Just got back from two classes in a row at my dojo, one in kobudo (weapons) and the other karate. From when I walk out my front door to when I get home, that’s pretty much three straight hours in which I don’t sit at my computer, barely moving, alone with the imaginary people on the screen and in my head.
This is a really, really good thing.
It’s exercise, which sedentary types like writers have to be very careful to get. The exercise actually starts with walking out the door; our dojo is close enough that I generally hoof it there and back. Takes a little longer, but it gets me out into the fresh air, and gives me some good contemplation time. Then there’s stretching, and the mild cardio of doing kumite (sparring) and kata.
It’s also social time, which is likewise very important when you write full-time (or have another solitary-making job). A couple of years ago, when I was working on A Star Shall Fall, I went through a stretch where, to meet my deadline, I needed to write about 1500 or 2000 words each day, and revise 5000 of what I’d already written. This coincided with the dojo being closed for two weeks while the black belts and sensei decamped to Okinawa for the World Karate Championships. While it was good from a freeing-up-time standpoint, ask kniedzw what it was like, living with me for the duration. I went crazy. Workworkwork all the time + no real outlets = bad news.
Our dojo is a really cool place, too — very welcoming, very laid-back while also being committed to excellence. Shihan, the owner, is ninth dan in Shorin-ryu (our karate style) and eighth dan in Yamanni-ryu (our kobudo style); he regularly travels the world to do guest seminars in foreign countries. He’s that good. One of the other sensei recently made sixth dan. My sister-in-law, the lowest-ranked sensei in the lot, is third. The excellence is there for you to learn from, without being one of those scary-competitive places like the Evil Dojo in the Karate Kid movie. <g> Working there wakes up all the old gears in my head, left over from my ballet years, where I think on a fine-grained scale about what my body is doing. It’s a very good change of pace from how I normally spend my time. (Even if sometimes I’m thinking about how to apply what I’m doing in a story. Shutupdon’tjudgeme.)
When I moved here, I didn’t really want to study karate; there were other styles that appealed to me more. This place was convenient, though, and I knew people there, and I liked the atmosphere. When it comes to actually going to class and enjoying it, those things matter more than the details of the style. I’m very thankful that I had someplace this good so easily available to me.