Defensive measures

I was crying in the dojo. This is less than ideal.

There is so much to think about. Look straight forward. Torso vertical. Hips on/off. Position of feet, knees, thighs. That is before doing the block or strike itself: flow into it, the power and the effort comes at the last moment. In the first kata I should place my foot then turn, the torso stays straight above the hips and the turn comes from the legs, where the power is. In one of the turns, I was blocking with the wrong arm, Andy told me. That rather surprised me, and so I concentrated on that rather than the position of my legs and the way of turning. “That’s it. Excellent.” Says Andy. And the very next move I was punching one way rather than turning and punching, and cursing myself for getting it so simply wrong. “‘Don’t praise me, don’t praise me’, she says,” Andy echoed.

I first noticed this, taking driving lessons in 1983. Whenever the instructor told me I had done something well, the next thing I did badly. It still puzzles me a bit why I would react like that. Possibly a defensive measure, do not stand out by doing things remarkably well. Possibly self-punishing, I do not deserve praise. Whatever. I started crying because I had responded in that terrible, self-destructive way. How could I be so stupid, now? I managed to hold it in check. Breathe. It is alright. Responding in that way is OK, it is no great disaster, I reassure myself. It is OK. I do not need to respond in that way, but when I do no harm is done. I will learn not to respond in that way in time, and I do not have to get it perfectly right every time.

We do the second and third kata, and, in between, I still need to stand, reassuring myself, eyes closed, hands channeling healing Qi to my solar plexus chakra. I am glad that Andy spent time talking to others about how they are doing the kata and how it may be improved. I did not have to walk out.

I am sitting with it now.
All my outdated defensive patterns,
however sub-optimal or even self-destructive they are,
I took on to protect myself.
I am glad that I could protect myself,
and however I did it, that is OK.
And if I find myself repeating them now,
that is also OK.
I need not do them now,
but sometimes I do them reflexively.
This is not a disaster.
I will do them less, learn other ways of being.
Everything is all right.

O God, I have been so damaged.
Thank God, I have time now to heal.

It is a beautiful sunny day, and before I went to karate practice I had time to kneel in my ritual space. The feeling that came to me there was Gratitude. Now, though it is October, I am sunbathing.


I find spiritual matters easier to accept if there is a rational explanation, and so am intrigued by the Reticular Activating System, a part of the brain of all vertebrates. It regulates transition between sleep and wakefulness, and between relaxed wakefulness and periods of high attention. Since such high attention is something I delight in and think of as “Spiritual”, I am practising it. It also regulates attention so we may take notice of what is important, and ignore what is not. So if I set an intention, I start to notice things relevant to that intention. That is the theory, anyway. I am pleased that there is a theory. So the Law of Attraction makes greater sense to me. Not having a complete knowledge of brain physiology- has anyone?- I am happier to accept “Spiritual” explanations, the observation may be on to something.

8 thoughts on “Defensive measures

  1. But, dear Clare, we all do this! Remember all those movie out-takes where the guy says a sentimental farewell and then fluffs his exit by banging into a pillar? Or the woman who drops a shoe when she is pretending to be angry? It happens to us all, and is perhaps because we don’t know what to do with praise….we might be unused to it, or embarrassed by it, seeing it as unduly intimate, perhaps.

    And we all take on defensive patterns to protect ourselves. It is a measure of our learning, that we recognise them, and look beyond them. Please do not think you are unusual here, or you isolate yourself even further, behind your defenses. You may have needed them at the time, but you may feel they are in the way now. I had a dream about this last night. Strange mixture of coincidence….

    XXX 🙂


    • No, I am not unique in this. It does not seem a good way of being, and I want to notice it and change it. I want to change it by understanding what is the need it fulfils and either finding another way to fulfil that need or gently convincing myself it is not a real need.

      Both were the reactions in the moment, the mistake and the anger at myself, spontaneous and uncontrolled.


  2. Yet again. You bare your soul so that we may all learn about ourselves. You are indeed heroic in the truest sense dearest Clare!!!! You remain in my prayers. I too am currently dwelling in the land of outdated defense mechanisms. I guess we will return to them as long as they serve a purpose. be kind to yourself.


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