“Breathe”

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He stood in front of her and repeated it; “Breathe”. Six times, as she remembered.
She decribed it as transformative, a moment in her life where she retrieved her soul.
About a year later while on trip to Costa Rica to learn Thai massage, she related the
transformation in her life to one of the instructor/therapists as the retreat. She said the
retreat enabled her to regenerate her soul but that even that would have been impossible
at the time without the experience she had in our Kenpo school.
She had come into the studio for information on classes, and had stood at the front
counter just barely holding back her tears. I spoke to her and said this would be a hard
thing, as I had seen women like her before. I recommended her to read Gavin DeBecker s
book The Gift of Fear, and to think about what I told her. If she felt she was ready, she
was welcome to train with us.
This is a petite woman. She had been traumatized physically and emotionally at
times in her life. Like other women with this experience, when she got to the class and
was exposed to the actual physical contact we do so much of in a Kenpo school, the tears
came. But she worked both with it and through it. Her instructors are tall men and her
main teacher is a large, strong man. He came to me and told me about her, a bit freaked
out himself since he was a relatively new lead instructor, and had not seen this before. I
filled him in, he then let his knowledge and some instinct guide him, and he helped her
make a breakthrough.
Warriors come in all shapes and sizes; this one was about 5 tall and 100 pounds
soaking wet. She faced her fears and won. Martial arts do that for people. But what really
impressed me was this. She took our class years after having been beaten by her exhusband,
a third-degree black belt in karate, who broke her nose and whose parents knew
he did it and did nothing, saying “Let the kids work it out”. It took her years to face those
fears and begin our training. Can you imagine being in her shoes, looking up at that big
man in a black gi and trusting him to not be like her ex-husband, and giving him and
others permission to put their hands on you?
After almost a year of training, two belts, and a lot of self-realization and selfactualization,
she thanked that instructor with a small token from Costa Rica. As
instructors we often have no clue what we ve done for a student. Sometimes they tell us,
often they don t. People come to us because they want to change their lives and they have
heard martial art training will do that. Often they expect too much, just as often they get
more benefit than they bargained for. It boils down to trust. And we have a huge
responsibility in living up to that.

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