Meeting the Day in Play

October 24, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Posted in Around the House, Barton's Blogs, Ramblings, The Nitty-Gritty | 1 Comment
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Barton training in AL.

All clear for take off: Barton training in AL.

A couple of night ago in martial arts class, we were working on a technique that had a particularly light feel. The person who I was working with was a rather large guy who tends to rely on his muscle to make techniques work rather than relaxation and body mechanics.

At first, I was a little worried about how to make something so light work against a person who appeared to be so sturdy. The first time I did the technique, I felt myself picking up on his tension as I moved in to take him off balance. My teacher came over and watched for a minute. Grabbing a chair and plopping himself into it, he said, “No Barton, try it this way.”

With just as much grace and softness, he dropped the same 200-pound guy with a turn of his head and a bend at the waist. I got a feel for how to maintain that feeling of easy playfulness despite what the attacker was bringing to the interaction and tried again. As I began to incorporate the feel, I noticed that the less effort I put into making it work, the better the outcome.

Toward the end of class, the technique came more easily to me, and what I began to notice was that as I moved and allowed myself to have patience with my own movement, the rigidity and tension in my training partner began to dissolve. There were even a few times where, after he collapsed onto the floor, we looked at one another and wondered, how the heck did that even happen. All we knew was that one minute he had tried to punch me and the next he couldn’t stand and was on the ground.

The next morning, Megan and I were chatting about how busy the past few months have been, and how there was still a feeling that in spite of all we had done, there was still even more to do. And we wondered how on earth we would ever get through it all. Don’t get me wrong, all of this work is dear to both of our hearts and we are completely excited by every facet of it. Yet, the sheer quantity of “to do’s” is at times overwhelming.

All of a sudden, the lesson from the night before flashed in my head. I laughed as I looked Megan deeply into the eyes. “What’s so funny?” She questioned.

I told her what had happened at class and said, “I think it’s the same thing. Somehow we need to drop all of these to do’s and just play with what ever it is that we are working on. The to-do’s will always be there, don’t worry about them getting lost. For now, let’s pick one thing and work on it lightly.”

And so we did. As I suspected, it worked itself out just as the technique in class had the night before. No effort required, just a soft touch and a light heart.

Ambulatory Movements

January 24, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Posted in Ramblings | Leave a comment
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Barton training in his manual wheelchair.

This past Friday, Megan and I attended one of her favorite literary events (Osler Literary Roundtable at Duke). This week happen to be an open reading where several of us had the possibility to share our work and receive critique. This was a wonderful opportunity, as I have not had the pleasure of being in workshop with my own material since finishing college.

As Megan and I have been revamping the great majority of some of our own writing, I took the chance to share a piece from a collection that we are collaborating on. After reading the piece aloud, I was looking forward to having several sets of critical eyes offer some constructive feedback on the piece.

To my surprise, however, the first comment that arose was, “I’m confused, do you ambulate when you train in martial arts or was this at a time when you were more ambulatory?”

Though it is not uncommon for people to be puzzled when I mention training in the martial arts, I was somewhat surprised (and amused) by how the question was phrased. “I don’t need to ambulate to train!”

I replied, with a smile. As I think about it now, I realize that I take for granted many of the ways that I have navigated my physical situation to design my ideal life.

While I understand that, at first glance, most people see the physical aspects of who I am and therefore assume my disability defines my approach to life. Yet, I’ve found that much of life success is founded upon personal prospective and one’s ability to find creative solutions to the challenges we face. In the case of martial arts, I found myself training in a school that emphasizes the cultivation of heart combined with exploring how to use one’s natural body movement to survive dangerous situations rather than forcing the body to fit a prescribed mold. 

What Brought Us Together

January 24, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Posted in Megan's Blogs, Ramblings, wheelchairs | Leave a comment
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When Barton and I were in Washington DC at a martial arts training seminar, just after we had gotten engaged, I stood in front of Barton and gave a punch, stopping just in front of him. I did what most people do when they train with Barton, pulling their punches. After chiding me, I gave a realistic attack, and Barton gave a realistic response, which surprised me as I wasn’t expecting an arm bar across his wheelchair nor my foot caught just under his footrest.

I had begun training in martial arts several years prior, and for, it was to navigate the chaos of an ending relationship as well as the death of my mother. I heard about martial arts from a close friend, who just said, “Come and see.” I never thought I would be training. I had grown up with asthma, not able to be as physically exerting as other students my age. After such dramatic losses in my life, I was on survival mode, yet I knew I needed to get back. The first evening I looked at students rolling on the grass at dusk, hitting and punching each other and thought, “What on earth are you doing? You want to do that?”

Training gave me not only the clarity I needed in a very turbulent time, I was also learning how my body worked in different situations, letting go physically as well as emotionally and learning how to stand back up on my own. One of the blackbelts also taught a creative writing series, and so I fell in love with journaling and writing again. 

I certainly wasn’t expecting to meet the love of my life while training!

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