, they also join up to feel good and to have fun. Unless you are in the middle of some crazy preparation (and sometimes you need it then more than ever), people want to connect, laugh about shared experiences, and grow stronger together as a team. As I walked around to help the students get the movement down, a couple students remarked how well I took it because their arms were burning from the blocks. We laughed a little about our shared experience, and they kept repping it out. When bowing out of class we praised the students on their red arms and they smiled with pride of being able to complete the class and understand the importance of the movement. After class, I reflected on the experience feeling grateful for training in a school teaching adequate self defense as well as helping to connect people.
So really, I cannot think of a single challenge that turned out in my favor that I didn’t use some bit of these steps. Every time we step on the mats, we can go through the motions, or we can learn how we become better people through what we experienced that day. We can take some time to meditate on what we experienced, and how we can take it back out into the world. Because we aren’t expecting to get attacked every day of our lives, but we are going to interact with others, experience challenges, build futures, and mourn losses. As Sensei Callos says, our founder of the UBBT (check it out here ), “out of the dojo, into the world.” Make your training count.
I’m one of many. Check out what my 2018 Ultimate Black Belt cohort is also accomplishing: https://tomcallos.com/ubbt-team-2018/