The last time I engaged in any kind of sport was in graduate school when I began playing roller derby. Yes, roller derby…that relic of the 70s with rough and tumble women on skates. Given the physically demanding nature of the sport, the time commitment coupled with beginning a new career, it soon faded into the background.

In the early morning hours of 2014, amidst the pop and crackles of the many fireworks set off in my neighborhood, some pops stood out. A massive police response followed and I soon found out that a man had been shot one block from my home.

Feeling scared was not exactly the way I’d hoped to ring in the new year.

Years ago when I taught 4th and 5th grade, a colleague of mine suggested I try out karate at her dojo. She’d remind me of it now and then but I’d long forgotten about learning karate.

Until the aforementioned incident happened, I’d given scant serious thought to learning how to defend and protect myself. (And just for the record, yes I’m aware karate won’t stop bullets.)

You’d have thought I’d maybe considered self-defense after being assaulted at a party in college, but I did not.

Timing. It’s a funny thing.

So, in mid January I found myself taking an hour bus ride, nervously buzzing the buzzer at the Feminist Karate Union and climbing the stairs to the dojo.

Little did I know how fast and hard I’d fall. Much like roller derby, I began to love the challenge and slowly but surely I found myself feeling empowered. When we first learned some self defense one element the instructors taught was to yell “NO!” Let’s just say my clipped fast “no” wouldn’t have scared anyone.

Four months have gone by and I’m much louder. But something unexpected has also happened. I’ve had to learn how to accept being completely and totally humbled each and every class.

My body still hasn’t developed the muscle memory and my first kata is still a jumble of fighting against my ego and my body. For a former educator, I have a brand new perspective and appreciation for my former students and their tenacity to keep learning when the going got tough.

Every week that I show up, it’s me standing on the edge of the pool and choosing to bravely belly flop. I know that eventually it will become a graceful dive but for now it stings over and over again.

In the fight between ego and body, I savior the tiny moments when all I can hear is the swish of my arm as it brushes against my gi.

What’s one small way (or go big or go home way) you bravely belly flop?

Go ahead and leave a comment about your big or small brave belly flop!

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