I was 33 when introduced to the philosophy of Kinstugi. It was in the oddest of places; an refurbished basement that housed a few indie studios, a metaphysical shop that smelled of hippy level
enlightenment and Gilmore’s Acting Studio, one of the few Meisner based establishments in Seattle proper. I went in to Gilmore’s studio to get over my fear of speaking in front of crowds. Business people do this all the time, I initially thought. Yet I was pushed from the nest an actress and a flailing student of Kinstugi. I don’t know why Gregg went against his strict rule to be an emotional sounding board for his emotionally retarded students. I don’t know why I was the exception, but one evening…he pulled me aside and said:
“Kid, you have to take your pain and fill it with gold. Do not hide your anguish but fill it with something beautiful. Evolve to something broken and beautiful and then, and only then, will you give yourself permission to fly.”
I won’t wax too philosophical. I attended Tap Cancer Out‘s Grapplethon in Mapleridge, BC. I’d never been this far into Canada. I rarely rolled in my own dojo due to fear. Yet something just snapped inside of me. Perhaps it was the new place, the new faces and the event’s two demands: learn and fight. Perhaps during my rabid fund-raising, I met so many people who were touched by tragedy that Pancreatic Cancer leaves behind. Perhaps it was the pure, unadulterated fog of sweat, adrenaline and testosterone. I don’t know what it was, but I felt it was time to fill my fissures with gold and ‘do’ instead of ‘plan’.
It was after losing so many times that I saw the beauty within myself.
I am now 37. My failures; victories.
Because it was on those mats that my opponents had the look of surprise on their faces. Their assumption of a beginner meant play, beat and critique. They did not
expect a challenge. When said challenge came to them, we both became serious. The decades of capoeira, powerlifting, yoga and dance proved a boon in my favor. Sure, they knew bjj, but they didn’t know my physical library and that was their problem to solve. They won, of course. I rolled away sore, but smarter in their vocabulary. It was up to them to learn mine. Everyone benefited.
When I worked corporate America, I did not think I was enough. I was the sole black woman from an broken home, impoverished background saddled with teams of 80+ white men, many of them from affluent homes, holders of prestigious degrees and reinforced with powerful connections. My insecurities followed me through out my career. How could I be enough?
Then one day, I had enough. I told myself I was enough. Then, life changed.
Every white collar woman should train in jiu jitsu if it’s only for one lesson: The only difference between you and Jeff Bezos is money, time and a string of failures.
Every black belt was a disoriented white belt once.
Every dancer fell on stage at least once in their lives.
It’s what happens afterward that makes the difference. Does one continue and face the embarrassment or allow it to reign them in? Does one give themselves permission to fly? If you’re a creative, don’t talk it; create it. If your code sucks, code some more. Ask questions. Knock down doors for them. It doesn’t matter the gender, race or religion. Answers are gold to those who are disenfranchised and broken. Practice, forgiveness and resilience creates a beautiful piece of work.
You are enough. It may not seem that way, but the human spirit is unstoppable once it believes this.
Remember, you are enough.
Go get ’em, Tiger.