Introverts, White Belts and Panic

People are always surprised when they hear that I’m an introvert… of the highest order. I can be funny, fancy myself to have a healthy sense of humor, and I’ve even been known act silly in public places.

Discovering that I was an introvert was also new to me. It was about a decade ago taking a Myer’s-Brigg Personality Assessment and I was very close on E and I but the I took it. My co-workers call bull on the whole test because there was no way I was an introvert. Introverts don’t conduct training classes in front of dozens of people! But there I was doing just that. When I read up on it I learned a lot about being in introvert. The biggest thing was that it didn’t  mean that I can’t ever handle social situations it’s just that to recharge my batteries I need to be alone. Looking over at my life situations I noticed that pattern clearly. I can hang with the best of them but after a while I have to go. I need seclusion and peace. I also realized that I can’t handle a spectacle in a public place. Ask any of my children and they will quote Maury and say:

1mflnk

I had to dig deeper into this puzzle and I think I figured it out! I can handle a controlled spectacle. By controlled I mean I control the spectacle. If I’m in control of the situation I control the degree of embarrassment I’m willing to accept at any moment and that is subject to change moment by moment. 

What does this have to do with karate? One of the things I struggle with right now – with the exception of my burning desire for instantaneous perfection – is that I don’t want to speak out loud. We are supposed to announce the kata, count in Japanese, and make loud noises in a lot of spots and I just have a hard time going there. Why? I’m still new and I don’t want to draw attention to myself by potentially abusing the kata in front of my classmates and the Sensei.

I look at my peers all yelling in full voice and I just don’t want to draw the focus just yet. I could count to ten in Japanese after my first day. My perfectionist tendencies dictated I immediately look it up and do flash cards.  When Sensei called me to count in class he gave me the out to do it in English because I was new and I took it. I just didn’t want to flub. In front of other people. In the center of class. My mind went into overdrive:

What if? 

What if? 

What if?

The never ending self doubt lingered and came to a vicious head in karate class ten days ago. They were talking about the upcoming belt test and I was thinking

Thank goodness I don’t have to take THAT yet. Phew.

Then they were talking about all the white belts and I’m there in my white belt thinking

What? I’m sorry. I’m like a NEW white belt. 

As the conversation continued I started to feel very included. Then this happened:

Me (tentatively, laced in panic): I’m not testing, am I?
Sensei (casually): Of course you are.
Me (full blown hysteria, trying to act calm): Ok

I know I felt the color flush from my face. The “what if” scenarios are swirling. Am I ready? I’m not even confident counting! Sensei spoke with such an ease like the only one panicking about this test was me. I had to settle into the fact that I know this. That I’m going to have to find my voice in this and just do it.

Last night was the big day. Testing. Going from white belt to purple belt you have to know two kata. I practiced like crazy. I thought I’d do my two kata and sit and watch the others do their requirements and go home.

WRONG!

I’m glad I went early. I saw the younger kids taking their belt tests. They were doing all kinds of physical warm ups, then different kicks and punches and I look at my friend Michelle who started this whole thing and said, “Are we doing all that too.” She looked at me like I was crazy and was like, “Yes, it’s like a whole class.”

Again, my inner freak out was going. Here I am in a situation beyond my control, in a room FULL of people that I hardly know, about to show my skills or (goodness gracious) lack thereof and then I prayed that I trust what I know. I trust that I can do this. That perfection is not attainable and I just have to do the best that I can do today.

After punches, kicks, jumping jacks, sassevilles (I think he made these up) and all sorts of boot camp like torture it was kata time. I toed the line and just did what I was called to do, what I was trained to do, what I practiced. I knew it. Seriously, before my mind ever knew what was happening my body knew it.

After the white belts went it was like one scene of inspiration after the other. As each belt rank performed you just saw how much there is to learn and how progressively you get better. The best part is that there is no end. When I get to the top of a mountain sometimes I sit there. There no apex here. The training continues. When it was all done I was covered in sweat but filled with joy. Having Sensei tie the fresh new purple belt around my waist I felt nothing but accomplishment.

Starting karate at 44 years old may be crazy to some but I’m positive this is absolutely the right thing for me and at just the right time. Just over two years ago I was struggling to climb a single flight of stairs. My knees were in constant pain and living at 425lbs was taking its toll on my body but also my spirit.

Today, I’m a purple belt who did a string of exercises like a champ and learned a lot in the process. I learned that I just have to trust what I know, that I can use my voice, I can be in situations that are outside of my control, and that I can accomplish great things with determination, practice.

One of the most profound thing was what Sensei Dave said after the belt presentation:

“A black belt is just a white belt that didn’t give up.”

Okay, purple belt, I’m ready. Bring it on.

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