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Why I Fight

It seems an odd title for a composition on training in a martial art, incongruent with the ideals of the martial arts, at least at first. When examining all the definitions of "fight," I can think of no better phrase to introduce you to my reasons for training.

Fight: To strive vigorously and resolutely. To be the best "fill in the blank (mom, sister, wife, friend, warrior, veterinarian)" I can be.

Let me start at the beginning. I've been fighting since the day I was born. My medical records state "no medical reason to have survived". I was touted in the local newspapers as "Fairfield's Miracle Baby". Being born 8-10 weeks early in 1972 was a bit of a problem, but not for long…. Soon, the titles changed and my parents were the miracle parents for keeping up with me! The fears of blindness, deafness, and lifelong medical problems were soon replaced by other challenges, how does a 13 month old, who has yet to learn to walk, climb out of a crib and end up on the kitchen table with a box of Cheerio's at 6 in the morning? Apparently I still had some fight left in me.

Growing up as little sister to a brother, 3 years older than me, I was constantly striving to be his shadow, whatever he could do, I figured I could do…better. Needless to say, this didn't always end in a satisfactory situation, but "can't" never entered my vocabulary. To this day, when I think about saying, "I can't," I have to grin because I hear a little voice (remarkably like my mom's!) saying, "Can't never did anything!" My fight was fostered through these experiences.

On January 29, 1986 my desire to fight was again reinforced. I was in sixth grade in Liberty, Missouri. We had been studying about Space exploration in preparation for the lessons from Space from Christa McAuliffe, then in an instant, before our eyes, the Challenger was gone. I went home that afternoon and asked my parents if it would be ok if I wanted to be an astronaut. I know my parents always told me I could do whatever I wanted if I put my mind to it, this was the first time I remember it really sinking in and truly realizing the implications of that statement. My fight was brought to the surface.

I have had things pretty easy throughout life.

In fact, I often feel a little guilty about it all. Then I ask myself, how did I get so lucky? I know lots of people who are smarter, prettier, stronger, and just as capable as me and they are envious of my accomplishments! Sure, there's some luck, but I think it's also because I nurture my "fight."

Tae Soo Do is one of the nutrients that keeps my fight in good working order. I look to martial arts to keep me balanced mentally and physically. The mental aspect has many layers for me (I'm like an onion…sorry, Shrek reference). On the most basic level coming to the school provides me with a change of mentality. It's about being in a supportive, non-cut throat environment where individuals from all walks of life really care about and respect each other.

When I read that, it sounds kind of cheesy, but it's one of the things I miss the most when I can't make it to class. I try to explain this when my friends think I'm crazy for doing martial arts and ask why I don't just join a gym, the schedule is better and one rarely breaks bones at the gym, they claim. This is also the reason I quit my last school just as I was ready to test for my 2nd degree black belt, I didn't get that warm-fuzzy feeling.

Repeating the Meng Se after class, answering the instructor with the proper term of respect, partnering up for drills, taking responsibility for our mistakes and accepting the consequences (i.e. push-ups for being tardy or dropping our weapons), are all reminders to me that I can't fight alone and I have many brothers and sisters to help me fight when I'm feeling weak. It also instills in me a sense of responsibility for my class brothers and sisters.

Another layer of the mental aspect is that in class I focus. I'm not worried about work, or studying, or finding my future husband, it's one of the few times I'm in the moment (well, some days are better than others!).

I am ADHD, contrary to popular belief it isn't an attention-deficit, but rather an attention-abundance and a focus-deficit. To be "in the moment" is tough for me as a gazillion other things are flying by my radar. Here's how I think that martial arts helps me focus.

As a kid I was naturally athletic and naturally thin (ok, as a kid I was scrawny!), so pretty much any sport I tried I was pretty decent at (Swimming, Softball, Basketball, Track, Cross country skiing, Downhill skiing, Cross country running). I enjoyed them all, but eventually only really enjoyed the ones that I had to work the hardest at.

I spent a summer during college in Montana taking a years worth of college physics. I didn't have a vehicle for the first several weeks of my stay and didn't really know anyone to hang out with around town, so I figured I would try out a martial art. It was something I had always wanted to try, but with high school sports and academic activities, I had never found the time. I asked around town about women's self defense classes thinking I'd try something I was familiar with first. The local TKD school's instructor was also the police academy director for the region so I thought I would give it a go. Well, since it was summer in a college town, no self- defense seminars were planned.

I decided to take the 2 free TKD lessons… Man, did I feel like a geek! I suddenly realized why my name wasn't "Grace!" And the uniform, I felt like I was wearing my pajamas in public! There were 10 year old kids who could kick circles around me and they were still at the age that wearing pajamas in public was ok! Well, since I had nothing better to do and I would probably never see half these people again, I decided to sign up for the summer, and I've been practicing martial arts ever since (a few breaks here and there).

When I train, I have no choice but to focus on the task at hand, and some days it's tough! But the sense of accomplishment when I finally conquer my attention-abundance and inherent lack of grace is what keeps me coming back! I jokingly tell my friends I enjoy martial arts because where else can an adult kick, scream, and roll around on the ground like a child throwing a temper tantrum and be considered totally normal?!

Well, I also need to nurture my fight by getting some sleep, it's been a crazy week and I'm on ER duty, so I had best bring these ramblings to a close.

To sum it up:

I fight because I care, I fight because I want to change the world, I fight so I can help others to live, I fight so I can fight some more.

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