The Good Fight
When I first started training, all I could do was focus on not passing out. And I wasn’t even sick yet! I wasn’t particularly athletic and had never tried martial arts before. I couldn’t do a single push up and it took me a whole minute just to do ten sit ups. I wasn’t looking to shed pounds or a back story of abuse. I didn’t know then what was in store for me health-wise, but I knew I was weak and I didn’t want to be anymore.
I found myself in the back of the room in a white karate outfit following along with the punches and kicks as best I could. After that first class I felt insane for trying something so over the top. The students moved together like a group of Marine recruits going through basic training. The ones in front looked like extras in a Bruce Lee movie or something. I couldn’t fathom how they were executing their moves, and pretty sure I could never do any of it.
The next morning, I hurt in places I didn’t have names for and I swore I’d never go back to that horrible place where they made you jog around the mat for ten minutes, then do a million push ups, then a boatload of sit ups. And that was before the actual karate even started! My hairstyle was sweated out and my make up was smeared on the sleeve of that ridiculous white suit they gave me to wear. I started thinking that a dance class would be more my speed. I knew how to dance. Dance would be better. I didn’t want anybody hitting me anyway.
The thing is, a week later my body still hurt, but I couldn’t find a dance class that drew me in the way the karate torture had. At the end of that hour, everyone had jogged around the room slapping each other five and lined up at attention. Even though I was whipped, each hand I touched seemed to tell me that I could handle it, that I could be strong, that it was no sweat.
Fast forward to my time being crippled in a hospital bed, wondering if I would ever set foot on that mat again, or walk at all. Push ups had always been my hardest thing and no matter how much progress I made, I always cringed when it was time to do them. I was in the hospital for a week when I first became ill. I won’t recount the horror of that time, but the day before I was discharged, I gave myself a dare. I waited until the doctors and nurses and visitors were gone and I slipped out of my bed. I dared myself to get on the floor and do one proper push up. One push up is all I was asking my body for to determine whether I could survive this thing. My left arm was mush and I was on Percocet. I got on my knees, then on all fours, then up in a plank. My shoulders throbbed and my elbows rattled. I was sweating and fighting to keep my back straight. My knees were like lead knobs pulling to the floor like magnets. “You’re a piece of shit if you don’t do this. Just do one. If you can do one, then you’ll be all right…”
There were no tears on the mat, but hospital tears were more than acceptable. I squeezed my eyes shut, pressed down one inch from the ground and shook as I pushed slowly back up. Every single step after that was like climbing a mountain. No sweat.