2017-01-19 Posted By Jenna
As I ramp up for my sheTalks appearance on the 28th (get it? “ramp up”?), I’m reflecting on my own shifting definition of “strength” but also exploring what my journey has looked like from the perspective of those who know me best (the good, the bad, and the stubborn).
Claire Moscone was my first Karate instructor. Today, I count her as more than a friend – she’s my big sister. I can count on her for: support, tough love, and gentle ribbing when needed. Let’s not also forget that she’s a Karate world champion!
Claire taught me how to break my first board and trained me for my black belt. Like true sisters, we’ve been through so much over the years. I’m excited to introduce you to the woman, legend, and my good friend, Claire, in today’s Q+A style blog post. Head’s up: I may interject here and there, I want to make sure you get the WHOLE truth!
1. How did you first meet Jenna? What was your first impression of her? I met Jenna when she was four years old. She was the cutest kid ever with a heart of gold. She was extremely shy and unsure of what our sessions were going to entail…as was I!
2. When Jenna began as one of your karate students, what did you anticipate the greatest challenges in teaching her would be? How did you adapt to most effectively mentor her? My biggest set back was challenging her within the constraints of her ability. We began a majority of our training from the floor to ensure that Jenna learned proper upper body techniques. Next, for lower body techniques, we changed our training to include seated positions while also strengthening her upper body. Finally, we got her to perform Karate techniques standing.
3. What were some of the unique challenges you faced while teaching Jenna, and how did they shape your perspective and approach to life, generally? Jenna was (and still is) a strong-willed person. This made teaching her at times a bit difficult as when she was not “in the mood” to push through a challenge that day then there was no way that it was happening. However, this helped me learn how to compromise, be empathetic and patient in my relationships. (Jenna: You’re welcome!)
4. Based on your experience, what are some unknown or little known challenges children with (congenital) conditions face? Children with congenital conditions are no different than children without health conditions. Every child is different and should be treated that way. There should never be a cookie cutter approach to managing children, as it never works. As an instructor or therapist, you should be open-minded, patient and always see the ability - not the disability.
5. Tell us about a time, as Jenna’s instructor/mentor/friend, where you were surprised by her strength. There really are countless times but one that sticks out is her determination to get her black belt. This process is a long one and in her case was roughly 5-7 years. Once her mind was made up that she was going to try and test for her black belt, there was nothing that we could have said that was going to deter her from practicing on a daily basis and working as hard as she could…even through bruises and bumps. (Jenna: When Claire says “bruises and bumps” she, of course, means actual bruises and bumps…along with the brain and abdominal surgery I had a MONTH before getting that coveted black belt. She’s never been the easiest person to impress… but I know it’s always been to push me to be the best possible person I can be!)
6. From seeing Jenna grow from child to tween, and teen to young adult, how has the meaning of the word “strength” evolved for you? The meaning has not evolved for me, but has instead been solidified through her life: from the moment she started using her canes to begin practicing kata’s, to getting her black belt and finally conquering Tough Mudder (half).
7. As Jenna’s teacher, what values, skills or mindset did you most want to instil in her? That “no” is never an answer. “I’ll try” is a better response as it changes your perspective on how you see things. “No” means you won’t achieve anything, but “I’ll try” puts your thought process in motion. Once that happens then your mind will overcome your body’s limitations and allow you to do anything! (Jenna: Need I make the point that this philosophy has had a huge impact on me and how I live my life?!)
8. What makes you most proud of Jenna? Her determination and her strength.
9. What would you tell other educators and instructors working with children with (congenital) conditions? See the ability, not the disability. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’ll find a pattern working with kids because each child is different and each day is different for that child. View each session as you’ve just seen that child for the first time - it will keep your perspective new.