Fruitless Quest

When I landed back in Dubai 5 years ago, it didn’t have the best effect on my health.

I had left my whole life behind me and was feeling quite empty. It was a void I tried to fill with food. A combination of depression and home-cooked food sent my appetite into a frenzy, and it wan’t very long before my clothes started feeling snug again.

In the US, I led a very active lifestyle, taking long walks every day, training karate at least 4 times a week, and trying out new activities with my friends. With all that gone, my energy was sapped and I mostly just sat around, trying to invest myself in TV shows or just browsing the internet for hours on end. Things were looking grim.

Eventually, I decided to get back to karate, training on my own for an hour each day. I kept up that routine for a while, but after missing a few days due to other obligations, the whole thing collapsed. A little research had led me to a local karate club that wasn’t too far from home, but I procrastinated on getting in touch with them.

After another 6 months of no activity (and buying some new pants that were a size too small because I was still thin, dammit!), I finally contacted the club and started training with them. It felt good to be back in my uniform, even though it didn’t fit me as well. The ends on my karate belt were significantly shorter when I went to tie them at my waist, but it didn’t matter. Things would go back to the way they were soon, I thought.

Training in Dubai was a different experience from what I’d done in the US. For starters, I had made quite a few friends in my old club, having regular get-togethers and parties and finding stuff to talk about, karate-related and otherwise. None of the people at the Dubai club spoke much English, so my conversations were limited to pleasant greetings for the most part. Everyone was also something of a workaholic, or had families to get back to, so there was no question of hanging out. And even if we did, what would we talk about?

And of course, there was the training itself. I’d mentioned before that in my old club, we had learned karate as an art and as a system of self-defense, striving to understand mechanics and the flow of the techniques and movements we learned. Not so over here. Karate was seen purely as a sport, something to show off one’s skill and athleticism and gain accolades from peers and superiors. You’re not throwing a punch to effectively use the power of your body to deliver maximum force with minimum effort, you’re throwing a punch fast so you can score a point in a fight. It was disheartening, to say the least. That’s not what I was training for, and competitions didn’t motivate me. I wanted to walk on a path to understanding, not trophies.

After a year of training and trying to get excited about this sort of karate, I called it quits. I’d stick to training in my living room. But once again, my motivation evaporated with time. During a period of unemployment, the steady routine of exercise had kept me chugging along, but once that came to a stop, I went back to laying around on the couch and my waistline began its campaign for expansion anew.

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