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.