Back on the mat

June 15, 2011

Back on the mat, and my ankle is happy, if a little stiff at times. Still feel a little unsteady, but that goes for more than just the ankle, so I have a feeling that this is due more to being off the mat for a month than it is a product of injury.

Coming back after any time off is hard for me, but as is often the case, everything seems to come flowing back. I know it’s mostly in my head. There is that annoying, nagging voice rattling around my brain, telling me I’m going to forget, I won’t be able to keep up, I suck. I have to recognize when that is happening, acknowledge it, and then gently remind myself that it is a destructive habit and let it go.

Here’s one product of that nagging, naysaying voice. It got me thinking about my relationship with Sifu on the mat. Part of that negative voice,  the voice that tells me I suck and why the fuck am I doing this and fuck my shin hurts why the fuck am I doing this, urges me to question not only my own motives, but those of Sifu. This internal dialog questions whether I am earning the ranks I have obtained. Would Sifu promote me just to move me through the ranks, just to keep my ego fed with a new color on my sash? I know this to be untrue, and that inner voice, in this case, is full of shit.

At my previous school, I had opted not to test a few times because I did not feel like I had progressed enough to even test for that next rank, even though I knew without a doubt that I would pass the test, because nobody ever failed. I know it is bad form to question your Sifu, but I truly questioned their practices. When I left that school, it was very amicable, and I waited for quite a while before I entered my new school for the first time. The school I am a part of now is simply not like the other. I know this to be true, as Sifu had let me know that I won’t be going up with the next group. I was right there with him on that. Sometimes, that little voice makes a valid point – I felt like I’m not ready, and Sifu confirmed that feeling.

I have a genuine trust of Sifu (a rare thing indeed), and great affection for him and his family. His job is not to babysit and stroke my ego, but it is also not to only show me tricks, forms and applications. He inspires me to suit up and show up, to do my best on the mat, to let me know where I’m progressing and where I need work. That inspiration is a huge part of the enchilada for me. When I get down on myself, when that annoying fucking voice pops into my head and I begin to question my own motives, I sometimes have a conversation with Sifu in my head. I remind myself that I am where I should be, that the goal is to learn a little more and do a little better each day. I have always been my own worst critic, and I suspect that  most people have felt the same way at some point in their lives.

I trust that Sifu won’t BS me or stroke my ego just to keep me around. When we’re not training, he’s the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. When we’re on, he’s Sifu, he’s business, and he makes sure that we’re all getting down to the business of Kajukenbo Tum Pai. His concern for our training and our safety is genuine. He wants us to get this stuff, because he wants us to know how to take care of business not just in the school, but more importantly on the street. I believe that if he had reservations about any of his students, he’d pull us aside to discuss the situation, as he has with me. Knowing that gives me not only a deeper appreciation for the man, and the school, but it also helps to edge out that annoying, negative voice. When it says “You can’t do this,” experience steps in and says, “The fuck you can’t – you’ve proven you can do it, you’re doing it. The goal is only to do it a little better each day.”


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