Tag: courage

Episode #89: Comfort Zone and Leap of Faith

Getting out of our comfort zone is important for personal growth and development. But, how far would you be willing to push yourself? Meet Shelly Piaggio, entrepreneur, business owner, mom, and grandmother who took getting out of her comfort zone to a higher level by jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.

Continue reading

What Is Courage?

Out of all of the characters in the Wizard of Oz, my absolute favorite is the Cowardly Lion. Except for Toto, of course. Okay, that makes Lion my absolute second favorite. But, it’s funny how the big, strong Lion was always running away from danger and little Toto was always running towards it. So, which one had courage? In my ninja-driven way of thinking, I have the perfect answer. They both did.

How is that possible? Because, what is the definition of courage? Most people would say it is the absence of fear. But, in reality, it is action in the presence of fear.

We’ve all experienced fear. There are several ways we can respond to it. We can run (flight) like the Lion did by removing himself from the threat to keep himself safe. It’s actually a really smart choice, even though it hardly seems appropriate fro the King of the Forest. Or, we can fight like the fierce warrior Toto did, to defeat his opponents and bring them to their knees. It’s an option for those who truly embody the spirit of a warrior. But when you consider that your chances of being the victor are about 50-50 (at best), it might not be the best choice unless you are cornered.

There is a third option. You can freeze like a deer in the headlights. Absolutely THE worst possible choice you can make. But, it’s not your fault, because it really isn’t a conscious choice. Our brain automatically shifts into our sympathetic nervous system when we are threatened, which is part of our built-in survival mechanism. Unfortunately, when we freeze we haven’t got even a slim chance of surviving an attack.

Taking some self-defense classes, sharpening our awareness and observation skills, practicing avoiding and evading a threatening situation is a great start to prevent against freezing, and learning how to take action in the presence of fear. And that, my friends, is the definition of courage.

Focus, focus, focus….

Good grief, I’m exhausted. Every free moment of every day over the past several months have been devoted to my martial arts training. That is my focus right now, like a second job, except without a paycheck. I have eliminated everything else in my life except work and training. I have stopped going to ballet class, stopped socializing with friends, and put projects on hold. I’m not even going shopping. I’m trying to focus.

I have been organizing notes, reviewing techniques, taking extra classes, and meeting my number one training partner for additional time on the mat. I am memorizing Japanese words and phrases. I am diving into the historical, philosophical and cultural roots of the art I study. I am teaching some classes, helping other students, and collaborating with my fellow student instructors. I am really trying to focus.

There isn’t a lot of extra room in my head for mundane things. I must focus on what is important. Deflect, evade, escape; throw, pin, lock, strike. Hand weapons, heart weapons, spirit and intention is far more critical to remember then where I parked my car. I am testing today for my next belt. This level is a comprehensive review of everything I have learned since my first day of  training. I was told to be prepared to spend three hours on the mat for the test. That seems like a long time, but I’m sure I’ll be fine. I just need to focus.

I’m training and I’m studying. I’m training so hard that I can barely get out of bed in the morning. Every bone in my body aches and my muscles are begging for mercy. I’m studying so much that my head is full of Japanese words and phrases that keep bumping into each other, something that they particularly enjoy doing at three o’clock in the morning. The smell of tiger balm follows me wherever I go, but I guess it’s better than the smell of the sweaty guys I’ve been working out with. The good news is, I’m learning how to focus.

I am so focused that two days ago I lost my checkbook. No worries, I found it in the ficus tree at my office. Yesterday I misplaced my cell phone. Not a problem; it was in the dog food, right where I left it. I accidentally locked one of my dogs outside, but fortunately heard him barking before I left the house. I got mad at my husband because he wouldn’t talk to me before dinner a few nights ago. Then I remembered he was out of town. Focus, focus.

Every day I train. Every day I study my notes. Every day I wear my little gold earrings that have the Chinese symbol for “courage” on them, even though the art I study is Japanese. I think it’s probably okay. Most of all, every day I wonder why I am doing this to myself. I don’t have to, and I’m not even sure that I want to. I just want to be normal again. Then I focus at the task at hand.

I say that I have been working toward this for the past few months. The truth is, I have been working toward this for the past eight years, but I didn’t realize it then. Had I been able to look in the future and see where this journey would take me, I would have run screaming into the woods, never to be heard from again. Actually, that almost did happen two years ago, but that’s another story.

I might not get through this test. I might succeed, or I might fail. But that’s not the point. The truth is, this test and this level is not about me, or the belt, or the honor of achievement. It’s about the journey. It’s about the art. The art I didn’t choose, but chose me instead. It’s about patience and perseverence. It’s about humility, and learning how to embrace and accept something that is so much bigger than myself. It’s also a way to discover more about myself than I ever knew existed. And it taught me how to focus.

Well, I’d better be on my way. I have a test to take. If only I can find my car keys. I know they’re around here somewhere….focus, focus, focus!

Be healthy!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP

And the journey continues….

It takes a tremendous amount of courage for a woman to walk into a testosterone infested  Dojo and begin training. It also takes an enormous amount of trust. I had neither. I was scared to death for the first two years. However, the guys were incredibly tolerant, gentle and patient with me. Most of the time I was the only woman in class, and they dutifully took turns working with me. I thought that was awfully magnanimous of them. I soon discovered that it was because I was prettier and smelled better than any of the guys, even on my worst day. They had plenty of opportunities to work with each other, and they seemed to enjoy tossing me around for a change.

Even though I was enjoying the classes, I was still incredibly intimidated. I was a good student, not because I was interested in going up through the ranks, but out of a strong sense of self preservation. In keeping with my good humor and to hide my perpetual state of terror, I hid my fear by setting some ground rules. So, I told the guys that they were permitted to kick me, punch me, throw me and pin me, but for Heaven’s sake, don’t mess up my make up. That would make me mad. After all, we all have our limits, and it’s good to set boundaries.

It’s funny to remember how my friends responded to my sudden interest in martial arts.  I had some impressive bruises during the first year, and many of them encouraged me to quit. My girlfriends just knew I would get hurt, and some had the audacity to suggest that I was too old. That did it. I was determined to stick it out for at least another year. I would quit when I was good and ready to quit, and on my own terms. Have I ever mentioned my incomparable stubbornness?

Some days I would go straight from ballet class to the Dojo. Some people thought I was nuts. Sometimes I thought I was nuts. In reality, it was good cross training. But during this incredible journey something really strange happened. My experience slowly transitioned from the physical training to something deeper. My nervous system was responding to my newly discovered patterns of moving and sensing myself in this new environment. The term is called neuroplasticity and refers to our ability to learn new things by responding to changes in our environment.

So, something inside of me changed. It was slow and subtle, but it was there. My intimidation  turned into awareness. My fear changed into confidence. My incomparable stubbornness developed into Spirit. My humor and acceptance about my gender, size and age led me to the understanding of my limitations as well as the acceptance of my possibilities. My lack of trust transformed into self compassion. And now, with each rank I achieve I experience an overwhelming sense of humility. And respect. For myself, and for my art.

Be healthy!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP