Last month I had the honor and privilege of sharing a small portion of our Kali 4 Coordination program with the Livestrong group at our local Aspirus YMCA in Weston,WI. My friend Sarah who has been the director of the group for some time asked me if I would like to share some of what we do at Affinity Martial Arts and I accepted. We had no idea the amount of fun that we all would have together that day. If you have ever done the Filipino Martial Art of Kali, you would know that it is both challenging and enjoyable at the same time. Rarely is there an athletic endeavor that engages the right side and left side of the body to do the same actions. Kali is one of those endeavors and I for one am very grateful for the path that our Guros have carved out for us.

Knowing very little about the group, other than it is mainly comprised of cancer survivors and their family/caregivers I entered into the gym with the goal of just teaching our basic introduction to Kali 4 Coordination. What I encountered was one of the most genuinely fun and happy groups that I have had the pleasure of working with. Of course these poor folks had no idea what I was going to share with them that evening being that Filipino Martial Arts are not a staple of the Northcentral Wisconsin, YET!

That being said, once the music was on and the double sticks began clicking together, the smiles came out and I couldn’t help but think to myself “These smiling happy people are warriors to a degree that I can’t even fathom at this point in my life. After the challenges that they have faced, the idea of trying something new was just not as intimidating as it is for many.” At least they made it seem easy!

It was truthfully inspiring to be in their company, I am humbled and thankful that I had the opportunity that evening.

My experience that night caused me to reflect on a time in my life when things seemed the darkest for my future. I was part of a support group where I was allowed to go in and share what I was going through. That group literally saved my life and I still attend those meetings to this day.

The thing about a support group is that it is generally made up of people from all walks of life that might not have ever connected had the issue that required support had not arisen. People with different views, politics, and ideas all coming together can a beautiful thing, albeit sticky at times, if support is truly the objective great things can happen.

In my experience, one day while talking with someone from my support group I chose to bring up everything that I was going through at the time and I was playing the role of the victim. I kept asking him “Why me?.. The person from my group was not having any of that, he gave me an answer that I would forever remember. He said, “WHY NOT YOU, you know that these things happen to people, right? So what makes you think that it wouldn’t happen to you? Do you think that you are special?”

My mouth hit the floor. I couldn’t believe what he had said to me or that even could think that way, but he was right. That same statement that made me angry at the time helped me to look at my situation differently and I find myself still reflecting on his words almost ten years later whether I am counting my blessings or feeling defeated.

To me, the statement “Why Not You?” can be used during times of fear and grief or times of opportunity and growth. If we end up in any challenge, whether it be an illness, perhaps a divorce or a career change halfway across the country or maybe a growing martial arts school “Why Not You?” is applicable in my mind.

If it happens to others, it can happen to us and on the other side of struggles is usually growth if we can deal with the issues at hand in a healthy manner. Sometimes seeking support can be that healthy outlet, other times supporting someone else in some way can be just as beneficial.

Many times if we look at someone that has accomplished something great, at one time or another they might have been intimidated by the idea of what was necessary to get the job done or at the very least unsure of the outcome of their blood, sweat & tears. My accomplishments are not great by any means, but I have achieved things that a younger me would not have seen coming. All of us have. That being said, most of us on the planet have trudged through something that we were not sure that we would make it through, but if we all go through life’s struggles then “WHY NOT US?”

We don’t have to go through things alone and the relationships that we can build during the hard times can last well into the good times. Our experiences and the relationships that are formed in our lifetime polish us like stones on the beach. The Livestrong group at the Aspirus YMCA Weston reminded me of that and for that I am grateful. I am looking forward to going back again soon to share some GHOST Boxing. Those warriors can handle anything!

-Instructor Jamie Sparling