(75): I’m So Totally Not Impressive! Don’t Be Impressed By Me, Please!

This is totally not me. Image (cropped) by Jo Allebon via Flickr. License.

So let me explain my inexplicable title in a long-winded way like I do…

I was struggling through my yoga class this morning (and I mean STRUGGLING!), and some small talk was floating around about a lady who was a regular but had missed a couple of months of classes because she broke her arm. She had fallen and caught herself with her elbow, breaking one of the bones in her arm very badly. (She’s totally got the fever to get back into her regular activities and gets her cast off very soon BTW).

My yoga teacher started talking about how, if you strengthen your wrist, you won’t break it when you fall and catch yourself using the wrist/hand/arm/whatever. This made the former martial artist in me twitch, and I had to say something. Because I really would hate to see another person think it’s ok and safe to catch yourself when you’re falling this way. After all, our class has the lady with the broken arm as an object lesson!

When I practiced martial arts, it was drilled into us that we should NEVER try to break our fall using the hand or arm. All that does is to ensure that you’ll break the arm or wrist or hand, whatever joint catches the most transferred force from the fall. Instead, we were told, fall along a large surface area, allowing impact to happen along the side of the body, the soft tissues of the buttocks, hips and thighs. When one does this, the force is dissipated along a larger surface area, and there is no small, vulnerable joint catching all the force. It’s basically like practicing a parachutist’s landing technique, if you want something to look up on youtube to see what the hell I’m talking about. Ah hell, here’s one:

After the class, I could tell that the big football player guy at the back of the class really, REALLY wanted to talk to me. He came up to me after class and asked me, “did you really do martial arts?” I said I did, but then I qualified all of it by telling him it was 17 years since I was in a dojo and I had to quit because I couldn’t take the pounding and the pain anymore (although I really loved it otherwise). He seemed impressed, but I was doing everything I could to let him know that I really wasn’t all that and no, I didn’t make it to black belt or anything like that.

I think he didn’t expect that one of his middle-aged yoga ladies who so sedately go about their practices in a slow way so as not to aggravate sciatica or what have you used to punch, kick, and roll in a dojo. To be fair, it doesn’t seem like a logical progression unless you’re me and think to yourself “I love this whole martial arts activity thing but I hate the damage it does to my body. What else can I do? I know! Yoga!”

I’m glad I chose yoga, because, even though it seems on the surface like a polar opposite to martial arts, there is much that is the same. For one thing, there is a moment of meditation/reflection at the end of each class. In martial arts, it was sitting in seiza (Hero’s Pose in yoga), closing your eyes and breathing. In yoga, it was lying in savasana (Corpse Pose), closing your eyes and breathing. When you think about it that way, it really seems like a natural progression.

Over the years that I’ve been practicing yoga, I have slowly lost the impetus to live my life as if I am defending myself from attack and now live with the intention to do as little damage as I can to others. When I think about the appropriateness of using martial arts in life, I think that it is an art that should be applied sparingly, with mindfulness, and with a minimum of force. It is always unwise to draw attention to oneself with flashy moves lest someone overestimate your threat potential and focus on you. Maybe that was why it took me aback to have someone interested in the fact.

I’d rather be thought of as the middle-aged lady who just doesn’t want to see another person break their arm by falling incorrectly. I suppose my ninja training is working! :=P