Tag: human dignity

Episode #163: Awareness, Potential, and Human Dignity with Scott Forrester

Scott Forrester is a movement expert, mind-body specialist, licensed PTA (physical therapy assistant), Certified Personal Trainer, and Feldenkrais practitioner. He is also the host of The Aware Athlete Show and author of the book “The Aware Athlete: How the Wild Origins of our Human Nature and the New Science of Neuroplasticity are Redefining Fitness.

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The Power of Grace….

Grace. It’s such a beautiful word. Just the sound of it brings forth a sense of ease, elegance, and peace. Who wouldn’t want to experience grace? Maybe we felt like we had it at some point but lost it along the way. (I don’t know what happened to it….I know I left it around here somewhere). Perhaps we feel like we have been looking for it all of our lives. It’s possible that we don’t even know what we’re looking for, but intuitively know that something is missing. What is grace, anyway?

In my mind, grace is a feeling. It is a sense of confidence and well-being. It is about having a strong sense of self-awareness, and being comfortable in your own skin. You know how to set personal boundaries and how to cultivate healthy relationships. You respect yourself. You have the flexibility to move through life with an effortless flow, even when the going gets tough.

One of my favorite quotes is from a remarkable man named Moshe Feldenkrais. He said, “What I am after is not flexible bodies, but flexible brains. What I am after is to return each person to their human dignity.” Ahh, grace. It is a lovely word, and a powerful one as well. It’s also a wonderful feeling–one that returns you to your strength, power, and human dignity.

It was through life’s trial and tribulations and the most difficult chapters in my life that I discovered the power of grace. I will admit that it hadn’t always been easy. But I did find it, and I sure like the way it feels. And I hope I don’t lose it like I lose my car keys. Because, there is incredible power and grace in each and every one of us. As well as human dignity.

Teaching Bullies Better Manners

I detest bullies. In my humble opinion they are sniveling little cowards with no manners or sense of human decency. They pick on those they perceive as weak, vulnerable, or helpless. If only we could teach bullies better manners, I do believe that the world would be a better place. And I believe we can.

I recently taught a self-defense class for women and girls. There were several grown women as well as two petite and quiet teen-aged girls attending the class. Well, at least one of the girls were quiet. The other one was a lot more verbose and outgoing. They were sisters, and they were adorable. They were in the class accompanied by their grandmother, who thought it would be a beneficial experience for all of them. She was right about that!

Although it usually takes awhile for ladies to get comfortable in a self-defense class, this group quickly got into the spirit of the class, and started to have some fun with it. However, I noticed that the quiet teenager hung back and silently watched the rest of us as we played with a few techniques and walked through several different scenarios. I thought she was just shy, so I decided to engage with her and make her feel more comfortable.

I caught her eye and made an effort to draw her into the class. I usually don’t focus on bullies or anti-bullying in women’s self defense classes, since we focus more on random attacks and “what-if” situations. But, for some reason, I said to her, “Let’s pretend that someone is picking on you at school…” Before I could finish, she shot a look at her grandmother. After a few moments of silence, her grandmother said, “That’s exactly what’s happening.”

I thought blood was going to shoot out of my eyes. Just the thought that a bully (or bullies) were picking on this adorable young girl enraged me. I wished I could go to school with her the next day, stand in front of her, and make them go through me before they could get to her. Instead, I continued teaching from a slightly different perspective, making sure that I kept this girl front and center.

Pretty soon, something remarkable happened. She began standing taller (all five feet of her), and started looking us all in the eye. She paid closer attention to what we were doing and got a lot more talkative, although not nearly as loquacious as her sister. Eventually I slid up beside her and whispered, “You’re getting it now, aren’t you?”

I wish you could have seen the look she gave me. She had a gleam in her eye and a knowing smile on her beautiful face. As a matter of fact, she actually glowed with a wisdom well beyond her years. She nodded her head and replied, “Oh, yeah. I get it.” I wanted to weep with joy.

For the next several days I could not get this girl and the bullies out of my head. I wondered if the lessons she learned that evening had any impact on her and her situation at school. Two weeks later I finally got my answer.

Her grandmother sent me a beautiful email thanking me for teaching the class. She also wanted me to know her grand-daughter told her that one single class changed her life forever. She was no longer having problems with bullies and was enjoying going to school again. Or at least, as much as any teenager enjoys school.

I cried when I read the email. As a matter of fact, to this day I cannot tell the story without crying. It’s a little embarrassing, because as a rule I do not cry in public, although I seem to be getting pretty good at it lately. Especially when I repeat the story of the petite and precious teenager who was being picked on in school, but found her strength and confidence in one two-hour long self-defense class.

The one thing I would love to know, but probably never will, was how the whole thing went down. I would have giving anything to see how she stood her ground. I really would have loved to see how her tormenter responded. Especially since I know it was done in a non-violent manner.

Like I said, bullies are cowards. All you have to do is look them in the eye, stand your ground, and walk tall. Even if you are only five feet tall, you look like a giant. And you get to teach them better manners, which not only changes your life, but changes theirs as well. It’s a beautiful thing, don’t you agree?

There’s a Warrior in All of Us

I began my journey into the world of martial arts twelve years ago at the tender young age of 47. I guess this means I am admitting how old I am, even though I know that a lady never tells her age. However, no one has ever accused me of being a lady. Actually, someone once did a long time ago, but that’s a story for another day.

Anyway, it takes a tremendous amount of courage for a woman to walk into a testosterone-infested, male-dominated dojo and give strange men permission to attack them. It also requires an enormous amount of trust. I had neither, and there are still times when I have issues with both. However, what I lack in courage and trust, I have always been able to compensate with humor and false bravado.

When I began training, there wasn’t a high ranking female student at the dojo that could show me the ropes, be my role model, and teach me how to deal with a room full of Neanderthals. Even though all of the guys were very respectful and supportive, it didn’t keep me from being terrified and feeling like I was in a room full of Fred Flintstone and his bowling buddies.

They would take turns teaching me the secrets of the art of the Ninja, and there were even days when they actually argued over who would “get” to work with me. I thought they were just trying to impress me while they taught me the basic skills of a white belt. It didn’t take long for me to recognize that even on my worst day, I looked prettier and smelled better than any of the men they were used to rolling around with on the mat. Besides, I washed my gi after every class.

Since I didn’t have an upper ranking female student to emulate, I had to fend for myself and make up the rules as I went along. I told the guys that they were permitted to grab me, punch me, kick me, sweep me, throw me, and pin me to the ground. But under no circumstances were they allowed to mess up my make-up or chip my nail polish. After all, a girl’s got to set some boundaries, and that would just make me mad. Besides, it would be uncivilized.

Eventually, they got used to having me around the dojo, and I seemed to take on a role that was a combination of mascot, little sister, wise woman and awesome sex goddess. However, I still wasn’t in it for the long haul. I figured I would take a few classes, learn a few techniques and move on with my life.

But, something funny happened along the way. I fell in love with the art and I fell in love with the training. And I really, really fell in love with the sense of strength, grace, and confidence that I developed from training. With every milestone I achieved, there was another one waiting to be accomplished. Every time I felt I had reached my limit and wanted to quit, something kept drawing me back.

Every so often I have a test of faith, even at this point in my training. I’ll hear a voice in my head saying “Quit. Just quit.” But the truth is I can’t quit, and I won’t. Because martial arts isn’t just something I do; it’s something I am. So, I tell that little voice to shut up and mind its own business. It’s not that I have anything to prove, except for a point. And that point is, there is a Warrior in all of us.

 

Sword cuts, patience, and a powerful teacher.

I bought a sword last weekend. I hadn’t planned on buying one, and I certainly hadn’t been looking for one. We have been working a lot more with sword cuts in my martial arts class, and I have a nice white oak wooden sword. It’s light weight, it’s really pretty, and it serves it’s purpose.

But last weekend my husband and I took a drive up to the mountains just to get out of town, even if it was only for a few hours. I was in the mood to go exploring, so we drove up to one of the popular mountain towns just to walk around and check out the shops.

We walked past a store front, and I said to my husband, “I have to go in here”.  He looked at me like I was crazy, but he followed me in the store anyway. It was a knife shop, exactly the type of store I would never enter. But when I walked in, I saw what had drawn me inside. Behind the counter were several swords on display. After handling a few of them, I knew which one was for me. It just felt right. And it was pretty.

I didn’t even take it out of the case for three days. Cautious and careful by nature, I waited until I was at the Dojo and Sensei could help me and teach me a few things. Handling a sword was a lot different from handling a wooden one. He did tell me that the blade was a little too sharp for training purposes and I needed to file it down. I thought he was being just a wee bit melodramatic, but I said okay. I knew I’d get around to it, eventually.

Two days later we had sword class. There were a lot of students, it was a bit chaotic, and we were moving a quickly through complicated patterns. Losing my focus for a split second, I was trying to sheath my sword in a hurry to catch up with the group and felt a sudden sharp burning pain in my wrist. Uh-oh. Sensei was right. The blade was too sharp. So much for care and caution.

That was at the beginning of class. I stopped long enough to wash the cut and put a big band aid on it. In the process of cleaning my wound I almost got stuck in the bathroom, because my sword was still in my belt at an awkward angle so my hands could be free. Thank goodness nobody witnessed that fiasco. I did have to ask one of the guys to help me with my band aid, which was demoralizing enough. If I needed help out of the bathroom, I never would have lived that down.

For the next hour and fifteen minutes, I practiced my sword cuts while the blood from my wrist saturated the band aid. I patiently listened to several of the guys giving me corrections all at the same time. I’m pretty good at taking directions, but only from two or three people at once. Any more than that and I go into sensory overload. But I smiled, bowed, nodded and thanked everyone for their help. Finally class was over. I put my sword away, took my notes and my throbbing wrist to my car, put my head on the steering wheel and burst out laughing.

I just couldn’t help myself. And I couldn’t stop laughing. The entire situation was simply too funny. The truth is, the reason why I love sword work is because the sword is a powerful teacher. It is honest; it always tells the truth and it never lies. I believe that I did not find the sword in the mountains that Saturday afternoon. The sword found me. It will continue to teach me patience, humility, honesty, integrity, truth, and humor. But I think I’m already good to go on that last one, don’t you?

Be healthy!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP