It is all about the journey….

Archive for the ‘karate’ Category

Different and Strong

Our little family had a unique opportunity last night….one that required us to step waaaay out of our comfort zones.

When we first moved into our current home, we met a sweet Chinese man. He is very endearing and has a wonderful disposition. He took an interest in the fact that we are all involved in martial arts. Each time he has been in our home, he has encouraged us and brought such a sweet spirit with him.

Different and StrongA couple of weeks ago he called asking if we would be willing to perform at a Chinese Autumn festival. Performing is not something we do a lot of, because it involves stepping out of our comfort zones. We love to train and get better on our home turf, however stepping outside of this requires a lot of courage, or a sweet and persistent friend. We, reluctantly said we would.

To be completely honest, we actually tried to get out of it. However, everything we brought up (wrong country…we study a Japanese style martial art, not enough time to prepare, etc) he shot down (all martial arts came from China so what does it matter? and you are black belts so you are prepared, etc). We were committed and that was it.

It took a long time to come up with the music. Less time to come up with the demo performance.

Motivation was lacking, especially in the kids…which was a reflection of our initial emotions.

A decision had to be made.

It came down to who we truly are and how we wanted to represent ourselves, family and our karate family. Deciding to train strong and perform strong made a huge difference in our hearts. Team Smullin was going to represent!

So the evening of the performance came….

We walked into the venue and saw that we were totally different from everyone else in the room. Not only were we the only martial arts performance lined up, we were the only Americans who would be stepping on stage.

As the crowd filled in, we felt how different we were…American, English speaking, tall, dressed in gi’s and carrying weapons.

The Chinese culture is so kind. They are truly incredible people.

As the program went forward, we realized that they are not the type to yell and get all hyped up. It was a totally different environment than what we have performed in the past. After each performance they would clap and that was it. Hmmmm….I really hoped it would go well for us.

There came a point that we simply had to not care about what was going to happen, we just needed to be us…Team Smullin…and do what we do best.

Martial arts has trained us to do many things with our minds and bodies. One of the best things I have learned is confidence in what I know and the amount of time I have spent training. Walking on to the stage, we all went to that place and let our bodies do what they have been trained to do.

Did we mess up? Yep. Did I smack the overhead screen with my sword? Yep. Did I almost fall off of the stage? Yep. Was our ending a little skewed? Yep.

Did we startle the crowd with our blood-curdling yells? Yep (It was pretty fun to see some of the looks on their faces). Did the boys amaze them with their chuck skills? Yep (they are pretty filthy chuckers). Did the girls impress with their swords? Yep. Did the crowd clap throughout the performance? Why yes they did. Honestly, if there was a best in show award…we would have taken it…;)

The entire event was a reflection on who we are and where we have found strength in our family and lives.

Not one thing about us fit…Americans at a Chinese festival, Japanese martial arts at a Chinese festival, English speakers at a Chinese festival, and rocking music at a Chinese festival. However, we fit, because we were there together. We fit, because we understand that being different is nothing to shy away from, it is something that gives us strength. We fit, because we know who we are and what we can do.

It is a powerful lesson we have learned over the past few years. I am grateful that we were able to step out of our comfort zones, into a beautiful culture, to see.

 

Arrival

ArrivalToday begins the end of an incredible journey.

Five years ago I stepped onto a karate map, changing the course of my life forever. It was then I joined my family in our journey to earn our black belts. I can remember the feelings of trepidation that coursed through my heart, yet my soul felt electrified.

As I have reflected upon the path we have walked down, I have found myself feeling overwhelmed by the fact that we have done what we set out to do….as a family.

Individually each one of us has become so much more, grown in ways that we could never describe and learned very deeply that we are strong. As a family we have become cemented in the team that we are. There is a lot of peace knowing that each one of us would take or give a hit to save each other.

There have been moments of victory, defeat, learning, excitement, and contemplations of quitting…all things that create a path of worth.

We have been blessed through this journey by a loving Heavenly Father. I cannot look back and not see His hand guiding, helping and encouraging us on our way. I see how things that are important to us are important to Him. I see how He has changed the world for us.

The mat we stepped onto for the first time is not that mat we will arrive on, however we were given the basic love and knowledge of karate from those who trained with us on our first mat. We were shown the direction we needed to travel. A guide at the beginning of a journey is priceless. Thank you Leah for giving us a strong start.

As with any wonderful journey, ours took an unexpected, but marvelous turn. We left our beginnings and found ourselves welcomed into a karate family that means more to us than words can describe. Our Kona family is beautiful.

Along our path we found ourselves in one of the most difficult trials we had ever experienced. Karate became our safe-haven, our home, a refuge and somewhere we could express ourselves. As we would walk through the doors, the weights we were carrying were lifted and for a few moments we were free. Truly another gift from God. Karate has saved our lives on many levels.

As we enter the testing period tonight, I know that we have many around us who are pulling for us. I am humbled by their love and support for our little team. I cannot begin to express how this will lift us and give us strength beyond what we feel we have. I love that we can be that for our karate family too…it is all about lifting each other.

Thank you Te, Jade, Victor and Tyler for lifting us, inspiring us, believing in us and showing us the way.

We have arrived at the end of one journey….only to begin another.

 

Stronger Not Easier

For the past month our family has been doing our final training to earn our black belts. It has been challenging both physically and mentally. I would not have expected anything less or different, because to earn a black belt one must be able to rise above these types of challenges.Stronger Not Easier

The beauty of martial arts is the individual nature of the journey. My test will not be like anyone else’s, because I have my strengths and weaknesses. Recently I have seen each of them as if through a microscope.

It does not take a microscope to see that push-ups and pull-ups are two things that challenge me. As they are both required for our test, I have needed to place extra emphasis on my ability to do them.

I have been looking forward to the time when they would get easier. I have envisioned myself pounding out my reps with ease and actually loving it.

No matter how many times I have done them, daily, I have not found that blessed place of ease.

As I sat outside this morning thinking about all of this, I was given some realizations. There is a lot of clarity that comes when I have a quiet moment, outside, in the sun, listening to the beautiful song of nature.

These tasks are never going to become ‘easy’ for me, however as I have worked at them, I have become stronger. As I thought about this, my heart filled with gratitude for this principle in my life. For if these things became easy for me, I would not work so hard to develop the strength I need to perform them.

This is something I have been thinking about for a long time. We have been on a personal journey that has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done. There have been times when each day was a struggle to get through with enough faith to wake up the next morning. The daily fight has been grueling at times.

Yet, I would not trade it for anything.

We have become stronger. We have overcome. We have seen what we can do. We have seen prayers answered. We have seen the hand of God touch our lives daily. We have felt the power of our Savior pick us up. We have been given a gift of clarity.

Before all of this, our journey and the black belt experience, I feared things that made me stretch, grow and hurt. I would, at times, pray that life would get easier or that the challenges would be taken.

Now I see that this is all necessary for me to become stronger.

 

My Path

provisionalTomorrow is the beginning of the end. It is the final sprint before the goal is reached.

For years we have worked, as a family, to reach a common goal. We have spent many hours on and off the mat learning, refining, doubting, overcoming, falling and rising.

And here we are….

For the next 4 weeks we will train with a greater intensity to earn that which has transformed us. It has been one incredible journey.

My heart is full of anticipation for this. As I look back at who we all have become, and the path that has brought us to where we are, I see that even though our finish line looks the same…our paths have been completely different.

That is the beauty of this journey….it is different for each one of us.

The path I have traveled has shown me strengths and weaknesses, both physically and spiritually. There have been moments that, through discouragement and failure, I have wanted to walk away. These are not moments I am proud of, yet they are moments that defined my heart. As the tears threatened to roll down my face many times, I was given a choice in my heart…walk away or get up.

I got up.

There have been so many moments that I truly surprised myself by what I could do. When I would finally let go, trust myself and allow the knowledge that I had worked so hard to obtain come out…I would do things that were beyond me. The victories may have seemed small to anyone else, yet in my heart they were incredible.

Knowing that I can do things that were at first beyond my abilities has given me a greater appreciation for who I truly am. Understanding that there is more strength and knowledge within me than I realize has brought a new peace and power in my heart. I have seen it change my world.

My path has not been one of solitude, yet the lessons I have learned are my own. I am forever grateful for those who have taught me, seen within me greater things than what I could see, and pushed me to become more. They have changed me through their ability to guide, encourage and not give up. Black-belt

The beauty of this path is that it doesn’t end when I reach my goal, it continues as long as I will keep my feet on it.

 

Be Strong

Our family is a karate family. We started this journey together 3 1/2 years ago. It all began as our children started classes, followed by my husband and then I jumped in. It has been a strengthening force individually and collectively.Karategirl

As we have progressed through our journey, we have all experienced moments when we needed to dig deep and find that inner source of courage and strength to pull us through. There are unique challenges that come with a new kata, weapon or technique. Some come easy and others are more difficult to learn. Fortunately we have all done this together and where one is weak there are 3 of us who are strong.

Our sweet daughter is one belt behind my husband, son and I. We decided that we would all earn our black belts together, so she is going through the process to earn her provisional black belt on her own. It is a challenging process. It takes 5 weeks to go through the boot camps and the test. Each week is physically and mentally demanding.

I remember as she came off the mat after the first week. I asked her how she was feeling and her response spoke of the strength she has found in us. She said, “Mom, I feel so alone out there without you guys. I know you are watching me, but you are not there with me. It is hard, but I am going to do this one on my own.”

It kills me to be on the sidelines, watching. There is nothing I want more than to be out there with her, even if we aren’t training ‘together’. The mat is our home, our place of bonding, our place of release and our place of strength. Watching is hard. Yet, I know deep down she needs to do this on her own. She needs to know that she is strong enough to stand and be herself.

Last week they were going through their squats. The requirement is to perform 75 squats. It was the end of training and she was tired. I could see it in the way she was doing her best, but she was spent. I whispered, more to myself than anything, “Be strong girl.” It was as if someone had taken that message and carried it to her heart, because instantly she was stronger. Her form was better and the energy around her was rejuvenated.

I have thought a lot about that moment.

I think our Heavenly Father feels the same way about us as He watches us go through our ‘boot camp’ of life. It is designed to be physically, spiritually and mentally demanding. I wonder if it is difficult for Him to sit back and watch as we do our best to learn, practice and become, knowing it is the best thing for us.

bestrongI wonder how many times He whispers, “Be strong.” to our hearts so that we can make it one more step. I know there have been times He has done this for me, because I have felt a strength that can only come from Him enter into my heart and give me just what I need to keep moving.

There is one thing that I have been learning over and over through the past few years of our journey…true strength comes when we are ready to quit, when we are crushed under the pressures that life gives us, when we just don’t know how to go on. It comes from Him and the Atonement of His Son. This strength is just enough. The key is to watch for it and listen for the quiet assurance that He is near.

“Be strong.”

I Can Take A Hit

SparringOne of the most incredible journeys I have ever embarked on started 3 years ago right before Mother’s Day. My family had been doing karate and I decided it was time I needed to join them. Stepping on the mat for the very first time was nothing short of intimidating. It was one of the most scary steps I have ever taken…and it was one of the best steps I have ever taken.

One of the disciplines we study in karate is sparring. I will be honest, it has not been my most favorite aspect. Yet, I have learned so much from this. A couple of weeks ago it was sparring training night. After suiting up in the foot pads, hand pads and headgear (definitely one of my finer looks I may say), I was ready to go.

I made a decision that night that I would just go for it. I let go of the dislike and trepidation that I feel when I am all padded up. As the night would have it I sparred against some younglings and finally against my 6’6″ husband and our instructor, who both are pretty incredible at sparring. Regardless to say, I took some pretty good hits (I would like to say I dealt some pretty good hits too).

Now, we don’t spar to kill each other. It is a discipline of control, speed, power and strategy. I did come away with some pretty trophies, but not the kind you put on a shelf. These trophies were black and blue… honestly my favorite kind.

The best trophy I received, however, came as a quiet thought that entered into my heart and mind.

KarateI can take a hit.

This knowledge is powerful. It tells me that I am strong, that I am capable, that I don’t quit. It tells me that when I make a decision to fight, I will have the strength and power to overcome whatever blow is dealt.

It is so true in my life off of the mat too. We have been in a perpetual ‘sparring match’ for quite sometime. There have been days when I feel like I have been hit in the face, kicked in the head, blitzed, knocked down and pulled up for more. I haven’t quit. I have simply adjusted my padding and assumed the sparring stance.

It is through little decisions, made on a daily basis, that has given me the power and strength I need to take a hit. Little decisions of prayer, communing with Heavenly Father, spending time with my family, searching His words and seeing the blessings…every little and last one of them.

Life is not easy. There will never be a time in my life when there is not something out there ready to strike. The best thing I can do is pad up and be ready.

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