One day (Tomorrow actually… I started writing this last week…whoops!) I will be asked to explain my journey. What led my feet upon the path that made you a part of my destiny.
I started the martial arts in part because I saw the way it had enriched my children. When my son was two the All Stars (a performance team) seemed to perform at every single event that I had taken him to. He looked up at them, awe written all over his face, and told me that one day that would be him. By the time he was seven he was performing on the Dream Team. To have developed a goal and to achieve it at such a young age is to be commended.
My goal was a deeper one, and that one of health. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease. Now when I tell people that they look alarmed if they don’t know what it is. It is manageable, but forced me to take my health seriously. Before I started, I would attempt yard work and would be winded after half an hour. That is it. I was depleted for the rest of the day. Despite taking my son a few times a week to the dojo I never really stopped to look in room 2, which at the time was where the majority of the Thai classes were taught. But when another parent took up classes and told me how much fun it was, I was curious. And intimidated. So I told my husband that for a Christmas gift I wanted to try a few classes.
I hurt my shoulder within the first few weeks of training. Or, more importantly, the activities brought to light a bigger issue with my shoulder. I went to the doctor and was told that I should stop all physical activity immediately until I could go to physical therapy for a few months. I remember asking to speak to my Sensei, feeling like I going to cry like the biggest baby on the planet. I remember he was so patient as I rambled one excuse after another on how in that month I couldn’t continue on. After I was finished, my head hanging in shame, he said one thing.
What wait? I looked up, clearly confused. “What do you mean… no?”
“You have legs that work. You have one arm? Do you expect everything in life to be easy? No.. I am not letting you quit”
It was at that moment that I learned two things. One, was that the road to success is never a straight line. It’s like the roads of New England. The roads we use every day wrap around the land, and work with what nature has placed upon it. It is not our duty to merely set ourselves upon this path, but to never falter when it feels like an obstacle is too overbearing.
Which leads me to the second lesson I learned that day. The next is that what sets a martial artist above and beyond others is the fact they are trained to find solutions, not wallow in problems. If my shoulder is injured, that means I still have 3 other limbs at my disposal. It means pushups will be replaced by more squats. I will not elbow strike the pad with my shoulder until it is healed… but I will never stop.
I can’t say I ever really mastered these lessons. I am, after all human and very flawed. But I am better today than I was yesterday. I am stronger both physically and mentally and for that I know I can be proud. These lessons have served me not only on the mats, but off of them as well.
I have been blessed to have continued. My favorite days were when the classes were divided between basic and advanced. I felt so safe and so empowered in that first year. I developed and conditioned not only my body, but my mind and spirit as well. I have more confidence than I had before. I used to be so self conscious and insecure. I was never willing to try new things and limited myself. The old Faith never would have went back to school, lost fifty pounds, or been able to stand up in front others sharing her story.
I feel it needs to be known, especially to those who feel that they can never change… you do. I do not believe those that say people never change. Change is inevitable. Every second you take a breath, the very air you take in transforms you. Every thought you make forever changes the way you think. Every word you speak changes the way that you interact with those around you. You can either let the world change you, or you can control the change. Every day is a new opportunity.
In the midst of training I was informed that only one out of three individuals get to this point. Only one out of three earn their black belt. That statistic stuck with me. For one, it is because I cycled with two amazing and incredible individuals. To think that two of us may not make this point didn’t seem right. I envisioned us defeating that figure and laughing about it at this very moment. But then I accepted these statistics and like the martial artist mentality required of me, I evaluated what solutions were in my control to make sure that I would be the one in the statistic that kept me on this path. I began running on my treadmill to make sure that I could run two miles in under twenty minutes. I started practicing my combos and weapons whenever I had time to spare. Honestly, my number one spot for practicing combos was while waiting for Miss Loreli in public restrooms. I knew what was expected of me years before I would test and I kept that in the back of my mind and practiced more off the mats than on. I developed determination!
I am the only one out of my trio that made it to this moment. Not because they were unable to be here with me. Both of them were strong and determined to their own merit. Life, like the roads often show us better paths. It wasn’t because they didn’t want to be here, but because fate had a better opportunity in store for them. I’d like to take a moment to honor my two teammates who deserved to be here with me, but could not. And to all the other teammates who nurtured and grew with us in our journey that are not longer on these mats but forever in our hearts.
I’d also like to thank Jen, my very first partner who took this bundle of nerves and guided me that very first class. You made me feel like perhaps I could survive my very first class.
To Mr. Joe who was my very first black belt partner. You seriously made me feel like a bad ass when I felt like I was keeping up with you. I didn’t know at the time that he had held back a bit and kept me at a challenging, but not overwhelming speed. I look back on that moment and use it as model to inspire those who are just starting out.
To Mr. John for being my very first partner when I moved up to the advanced classes. I missed my little group terribly and you showed me that I was ready and able to keep up with the upper belts.
To his mother, Karen, for being my very first sparring partner! To this day, I still walk into a front jab kick… You and the other fab four have always been a great inspiration to me.
I’d also like to thank my family. To my husband who actually listened to what I said I wanted for Christmas and followed through. To my kids for constantly challenging me every day to prove that greatness comes from within. To all my team mates for making this place a family. For my mother who thought I was crazy for starting in the first place but paid my black belt fees.
To Ryan for being my number one partner..
A special thanks to Miss. Julie for keeping me focused during this black belt cycle. I think we all know by now that when Miss. Julie tells you to do something, you do it! But even more so for being my friend, and going along this crazy journey with me every step not only as a martial artists in training but as a military wife. To John, who was a pleasant addition in the last year to my cycle group. You have come a long way from the first cycle day. I may not have reached this point with my original partners in crime, but life has a way of showing that things have a way of working out for the better. You both pushed and challenged me when I needed it.
To my Senseis past and present. Your leadership is the very backbone that made my triumphs as a martial artist possible.
Lastly, I would like to thank one more person. I saved it for last because I figured this would be the part (if I don’t ball my eyes out already) would be where I falter. I’d like to thank Kyoshi Sal. This man slaves every day to keep this family afloat. Tirelessly he is here day in and day out ensuring that we have the ability to step foot on these mats. I hope I make you proud to call me one of your students.
I wish I had time to thank everyone, but this speech has to end at some point right? I know I left out a lot of important people that have inspired and challenged me and know that because you were not mentioned in this speech, it does not mean that you do not have any value within my heart.