PAWMA breakdown, PAWMA breakthrough.

Posted Tue Aug 16, 2005, 17:13 PM by Tracy

Martial arts is therapy for me and sometimes that means going deep places that are pretty tender. I’ve learned more about myself in nine years of training (the last four as a brown belt) than in anything else I’ve done.

I had a couple breakdowns at PAWMA camp this year. Saturday morning, tense in anticipation of our upcoming demo performance and still beating myself up for poor navigation skills, I returned to our dorm suite to take a much-needed shower.

No shampoo. I forgot to pack shampoo. I believe organization is the key to success. I believe deeply, so deeply in being organized (don’t look at my room!) and here I was disorganized. I was less than perfect. Everything must be perfect and organized (really I’m not that obsessive, really) and it wasn’t. I wasn’t. I just fell apart.

Anne came to my rescue with an extra travel bottle of shampoo and Carol gave me a big hug and let me cry. My PAWMA girls.

I was fine then until the end of last class of the last day. The class was taught by two Taiji teachers, both of whom are top notch and I admire greatly.

We worked up to what I would consider a fairly advanced confront drill. Standing arms length away from my partner, I was to close my eyes. When I opened my eyes my partner would throw a full speed, full intensity punch at my face. My job was to repeat the actions we had been practicing: step off at a shallow angle as my arm guided the punch away, then step back toward my partner, taking her space.

Carol and I stuck together through most of the class, especially on this last drill. Not that we trust each other to not punch hard, but we trust each other to not get mad if we get hit.

A few pairs at a time would do the drill, at our own pace, with the whole class watching.

I closed my eyes. I sunk down into my body. I opened my eyes.

Carol threw her hardest fastest punch straight at me and I slapped it away. That worked, sort of, but it wasn’t the drill. It wasn’t what we were trying to learn. I giggled nervously and said, that’s the fear talking. The teacher came over, said to do it again.

I closed my eyes. I felt a little less confident, but I thought I could do it. I opened my eyes.

Carol threw her punch and I slapped it away again. That’s okay, said the teacher, just take a deep breath. I took a deep breath. Oh see how she’s breathing in her chest? I was bad-example student again. I wasn’t doing anything right. I fought tears welling up in my eyes and tried to control my breathing. The teacher said I could step back off the line if I wanted to. I breathed deep into my belly, sunk into my body. I wanted to try again.

I made a decision.

I decided I didn’t need to go as fast as I could. I could go slow.

I opened my eyes.

The next thing I knew, I was laying on the floor with everyone waving air at my face.

No, ha ha, that’s not what happened.

The next thing I knew I was slowing down, moving into Carol and pushing her off her base.

Whatever happened there, it happened right, all because I decided I didn’t have to go fast. I was there. I was just … THERE.

The tears came, I hyperventilated a little, but I was amazed with myself.

It’s just not PAWMA if I don’t have an emotional breakdown – or breakthrough – at some point.

  1. Good job; I've been hit by Carol, and ow. I'll have to get back to it soon, I guess.

    mamazuki    Tue Aug 16, 07:00 PM    #

  2. I've been hit by Carol too as my deviated septum can attest to! Nice job going deep and learning something new about yourself. You rock, oh mighty brown sash!

    Kungfukitten    Wed Aug 17, 11:13 AM    #


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Mo Duk Pai kung fu is a modern American eclectic system of martial arts, combining hard- and soft-style techniques Mo Duk Pai, which translates to “Martial Ethical Way”, was founded by Professor Frederick D. King. For more information, to see photos or inquire about training, visit the Mo Duk Pai web site, which I also maintain. I have been training since 1996 and currently hold the rank of brown-black sash.


Sifu (pr. see-foo [Cantonese] or shur-foo [Mandarin]) is a Chinese term for Teacher. It also carries the connotation of Father (teacher-father), referring to a tradition of teaching martial arts within the family, as well as being a title of respect. In America the title sifu is given to both men and women. In Mo Duk Pai the title is awarded to 2nd degree black belts at their teacher’s discretion.


Qigong (pr. chee-gung) is the practice of Chinese exercises incorporating movement and posture, breathing and visualization. Qigong exercises focus on maintaining health by energizing and balancing one’s qi, or energy.