Listen to Your Body
By Sara Aoyama
After my first month of karate, I was ready to bop
the next person over the head who told me to listen
to my body.
The very first thing I remember when I started training
in karate is pain. My Sensei explained that karate
used muscles that weren't used in other kinds of exercise,
so that was why I felt some pain. I didn't do exercise
of any other kind anyway, so it was even worse, I
figured. Both my Sensei and others around me prudently
and sagely counseled me not to overdo it, and to listen
to my body.
As one of those older and non-athletic beginners
that are increasingly common these days, my body and
I weren't exactly in communication. In fact we hardly
had a passing acquaintance and certainly there was
no deep and meaningful connection between us. What
I was hearing from my body sounded suspiciously like
whining. It was saying to me, "Are you nuts?
Ouch! Have you lost your mind? This hurts! Leave the
dojo this instant and get me a chocolate milkshake!"
This is what I thought my body was saying, as I struggled
to stay down in stance. But maybe it wasn't my body,
but some other voice within me. How was I to know?
I realized that I had no sense of being able to distinguish
between the normal amount of pain that would happen
with karate and that point where I had crossed the
line. In order to listen to your body, you first have
to know your body.
How do you get to know your body? I'm not sure. I
guess time and experience with martial arts helps.
But a beginner may need other resources. I tried to
pay attention to how I felt each morning so that I
could notice differences. Swallowing pride and paranoia,
I spoke with my Sensei and dojo mates about joints,
muscles, aches, and twinges. I tried to get a sense
of what was normal and what wasn't. Those students
who were a year or less ahead of me were most helpful,
as they remembered their own beginning pains and could
tell me what would go away, what might help, and what
amongst my pains they'd never experienced. And then
there was a wise friend much further down the road
who said: "The bad news is that it doesn't stop
hurting. And the good news is that it doesn't take
long before you get to the point where if something
isn't aching, (especially when you first wake up)
it doesn't feel right."
Hmmm... I wonder what my body will have to say about
About the author:
Sara Aoyama is a 1974 graduate of the University
of Kansas, majoring in Japanese Language and Literature.
She spent over twelve years living in Japan where
she dabbled in a number of other Arts such as Ikebana
(flower arranging), Cooking, and Shamisen. While living
in Kyoto, she was able to see many hidden aspects
of Japanese society. Currently she lives in Brattleboro,
Vermont where she started training in Shorin-ryu Karate
at the Brattleboro School of Budo in May, 1998 after
watching her son train for three years. She works
asa free-lances as a Japanese-Englishtranslator. Most
recently, she is the translator of "The Art
of Lying" by Kazuo Sakai, MD.
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