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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 that!


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.


To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

Intuition, sixth sense, self-knowlwdge, body knowledge, beginner, beginner's mind


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