Tuesday, April 10, 2007

All Wrapped Up In The Yellow Belt Blues

In martial arts, beginners wear white belts, the most advanced students wear black; the colors in the middle, however, are up for grabs. At my martial arts school the progression is: white, blue, yellow, green, red, brown, black. While it's great to keep your eyes on the prize of earning the coveted black belt, it's fun to enjoy the rainbow along the way.

Earning and receiving a new belt of any color is an achievement. It's a tangible acknowledgement of your dedication and a symbol of your increasing skill. My first major milestone was graduating from white to blue. Blue is a pretty color, all the more beautiful to me because it's not white. With my cute blue belt on, hand wraps to match, I felt like I was moving up in the world. I'm still no Bruce Lee, but then again, who is?

Martial arts is hard on the hands and hell on a manicure. So until we have national health care with subsidized spa priviledges, I do my best to guard against injury. I wear handwraps under my boxing gloves to protect my hands. If you've ever broken a finger or sprained your wrist then you know that the one-handed life style is a challenge conducive only to pirate-style swash buckling; but modern day pursuits like typing, eating, and driving are best done two handed.

Most of my fellow students don't wear hand wraps at all, far less bother matching them to their belt. It's not necessary to match, but why not learn to fight with fashion and flair. It works for Naomi Campbell.

I must confess, even with yellow hand wraps at the ready, I did not enjoy getting my yellow belt. At my previous martial arts school, yellow was the next color above white. I know every school is different, but getting a yellow belt at my new school after blue felt like a demotion.

At my old school I studied Aikido, which I believe is a very woman friendly form. It doesn't so much fight your attacker, as much as use their own energy against them. I loved it. I'd like to think I'd still be doing it if work and my ego hadn't gotten in the way.

At the time, I was travelling a lot. I missed so many classes that each time I went back it felt like I was starting from scratch. It became hard to see fellow classmates with more consistent training schedules advance far ahead of me. As they say in AA, compare and despair. Eventually I became too frustrated and embarrassed at my lack of progress. I stopped going when I was a yellow belt.

So at my new school, not only did a yellow belt seem like a step backwards, it reminded me that I was a quitter. It became the color to beat. And to make matters worse, yellow is not my best color. It does nothing for my skin. It was a happy day when I got my green belt. The curse of the yellow belt was broken. I never thought of green as being "my color" until one day my husband said it was pretty on me because it brought out the green in my eyes. Sold. Now I have enough green in my closet to get me kissed on Saint Patrick's Day; my green belt a pleasant addition.

Now I am working towards my next belt, very exciting since red has always been my favorite color. With hand wraps to match I'll look like a kick ass candy cane. Someday I'd like to go for my black belt. That goal requires uber dedication and fortitude, but with my yellow belt blues behind me, I’m inspired. Besides, not only is black the color of mastery, it'll look great with any color hand wraps.

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