Saturday, July 15, 2017

A New Journey (and why a fat middle aged woman is trying Kendo)

So, I wasn't always overweight.  As a child and teenager and young adult, I was well proportioned. But then I got married, had babies, and got lazy.  Now I am in my mid-40s and I have lost a considerable amount of weight over the past year, but I am slipping and I need to refocus my energy. The gym is boring to me.  There is no motivator, and I am not learning new skills.  So, it takes more energy to convince myself to go there because while the results are always positive, the experience bores me to tears.

So, why Kendo?

I am not Japanese, and I truly know nothing about Japanese culture.  Of all the world's literature I've read, I have never read anything Japanese.  I do eat sushi, but it's American sushi which is apparently very different.  I don't read Manga, and have only heard of that because I am the advisor of our Gaming and Anime club on campus.  I don't follow any sports, but when I have, it has always involved ice and sticks and guys dressed in orange (Go, Flyers!).

I'd like to say it's because I like the pants.  And it is true, of all the martial arts uniforms, the Kendo uniform is the most appealing to a woman of my size because it is blue and not white.  But, I can buy Palazzo pants and save a lot of time, effort, and sweat if that were truly the case.

I'd like to say it's because they would kick me out of Geisha Girl school for being slightly dopic and a terrible singer, or that I have a deep desire to be a samurai warrior. Neither is true, although I suspect I would get hauled out of a Geisha training school for having little musical and dance talent.

But the truth is this...I know nothing about Kendo, but it looks challenging and a lot of fun, and who DOESN'T want to whack someone in the head with a bamboo stick?

I had never heard of Kendo.  But, I was talking to my colleagues about trying to find something I could do with my teenage sons, and my Dean said she lived near a Kendo Dojo (she probably called it a studio).  She said it looked like a lot of fun and that is seemed to be something that I would probably love.  I am not sure if that is because I present myself as someone who wants to whap people with sticks (probably), because I am the kind of person who likes big pants (so true), or because I love a good challenge (amen).  But, in any case, I looked it up, got the address, and hijacked my 15 year old son, Moustache Man, to the Dojo.

He hated it.  Instantly.
I fell in love.  Instantly.

But, I couldn't justify, yet, being a middle aged woman amongst a gaggle of young Japanese adults until I realized that there were people there older than me.  On that night, I was the only person who wasn't Japanese, but the very kind and wise Master told me that since it was Friday, and it was summer, not everyone was there.

So I went back Monday. I dragged my 14 year old, Sharpie Boy, with me this time.  He loved it. But, he has functional cerebral palsy as a result of an infant stroke and is Rain-Man Autistic, and rules aren't a really strong magnet for him.  He wasn't sold on it.  But, omgosh, I was.

It could be the academic in me, but I truly love being a student. As far as reasons go, not knowing anything is usually a good place to start.  If we approach something with some knowledge, we sometimes over exaggerate what we know and we place a block where we need to be open.  For example, I have been horseback riding for years.  I am not an expert, and I have never owned a horse.  I go on trail rides about 4 times a year, and I truly love it.  When I go, it is usually with a mixed group, and inevitably, someone says, "oh, I know how to ride a horse" because once - when she was a tot - she went on a pony ride.  She doesn't listen to the instructions and then we all suffer because the horse wants to eat snacks all along the trail and she doesn't know how to control him.  I try to stay humble on every trip I take because I don't know the horse or the route, and because, while I have ridden a lot, I have not studied horsemanship.  I go because I enjoy it, and I try to learn something new every time.  Humility is a place to start and stay.

So, in visiting the Kendo Dojo twice, I realized that it was something I truly wanted to learn how to do.  It will help keep me focused on exercising regularly, and it allows me to be a student.  As a professor, I spend my time teaching others, and in this case, I will be learning.  This is where I want to be.  I may never be good enough to spar with anyone else, and that is OK.  I will work toward that goal.  For now, I am learning - not just about the practice of Kendo, but about a culture I know nothing about.

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