The Journey of 1000 Classes Ends In Social Distance
(Edit: Things got better)
This isn’t what I had planned.
In less than two weeks, I’ll complete my 1000th Krav Maga class in 27 months of training. I had done little celebrations at mid-points, but this time, I wanted it to be big. I planned a big blow-out with a cake, a crown, and a sash, balloons and inviting my classmates to a Middle Eastern restaurant for some belly-dancing. Instead, I’ll be spending it in COVID-19 induced social distancing, in my living room.
I’m heartbroken. My entire life has been upended. No Purim party where I had planned to celebrate two years of better emotional health. No training sessions on the mat with people who have become a second family to me. There will be no Pesach with my elderly grandfather. No movies. No shows. No dinners with friends. No book store trips.
Instead, I am facing isolation and depression. I sit at home, miserable and alone, desperate for human contact. I try to do the online lessons, but it’s just not the same. There’s something about being on the mat with others that makes me feel connected. I just feel burned out. I worked so hard and all my big plans just faded away.
I’ve pulled away from people. It’s hard for me to talk to others because I just want to wallow in my misery and listen to books under the covers. Time both drags and seems to go far too quickly. Worse, I’m having panic attacks every time I read the news. This isn’t how it was supposed to be.
What would I have said that the first day of Krav Maga had I known this is where I would be spending my 1000th class? In the same despair as when I began, numb to the world.
As I write it, I burst out laughing. It’s real laughter, something that’s become rare. What I would have said back then is “I think you have the wrong person. I’m never going to reach ten classes. I’m trying this once, and then I’m out.”
What would I have said if I knew I’d be spending my 1000th class preparing for my fourth rank?
What if I knew the reason I’d be sad is that I was missing some of the best friends in the world?
What if I knew I was beginning one of the greatest journeys in my life?
I don’t think I would have believed it. I didn’t even believe I’d live long enough to see this day.
Yet, here I am. I’m healthy, I’m safe, and I’m progressing. I am about to achieve a huge milestone that I worked so hard for.
It has been an intense journey. I don’t know where I got the mental strength and courage to throw myself into a world that terrified and challenged me on every level. I was in the depths of despair, but I still forced myself forward. Those first few months were agony to me, physically, mentally and emotionally, but I refused to surrender. Step by step, I climbed the ladder. I attended classes. I sacrificed time and money and hobbies and made this my passion. I didn’t just step outside a comfort zone, I permanently moved there.
My teacher Raz Chen likes to remind me, Krav Maga wasn’t made for the best of times, but the worst of times. Krav Maga is about walking in peace but also understanding that the world might make me fight for it.
So maybe it’s only right that I didn’t get my pretty little party and cheers and cake. I began Krav Maga in despair, and I fought every step of the way to that 1000th class. Now, I need to find that same courage to keep fighting. I celebrate by challenging myself to be better.
Someday, I know that there will be the 2000th class. On that day, I will look back at this essay and I want to believe I am better than I am now.
I hope I’ll have achieved my G rank and maybe even started teacher training. I hope I’ve finally learned how to do a push-up properly and learned to love sparring and groundwork. I hope I’ve finished a book or two, fallen in love, found my calling career-wise. I hope I made many new friends, kept many existing friends, and had lots of adventures.
But one thing is my greatest hope. I hope that future me looks back on my current self with the same pride and admiration I look upon my previous me. I hope future me sees that same fighting spirit and hunger that got me this far push me even further forward.
So maybe this isn’t how I planned it out, but that’s one of the greatest lessons 1000 classes have taught me. You can’t plan for everything, but if you work hard and improve yourself, you can make the best of whatever comes your way.
So alone in my apartment, I’m going to raise a glass of water to 1000 classes of blood and sweat and tears and laughter and lessons. Step by step, I got here and I am so very proud of myself. That same fortitude that lit my path continues to be my pillar of light, through this night until the dawn comes.
It’s actually starting to sound good.