Martial Arts Lesson One – Humility

Humility: freedom from pride or arrogance (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

I did it. I think it’s a good thing. Since I am no longer Young Women’s President in my local congregation and my brain and body were going stir-crazy, I signed up at a martial arts school near my home. It’s been almost 11 years since I was in active martial arts training and I have missed it badly. I stopped because I was having problems with chronic pain and injuries. Looking back at my medical records, I was even then fighting the battle for my life with primary hyperparathyroidism (a tumor on one of my parathyroid glands – read about what that is HERE). Since my surgery almost six months ago, my recovery has been continuous and profound. Every week I feel better.

You may wonder why I’m not going back to my former self-defense-based style of martial arts. The main two reasons are 1) distance from my home, and 2) this new style is Korean Tae Kwon Do-based, and I think it will have less of a physical impact on my body. I’m not saying it’s easier or takes fewer skills. I’m just saying that based on what I’ve observed, there is less contact in the sparring, and not as much body-slamming on the mat. Because of my medical history, I think I need to give my bones some time to recover from the calcium depletion that it struggled with for 11+ years. At the same time, my energy has recovered to the point that I find myself going a little bonkers without a physical-mental workout. I’ve been running and walking (HIIT training style) and I like it, but I need my brain engaged as well.

Today I went in, signed up, and took my first class. White belt all over again. It’s hard to look at the black belt in my bag with my old uniform and leave it there to put on a white one. It’s hard to take instruction from someone who corrects your fighting stance and tells you why it’s wrong without arguing back. But this is martial arts, no more whining about hard things. I’m in the class, and I have to learn a new way of doing things, and I have to remind myself that here, I am a white belt. Here, I do not have any of the privileges or credibility of rank, and I need to just be quiet and listen to learn. I know that I cannot do the same techniques my old style taught, but I still want to reflect well on my sifu. Without him, and the things he taught me, I would not be who I am today. Because I respect what he taught me, I refrain from giving excuses, or asking questions that may seem argumentative. I know that doing those things would not make him proud. I expect to work hard, doing the same exercises over and over thousands of times without complaint, because that is how you learn, and that is how he taught me. So, when I’m taught a new way of blocking, or a new stance that feels contrary to all my muscle memory, I give myself a mental shake and say, “You’re a white belt, Heather. It’s okay to be a white belt. It’s how you start. You have to be humble enough to learn.” And at the end of this day, I know that the best way to honor my former teacher is to respect my new ones.

This morning on my long walk (I ran yesterday). I listened to Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk from the last LDS General Conference. This talk ended up being one of those spiritual sneak-attacks (in a good way), and I found myself tearing up as I internalized the importance of what he was saying. He titled his talk, “Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Eventually,” and it is packed full of important things to remember when we are striving for self-improvement. Ironically, I see now how it applies to my new endeavor in martial arts also. At the time I listened to it, I didn’t realize I’d be signing up today. I’m so glad I don’t have to be perfect all at once!

“The scriptures were written to bless and encourage us, and surely they do that. We thank heaven for every chapter and verse we have ever been given. But have you noticed that every now and then a passage will appear that reminds us we are falling a little short? For example, the Sermon on the Mount begins with soothing, gentle beatitudes, but in the verses that follow, we are told—among other things—not only not to kill but also not even to be angry. We are told not only not to commit adultery but also not even to have impure thoughts. To those who ask for it, we are to give our coat and then give our cloak also. We are to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and do good to them who hate us. If that is your morning scripture study, and after reading just that far you are pretty certain you are not going to get good marks on your gospel report card, then the final commandment in the chain is sure to finish the job: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father … in heaven is perfect.” With that concluding imperative, we want to go back to bed and pull the covers over our head. Such celestial goals seem beyond our reach. Yet surely the Lord would never give us a commandment He knew we could not keep. Let’s see where this quandary takes us.”
“… I believe that Jesus did not intend His sermon on this subject to be a verbal hammer for battering us about our shortcomings. No, I believe He intended it to be a tribute to who and what God the Eternal Father is and what we can achieve with Him in eternity. In any case, I am grateful to know that in spite of my imperfections, at least God is perfect—that at least He is, for example, able to love His enemies, because too often, due to the “natural man” and woman in us, you and I are sometimes that enemy. How grateful I am that at least God can bless those who despitefully use Him because, without wanting or intending to do so, we all despitefully use Him sometimes. I am grateful that God is merciful and a peacemaker because I need mercy and the world needs peace. Of course, all we say of the Father’s virtues we also say of His Only Begotten Son, who lived and died unto the same perfection.”
Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Eventually

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