Black Belt: A Holistic Approach

The coolest part about teaching [martial arts] is when I’m prepping a team of advanced students and I start to see integration at work. It’s like magic. What once felt so awkward, foreign or confused begins to move with grace. It’s all from hard work and attitude, but it feels like magic. —Amanda Workman

Integrating disciplines of kickboxing, karate.

Black Belt training concerns more than just the body.

Ms. Amanda Workman is a 2nd-degree Black Belt. She also coaches people in how to live healthier lives, from the standpoint of nutrition, exercise, and mental health.

In both kickboxing and karate, Ms. Workman has been talking about how the application of power is essential to maintaining balance (see this month’s newsletter for more). And how a balanced physical, mental and emotional life depends on integration.

Integration is essential to our health. Through our diet, nutrients are integrated into our bodies. Through exercise, we integrate stress (making muscles stronger in the process). Through reading, dialogue and abstract thought, we integrate knowledge (stimulating brain cells, decision-making skills and awareness). And through our relationships with other people we integrate their feelings, hopes and troubles into our consciousness, opening the way for healing forms like empathy, encouragement and cooperation.

The dichotomous pressures of work, school, family and fitness can make us feel scattered, out of balance. What can you do to integrate?

Ms. Workman offers some mantras:

PHYSICALLY: Tell yourself: I’m devoted 100% to my program, to my goal. That goal may be to lose weight, or to gain muscle or flexibility. As always, be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-specific) with your goal-setting. Then get to class or the gym, listen to your trainers, and give all you’ve got.

MENTALLY: Integrate your thoughts and self appraisals with positive movement toward your goal. If you’re working your body to the max but telling yourself “I’m terrible at sparring” or “My sidekicks are weak and low,” you’re undoing your efforts. Make them whole, see the positive. Say “I’m getting faster, my footwork’s better, my kicks are higher.” Focus your thinking on the improvements you’re making, and refocus your goal on where you need to improve next.

“Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing,” Ms. Workman says. “An integrated life generates energy.”

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