Bantoe Dee trains Poekoelan at Studio Naga in Oakland, CA and recently shared some thoughts about her training:
I started training Poekoelan at age 40 with no sports background and a whim to try ‘karate.” I had been clean and sober for a number of years but was still a tad rough around the edges. This picture of my early training doesn’t tell the story of how much I needed the discipline, challenge and integrity of training, both physically and mentally.
During the early years, I fought like my teammates were trying to kill me, and I fought against every rule of the Studio that I didn’t like. I fought the uniform requirement by wearing a plain white T-shirt instead of a dragon T. (I liked the way it fit better.) I questioned why I had to tie my belt on the left; I wanted to wear it on the right, like the guys.
In sparring, I fought like a crazed animal. In fighting, my glasses would be knocked off and fly across the training floor and I would get mad. (Eventually I was ordered to buy prescription sports goggles.) I heard “Mas Dee pick up your glasses” and “Mas Dee watch your contact” and “Mas Dee go into meditation” so many times. I swore I would quit as soon as class was over or that particular test ended.
I felt this way in nearly every class, and nearly every test. However, though I thought my teacher was being mean to me, I stayed on the floor, returned each week, and never quit. Over the years, I grew to be less angry and less fearful. I learned to bring my joy and humor to my training.
As this season of gratitude begins I am most grateful to have stuck with my training and grateful not to have needed it to defend myself from harm. I am especially grateful to use the mental and spiritual training of this beautiful martial art in my daily life to work my way through many of life’s conflicts and disappointments.
Every week we have people come into the Studio and ask us to help them, or their children. We are asked, “Do you teach discipline?”
Yes, we teach discipline. How do we do this? I have learned that no one is special; the rules and the order apply to all and that is part of my practice, part of my training. Whether you are 3 or 55 (like me) you practice the same forms over and over, wearing the same thing as everyone else, tying your belt again, and again.
From this training – the constant repetition, the stick-with-it-ness – the discipline arises, as does respect, compassion and leadership skills. I’ve learned here that everyone is unique, but that no one is special; the rules apply to all and the gifts are available to all as well.
My edges are a little less rough now, and my heart is so much more open. And no, I don’t think my teammates are trying to kill me – we’re just helping each other grow.
Happy season of gratitude to each Naga student and family,