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.