I stumbled onto karate. In no way did I have a plan at all (Elia did, he is way smarter than me). But starting up with it was a happy accident. I didn’t realise how good a choice it was until Jane (my physio who taught me the LSVT BIG exercises) asked what other stuff I was doing, and when I mentioned karate said – “Wow, you couldn’t have chosen anything better! Karate is perfect!”
This Friday night I got a reminder of how much I’ve yet to learn, and how big a call it is to call myself a ninja (even if it is tongue-in-cheek). Our club did an in-house tournament, just for fun. It was the first time Niko and I had done anything like this. Lets just say the young one might go far! I was standing around waiting for my turn to compete (kata competition was first up). I must have been looking a disturbing shade of green, because an Adult-in-a-Brown-Belt approached me and said “Just relax, its ok, you’ll be fine!” I admitted to being terrified of stuffing up and looking an idiot in front of the kids, and he said “Don’t worry, you won’t”. But he doesn’t know how determined I can get! It was quite a lot harder than I realised, doing something like that in front of everyone. I completely mucked up the kata (went the wrong way) but I didn’t realise I’d done it at the time, and it took me about 24 hours, and intense re-hashings with Brown-Belt-Guru and Niko, and some long-winded therapy sessions with my Parent Support Group, to figure out what I did.
I have always mucked up left and right. I find training in the dojo challenging because I struggle to comprehend what movements Sensi are making – they are facing you, so you have to flip it around in your head. My mental map of where I am in space is a bit hazy. Sometimes, if they go too fast, I can’t deal with it, and end up standing watching everybody while lost in confusion. To learn kata I need it broken down sloooowwwwly, bit by bit. I have to go over and over every bit of motion, and try to memorise it. Drills where you go up and down doing different moves on each side of your body – alternating left and right for example – I need to both break it down and practice it really slowly, and come up with a catch phrase to remind me (like “block, guard, block”, or “…and switch, and switch”).
Doing this is awesome brain training. Actually it is a really good total body-and-mind workout. Which is a funny thing for me to say, because I honestly don’t think body and mind are that separate, I think of them more as inter-twined parts of a system. I am a process not a product!
Looking back now, I think doing LSVT BIG alongside karate was good, cos it amplified the learning. BIG was recommended to me as something really worth doing. Its expensive (about $2,300 at the time). Its basically working with a physio intensely for about a month. By intensely I mean an hour long session for four days a week, for four weeks. The idea of the intensity is that you more effectively learn something that way, and you’re more likely to carry on doing it as an ongoing habit. In your time with the physio they teach you a series of exercises developed by the LSVT BIG people. They’re based on movements you do every day – sit down/stand up, move sideways, step forward/step back, walk, etc. The focus is on amplitude – this is what the “BIG” idea is. Parkys movement typically becomes smaller and limited. So BIG emphasises…yes you got it, moving BIG. Maximising.
The other thing your physio does is work with you on what you are currently finding hard, and develops strategies tailored to you to help you improve. For example, when I did BIG with Jane, one of the things I was finding hard was standing at the kitchen bench to cook dinner. At that time of day I was often really sore in the legs, and my dystonic foot was being a total fuckwit. I would stand there in pain, trying to cook edible food. And my mind was tromping around in a circle complaining: “Fuck this hurts, please let dinner be finished soon so I can sit the fuck down”. I think its fairly obvious that I was pretty fucking grumpy about the whole situation. And the people who really suffered from this was the kids, as I would scoop out the black ooze of stress bubbling in my chest and fling at them in the form of shouts and a lovely side order of guilt – “Be quiet you lot, I’m trying to cook. Why can’t you help me do this? I’m the disabled one!”.
Its hard to admit I indulged in that sort of shit. A change was needed. By helping me solve the physical problems, Jane actually enabled me to train my mind to more effectively deal with suckitude. When I had strategies for helping myself, it enabled me to realise, “I can do this! I’m not trapped. I have tools in my tool kit to fix this.”
I’m happy to say I don’t scream at my kids about being disabled anymore. I’m still disabled, I just have better ways of coping with it. In fact I don’t shout at them anywhere near as much as I used to. They do say I’m grumpy sometimes, and sometimes I am weirdly strict (and it seems like I’m doing it just for the fun of it!). But I think in general I am a whole huge amount calmer.
This is partly due to BIG training, partly due to mind training I’ve been doing following a Yoga meditation pathway, partly karate. A whole swag of bits and pieces. I am an evolving, learning, dynamic, at times random, Process. Maybe I should change my name – The Parky Process? Thoughts?