This is a self portrait; me in fight mode, gloved up and ready to go. Krav Maga, the Israeli self-defense system, is one of the best things I've ever done in life. And I believe that it helped me beat cancer.
Driving to Bob's Red Mill one Saturday we passed a building with a big "Krav Maga" sign outside. "What's Krav Maga?" I asked my sweetie. "Its an Israeli martial art." Hmmm... I googled it and was intrigued. At the time I was trying to do something every year that scared me, and seeing an offer on the website for a free trial class, I thought that the free class would count as plenty scary.
I signed up.
I showed up.
I made it half way up the stairs...
Holy crap! The sounds of strikes against pads, bodies hitting the floor, the smell of sweat, the staircase and windows jumping from the heavy metal playing at full volume...
I left. Quickly.
But I was still intrigued, so I rescheduled and went again. This time I made it all the way up the stairs, and had a few minutes to watch the last part of an advanced class. It sounded the same as the week previous, but now I had the visuals to go with it. Fighting my anxiety by telling myself that this was the United States of America, that I would be able to leave if I wanted to, that nobody could make me do anything I didn't want to do, and the fact that my mother would have been telling me to leave was reason enough to stay, I stayed.
We stretched. We warmed up. And then something amazing happened. I learned how to throw a punch. A real punch. An honest to goodness I-could-break-somebody's-nose punch. And then I learned how to do a groin kick. And then I learned how to defend myself against a choke; decisively and aggressively. My self concept split apart and re-coalesced around the sudden knowledge that I could be a bad-ass.
I signed up for regular classes on the spot, and over the next four years, I got stronger --- both physically and mentally. One of my favorite aspects of training were the stress drills, wherein you learn to fight under adrenalized conditions via unpredictable or multiple attackers, darkened conditions, rock music played at disorienting levels with eyes closed until attacked, etc. I learned that when faced with Fight/Flight/Freeze, I could flip the switch on Fight. Even more I learned that if you have to fight do it with 100% commitment and don't stop until your opponent is down. I learned to shut down the fear of getting hurt. I learned to stay alert to additional threats. I learned to avoid overthinking it. And I learned to be willing to do whatever must be done to go home safe.
Krav Maga didn't just teach me a skill set, it changed who I was. So when cancer reared its ugly head, I was up for the fight. I used the principles I learned every single day, and I still do. The fight keeps changing of course, and currently I am fighting the limitations of my body resulting from treatment damage, but if I can return to a regular practice of Krav Maga I will; one way or another.
Oh, and Ceallaigh is the Gaelic word for warrior. It is pronounced Kelli.
I wear a lot of hats in life, encompassing a variety of roles and relationships. I am becoming more comfortable with the whole "cancer survivor" hat, even finding silver linings in unexpected places --- like adding artist to my self identity. "Blogger" hadn't really appealed to me until I began getting requests to talk about what lies behind my art. So I'm going to give it a try. If you have gotten to this page, you have probably noticed from my paintings that I am quite frank about my experiences. Some of the images are stark and difficult to look at. To me, beautiful is not the same as pretty. "Beautiful" encompasses complexity that can include pain, tragedy, and darkness. Therefore there can be a strange beauty present in stark emotional and experiential truth. I am a seeker of beauty within pain, and of the beauty that grows out of pain. If you are too, we'll get along just fine.