Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Gym Adventure: First Impressions

I love it when I see the exact moment someone realizes I am actually skilled at what I am doing or teaching.

Often in the martial arts environment (or, more accurately, every day), I have to work my way past a person's first impression. It feels much like having to climb out of a hole and it has little to do with anything except the way I look. I am small. I am female. I can make eye contact, firmly shake hands, smile confidently, speak with authority but many times none of that matters.

Not long ago, we had a visitor to the Aikido class. The school owner, Stephan, and I all introduced ourselves. Rather, I tried to introduce myself. I was last and when the visitor saw me, his eyes immediately glazed over and he turned around and sat on the bench. Stephan stopped him and introduced me as the other instructor.

This has happened more than once. I was talking to a visitor some time ago who came in while Stephan was warming up the class. I'm the administrator of pretty much everything so I handle introductions and paperwork. Also, when new people come in, I'm generally the first person they train with. While I was attempting to get his information, I could see the moment he stopped listening, that glazed eye look, and he interrupted me to ask where the man in charge was. I told him that the owner was not available and while Stephan is busy, I am the man in charge. All with a smile and a joking tone of voice. Eventually I did turn him over the Stephan who basically said the same thing. That student didn't come back.

I'm so short you can't see me pulling Matt down
by the hips. My hand is there on his left side,
Back to the more recent visitor. He was quiet during the class. I did a lot of the demonstrating although Stephan was teaching. At one point, I can't even remember what I was doing, I looked over and I saw the man squint and then lean forward and really start watching me. It happens like that sometimes. People are highly dismissive and then it suddenly hits them that there might be a reason that I'm the one demo-ing or teaching. I see it sometimes from the stage when I'm teaching strength classes. Although in that case, it's usually, "uh-oh, I assumed I needed heavier weights than hers but these are too heavy."

It used to bother me a lot more than it does now. I'm not going to lie, there are some days I do get angsty about the assumption that I'm just a martial arts decoration (Oh, where's your boyfriend? Is he an instructor?) or a gym bunny. But I am growing thicker skin. More importantly, I'm growing what I feel like is a good kind of confidence as opposed to the blustery grandstanding I am tempted to do. I'm hoping one of these days I'll be all zen and cool. Maybe this is the start. Probably not, though. I'm not sure I'll ever be the peaceful guru type but for now I'll settle for not strangling people.

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