It’s the days when my mood is so low that I wonder why I bother breathing, where Krav Maga becomes most worthwhile.
I know it’s tempting to just stay home. Depression and anxiety are incredibly exhausting and even getting up from a chair seems like too much. It’s overwhelming to even consider dragging yourself to class when you feel worthless.
Still, I make sure I go. Even on the worst days when I am sobbing on the train to class, I carry my bag with me, because I want no excuses. I am going to class, come Hell, High Water or Canoe.
The fundamental truth is, going there is better than sitting at home moping. At Krav, I’ll see friends who will remind me I’m not alone. I’m really lucky to have the most caring Krav community, who have given me the friendship I have longed for all of my life. Seeing their smiles and feeling their positive energy is incredible.
I may feel worthless, but I am part of a wonderful group of people seeking self-improvement together. We are there for each other, to coach each other and to make each other better. It’s easy to let my troubles drift away, or get the best hugs of support and words of comfort. Some days, just seeing them will be enough to get me in the mood to work out with them.
Of course, being on the mat during bad mental health weather can be a trial. When my teacher compliments my partner, but only has a sharp critique for me, I feel demoralized. When I feel overwhelmed because I feel I’m not good enough, it’s an easy time for the depression and anxiety to pounce.
In those moments, I bit my lip to keep myself calm and remind myself I’m still improving. My goal is just to be a minimum of 1% better than I was when I started the class, and as long as I can stand at the end of class, my fists at 90 degrees with my body soaked in sweat and a mind full of new ideas gained in class, it’s been a great class.
It’s strange how the classes where you feel the most overwhelmed are often the ones you learned the most. See it as an investment and just be proud your mood was lifted enough to return to normal schedule. It won’t always work.
Sometimes, seeing friends won’t be enough and I still feel exhausted by the thought of taking a class. So on those days, I have a plan. I still go, because being at Krav means I am in a safe environment. Sometimes, when my thoughts get far too dark, it’s nice to be at a place where I know I won’t be wallowing in despair that leads me into very bad places, like binge-eating or other forms of self-harm. There, I have caring people around me, and I can take smaller but no less vital steps of self-improvement.
On the lowest energy days: I can go to class with a notebook. I sit on the side and take notes on the class. I can gain so much by just observing others practicing. I can observe which methods were successful and against which opponents? Even listening to the teacher and watching the demonstrations can be a huge help to my future prep. Instead of a wasted hour, I can consider it a seminar of sorts.
One of my favorite lessons was learning why I tucked my toes when I executed a figure four-stand up. I had been studying the maneuver for a year but it was during one off-hand comment that I gained a new appreciation for such a basic movement. Those insights add up very quickly.
On lower energy days: I can ask my teacher in advance if I can warm up with the class and then observe. I might also try until I can’t go any further, and then observe.
I can also take in the time to do some weights or use a fitness machine for a short while. Doing some instead of none will give me a sense of accomplishment.
On the cusp, but still not feeling up to it: I can take a more beginner’s course and focus on refining what you are already comfortable with. To quote my favorite teacher Raz Chen, “When you want to build a building, you dig into the ground and build a strong foundation.”
Many times, when we progress, we don’t spend as much time drilling our fundamentals as much as we should. Instead of being angry I am not progressing or seeing it as a demotion, I take it as a chance to see if my foundation is as firm as it should be.
Is my fight stance as stable as I would like it?
Are my kicks precise and clean?
Is my footwork crisp?
(Hint: The answer is, it could always improve)
I take pride in my own improvement when I’m more confident with my combinations and even able to help others with the basics. I also know the investment of time in basics I put in when I feel the worst will serve me well when I am ready to return to more demanding classes.
It’s the days when I sit in a chair and wonder why I bother breathing that Krav Maga reminds me that as long as I breathe, I have hope.
I have hope when I feel exhausted, to push myself to keep learning, even the tiniest detail being precious.
I have hope when I’m depressed to improve my mental health to correct my diet, be consistent with my sleep and exercise and seek out appropriate healthcare.
I have hope when I’m overwhelmed by feelings left behind or stupid to remember all I have gained and reminding myself that I’m still improving.
I have hope when I freeze up during groundwork, PTSD making me regress into a state of terror. If I can snap out of it and fight back, I can survive.
I even have hope when Raz gets my back in groundwork and proceeds to not so gently encourage me to avoid such a position in the future.
Okay, maybe I have less hope there, since I’m in for a bit of a tickle drubbing and there’s no chance of escaping that.
I do learn something and I even laugh a lot.
For mental health, that’s a win.