Friday, December 17, 2010

Black Stripe Test 1b

After getting my notes on Tuesday night I was really struck with a case of the nerves for the Thursday observation.  I went to class early as usual and started vacuuming after I changed.  I thought I might as well take advantage of the OCD and anxiety and put it to good use.  Teacher could tell I was ramping up and pulled me aside to do some very light sparring.  After about two minutes he said, “now do it with breathing.”  Ha ha. 

He told me before class that I could continue teaching the kids class until I improved.  Since I was fairly anxious I immediately starting reading into that.  I figured that meant I wasn’t going to get the belt tonight because I had to grow so much more.

The class went smoothly and in retrospect I’d say that I tried very hard to put the notes Teacher gave me into action.  Afterword he gave me some more notes, but it started with the fact that I had, in deed, improved vastly.  He added that I needed to refine a few areas and, frankly, I knew when I blew it most of the time.  Thankfully the kids didn’t seem to mind or notice when I’d flub something.  Teacher, I think, I was mostly focused on my ability to control the class and still move forward. 
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I’ve been fighting some intense pain in my right hip as a result of some bad falls on Tuesday which were exacerbated with our kneeling to standing kick exercises.  Ironically a low stance eases the pressure on my hip, but ibuprofen is really the best prevention and treatment.  Of course I forgot to take that before class in my fit of anxiousness.

Of course we do those very same kicks last night and I was accompanied in my discomfort by others who weren’t quite healed up as well. 

We did some “return to basics” type exercises that really worked on using the hips to initiate turns and then went on to two-step sparring.  At the end of class one of the new students was tested for his first green stripe and frankly looked better than most of us when we did ours. 

At the bow-out Teacher says, “Congrats to new guy on his green tip and everyone give Tater a round of applause on his first black tip.” 

Wait, what? 

I blushed furiously and then everyone clapped.  Which was immediately followed by comments like, “Did I miss something?” and “hunh?”

After class bowed out I had to explain to folks about the observations and teaching the kids class were the requirement. 

I practically skipped out.  I got home, swept my wife off her feet, drank two glasses of wine and promptly went to bed and snored loudly.  As befits the man on his way to the 1 in a 1000. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Black Stripe Test 1a

As part of my testing criteria for this stripe I’m required to teach two kids classes while being observed by two black belts. 

After the class completed Teacher pulled me aside to give me some notes. 

“Tater” he said.  “If you get into a fight with five guys and you focus on only one guy, what’s going to happen?” 

“I get my ass kicked by the other four guys.” I replied. 

“Well, that’s what happened in class tonight,” he finished wryly. 

Apparently my OCD nature got the best of me because I spent half the class fixating on the one new kid who couldn’t do anything while the rest of the class started to wonder away from their lines or lose their attention in some other fashion. 

I was kind of feeling good about the class, but after he pointed that out I started to realize that I had let a lot of stuff go poorly because I’d focus on something either too long or try a concept that was too involved for their ages. 

Later Teacher gave me so more notes which I think will be the hardest of all to sort out. 

- Talk to the children as adults – not down to them
- You are not in a democracy – you control the class
- Off task behavior needs to be addressed immediately

and so on. 

Needless to say I’m going to simplify my content on Thursday and try to keep things as professional as possible.  Teacher said that he’ll make me teach the class until I get it right.  Ugh. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Grumpy Knees

I was having this internal conversation with myself yesterday.

“I completely exhausted from work and poor sleep for the past couple of nights.  I’ve got a second job that’s sucking the life out of me.  I should probably skip beatings tonight.”

“The whole point of beatings is that it’s something you do no matter how you’re feeling or what state you’re in.  So you should go – it’s not just for your physical fitness.”

“I know I’m in a foul mood though.  It makes for a tough night.”

“Right. Whatever.  You’re sounding pretty whiney now.  You’ve got to go early and work with the kids to show proper spirit and also get ready for next week’s observations.” 

So I went.  I’m my own worst and best litigator. 
---
As usual the kids class blasted by at high speed.  I only started the class off and Teacher didn’t have any notes after words so that was nice.  The rest of the time I walked around doing corrections and holding a pad for the kids to kick.  Another Blackbelt was helping out since his little girl is in the class.  I’d love to see him in the adult class, but his schedule won’t permit it. 

Teacher started the adult class at level 11.  To improve our legs and kicking he had us do lunge kicks.  We haven’t done these in over five years.  Basically you’re in seiza (a side note – when I looked up the spelling, one of the suggestions was seizure!), you come up on one leg and then go into a front snap kick.  I wasn’t even sure my knees could handle that, but there was no particular evidence showing itself that I couldn’t so I soldiered on.  We commenced doing this up and down the floor and no amount of breathing would alleviate the fact that I felt like I was walking up Kilimanjaro. 

I was doing the hands on knees pose after that and realized my gluteal muscles were locking up.  Apparently sitting all day at a desk job does exactly nothing for you in terms of fitness. 

To add insult to injury, the bulk of the rest of the night was balance exercises.  The bulk of that was being able to maintain balance on one leg, crouch down low, and defend against attacks.  About 10 minutes I was unable to crouch at all and my ankles could barely support my weight. 

The final blow was the attack line.  The class was split into two groups.  One person, in the one leg position, is attacked and has to remain in that position while either passing the attacker or locking them.  I was the first to defend.  Since I was totally shaking with fatigue even the smallest bump would knock me over.  After five folks attacking I rotated out and became and attacker. 

Teacher started that rotation and, of course, made it painful.  He blocked my kick hooked it and moved it up pass my ability to stretch.  I couldn’t swivel my hips properly and end up having to take a back fall.  It’s not that I can’t take the back fall, but the pain created in making me do it is almost unendurable.  After I got up I had to limp for a few minutes before I could put weight on my leg.   In another rotation Beard chopped me on the neck (he loves to do this) while he had my leg.  Yet another time he locked my elbow out painfully and I had to take a front fall to escape the lock.  Teacher makes the comment to me, “well, it was your fault.”  I had to hide a look of surprise.  At this point I’m the only person taking falls during a simple exercise.  Conclusion = schlemiel.  The perpetual bungler.  Most certainly something I don’t want to be.  Of course gritting my teeth in pain management and frustration really makes for a smooth flow (read ironically). 

I got home completely warn out with not a lot of humor and feeling very frustrated about class.  My wife is not sympathetic to this sort of thing, but I vented for a few minutes even while I realized that my exhaustion was exacerbating the situation.  Thankfully, she just echoed a bit of my comments to make me feel heard and I was better.  We watched a bit of comedy on TV and that helped as well. 

Now that I’m typing this out the next day I can feel a lot of that frustration surging to the surface.  I keep telling myself that I’m not going to be taken advantage of by Beard, but that’s extremely difficult when you have to give yourself to a person during exercises.  A constant vigilance is required I suppose.  And I guess I need to make sure I take a quick retaliation to let him know that’s unacceptable.  I give him way too much lee-way because he’s a black belt in Judo.  He’s still a green and my junior in TSD, but it’s counter my personality to be a dick in any case. 

Sooo tired.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

More Bruises

I showed up early for the kids class again based on a hint from Teacher.  My observations got moved back to next week so he wants me to keep up with the kids so they can continue to keep comfortable with me as well as me being comfortable with them. 

I wouldn’t say that I was doing very well with them, but neither was it horrible.  I’m still using words that are too big and trying to describe concepts that are too much for most of them.  Teacher also pointed out that I might be using a bit too much humor.  It gives the really frisky kids permission to do the same. 
---
Adult class was packed.  17 people!  I wasn’t quite awake and feeling somewhat stressed about work and the kid’s class when Teacher announced that we’d be working on blocking kicks.  If there’s anything that catches my attention it’s that.  There is nothing in our compendium of exercises that causes so much soft tissue damage in a single event.

No one else seemed terribly concerned which I think is absurd, but it could because I don’t have any meat on my forearms where I need it for this type of work. 

I got partnered with Dave for a low block/front snap kick combo.  He let me kick first which I thought was nice, but I immediately developed swelling bruises over both sides of my ankles.  After awhile I had to ask him to block farther up just so we could continue further.  After we switched off it was my turned to block for which I totally had to get psyched up for.  Of course within the first two kicks from Dave I could feel the bruises rising.  So instead of the normally crappy, shallow breathing I do anyway, I was clamping my jaws shut trying to manage the pain. 

After all the whole point here is to teach us that pain isn’t necessarily damage and we don’t have to retreat from it.  Trying to get my brain around that fact is really tough though.  

Man, did I sleep great.  Total freaking exhaustion.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Subdural

I remember this scene in the movie, Constantine,  in which Keanu presses his forearms together and the audience gets to see a nifty tattoo of a star from two merged designs. 

I have this now, but completely composed of bruises.  Not like this hasn’t happened before, but I’m really having a hard time placing my forearms on anything.  So typing is a challenge because I have to do it correctly – with no contact.  At least I’m foiling carpal tunnel. 

---

I went a little early again in hopes that my presence might be a motivating force to move my class teaching observations up in the priority list.  Instead I got teach the kids round house kicks and run around with a focus mitt.  Honestly it was a good warm up for me. 

Teacher’s notes:  “I think you’re still being a little too nice to them.” 

During the adult class I covered the basic one-step sparring that is inherent in TSD and demoed the standard – left middle block, punch, punch, side kick.  In my mind this is the easiest exercise ever, but as usual Teacher was correct, in that I had a lot of blank looks and struggling to keep up.  Man, teaching is totally a patience exercise.  Breaking things down is the real art. 

One of the exercises we worked on was the double knife hand block.  I was partnered with Dave and he wasn’t holding back on the striking portion.  I couldn’t seem to get my act together and just like magic Teacher appears to point out what I already know.  Thankfully he was pushing me to kick higher.  I really enjoyed the look of surprise on Dave’s face as I kicked to his chin while close up. 

---

Teacher called me today to confirm observation days!  Next Thursday and the Tuesday after that.  Moving on up!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Wishbone

Life Lesson 42:  Heavy squats at the gym and while fighting a cold is a really bad idea the day before class.

I went early for the kids class in hopes that I could warm up my legs a bit.  Squats the day before had left me stiff and inflexible.  Dealing with the sniffles on the side also made it hard to get my blood pressure up and going. The kids class went by quickly, but I never really warmed up.  Teacher plainly has a good time teaching that class, but I was totally out of it. 

The adult class went by quickly, but during the second hour we were knocking each other off our feet.  The standard move being that we slide our leg in behind the Uke’s calf and simply straighten our leg.  The Uke’s leg goes flying out. 

As Uke with my neophyte partners I’d end up crashing to the floor to save ripping my groin muscles.  More experienced partners would do the “pop” and then catch me to reduce the odds of doing a split. 

Near the end of the night Teacher came around and started working on refining the move.  In my case he pointed out that I needed to stop being shy and grab the face of my Uke to “steer” him.  As usual he demoed on me, but for whatever reason my normal flexibility was gone and his steering left me in a position where I could neither fall to my back or grab him for support.  A blinding flash of pain in my hips, coupled with an inadvertent yelp and I was able to get a knee under and fall down.  I had to lay on the floor with the “stupid, oh my god I’m in pain, far away eyes” look for a good 30 seconds.  My partner gratefully hauled me up, but I could barely stand. 

I realized that if I kept moving a little bit my legs wouldn’t collapse, but in my head I was really kind of worried that I had done some kind of damage.  My legs were literally shaking trying to hold me up.  I couldn’t really do the move on my Uke and I definitely couldn’t do the move as the Uke.  Teacher finally called the end of that exercise to which I was eternally grateful, but then he calls me over to demo the moves more fully to the class.  “Oh s#!*” I thought to myself.  “Can’t he see that I’m having troubles standing up?” I guess not.

So he expands on the two moves and then has me do a couple of attacks to the waist (wrestler grabs) so he can demonstrate what do with that.  Thankfully I was mostly in a static position and not any splits. 

End of night report – 10K mg of Ibuprofen and only a little stiff this morning. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Shift

I’m not sure when this occurred, but Teacher is giving me more and more responsibility in class and I’m not really sure I’m ready.  For instance, last night we broke up in to two groups and he assigned me one group to work on really basic grab and throw.  Since the group is made up of folks with varying skill levels and physical aptitudes, I was stuck in the predicament of explaining basic engagement with Uke and Tori.  Even though we were doing monkey-in-the-middle type practice they plainly weren’t getting the idea that they needed to face the Tori one at a time.  Instead I got a cluster*#!$ of people attacking from the rear to tapping Tori on the shoulder.  Jeeze!

After we got that sorted out Teacher came over to my group to see how we’d faired.  I was sort of nervous because I didn’t think we doing that well, but he seemed happy in that we were jerking each other off our feet with a minimum of effort – a good measure of success. 

After break we worked on refining that grab and tossing people around.  At the very end of class he demoed with me and as usual my shoulders and knees were telling a tale of woe when I got home.  The joy!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Smooth Running

I'm relaxing with a glass of Scotch after teaching both classes tonight. After a spending the day with increasing anxiety or wondering why I was more anxious I ended up going really early and vacuuming the place. I don't think I have OCD, but I do enjoy seeing a clean floor and it gave me something to do instead of fretting. Of course one of the students saw this and ran over to take over. So I sat around and watched the clock.

The twins that normally cause a ruckus didn't show up so the class was quiet and respectful and moved smoothly. I had prepared an outline for both classes, but for the kids class I stuck with easy things and only ventured into tough territory with a blocking combo. All in all a pretty fast and pleasant experience. I was only anguished by kids that couldn't keep up with certain things or were easily disoriented when we moved. Kata's proved to be most of their undoing, but I forged ahead thinking that this wasn't the time that I needed to focus on individuals.

Beard was nice enough to come to the kids class and participate with the students, occasionally straightening out a kid's form as needed. Before I knew it the class was done. I wished Teacher and Teacher Slim were there for this one. It would have been a nice start to my "testing" classes.
---
The adult class had really given me some angst because I could remember years ago where, in my mind, I had epically failed at the whole experience. I was teaching technique way ahead of my skill level and rushing badly. This time I was relaxed and the pace was comfortable and I stuck with only things I felt comfortable with. So I ended up with about four that were easy to teach or, at least, were easy to introduce.

I think that mostly it was good, but I'll go over my notes with Teacher tomorrow and see what I could have polished. But, honestly, I feel really good about the whole thing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Slipped Disk?

I got up to use the bathroom around 1:30 am this morning and when I sat down on the bed I noticed a quickly growing pain in my back.  Seconds later I could barely lay down.  Being mostly asleep I figured laying down would be a good idea, but as soon as my back started to settle the pain became so intense I had tears running down my cheeks.  Unable to find comfort in any position I went to the medicine chest and choked down 10K of ibuprofen and shuffled back to bed while literally gritting my teeth. 

After an hour of moving very carefully back and forth in a variety of positions I found I was able to lay on my back once again and fell asleep.  The only thing that was going through my mind was that I had to teach class on Thursday – this can’t be happening!

Some where in the back of my mind I realized this was different than other incidents.  Normally, with a back spasm all the muscles lock up around the spinal column causing the most intense pain.  However, even my pain and sleep induced haze I could feel my muscles all behaving normally but the pain in my back and radiating down my hamstrings was absolutely new. 

This morning I’m kind of sore, but my flexibility is mostly in tact – what an intense relief!

---

Last night I made it a point to show up for the entirety of both classes.  This frustrates my wife a bit because it means I’m out of the house for more than three hours, but she’s trying to be a good joe about the whole thing since I’m working toward my next rank. 

I forget how fast the kids class goes.  I feel like I was just warming up when the class was done.  I think all my nervousness is going to be reserved for the adult class which I feel totally unsuited for.  I’m using the rule that I can only teach technique that I know really well, which when it comes down to it, doesn’t feel like a lot. 

I went over the few things I was going to work on with the adults with Sensei and brought up a lot of notes.  The biggest concern being the vast difference in skill levels.  I want to do some mat work, specifically throws, but he pointed out so many of the students were new and knew nothing about even taking a basic roll.  So that’s what I’ll be working for most the third hour.  Fantasies of high flying are gone now.  Wahhh. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Open Seasame

I saw nothing but blue and a felt a quick flash of pain in my neck as I snapped to the side. 

Beard was wearing his reversible competition Judo gi with the Blue side out when he came in last night.  I normally get the flack for wearing non-standard gis (red, tye-dye, etc.), but his super high-end gi is an attention getter because it is so nice compared to our low-end purchases. 

At the very end of class we had a new exercise to practice.  The person to be executed against stood still and closed her/his eyes and waited for the signal.  The person doing the attack got the choice of gun, knife or open hand.  This proved to be an endless source of entertainment for the class as the defenders usually ended up eating it one way or the other. 

My turn to defend was predictably a huge mess.  Sensei said go and I had my eyes open for a fraction as I realized Beard was doing a flying knee and was literally a hair away from contact.  Thankfully we all move much faster than we think we can and I dodged left as he shot by.  I didn’t fully escape his head grab, thus the sharp neck crank. 

My second “contestant” was Swimmer, who, as I may of mentioned in the past, has little to no ability to throttle her control.  Sensei said open and I could see her hand flash around my side.  My attempt at block and avoid were way to slow and I felt a nice slashing pain in the back.  I kept the maneuver going and took her down and fell on top of her.  Later, in the changing room, the guys pointed out that I had two perfect horizontal lines across my kidneys.  Damn.
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This was my second night of partially leading the kids class.  Teacher made a point of leaving the room for long periods of time so that the kids could get used to me and I could get used to not falling back on him.  All things considered, my time with the kids went well, but I got really tired quickly of bad behavior.  I also learned that “shushing” the class does exactly nothing. 

Teacher is having me take both classes next Thursday.  I don’t too feel too anxious right now, but knowing me I’ll be wound the whole day before. 

After class he complimented me on the segments that took over and noted my relative comfort with kids.  Could I be learning something?!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Preparatory

Last night was my second evening working with the kids class and it went pretty well, but being entirely honest I was glad that it was broken into pieces and I didn’t have to construct the lessons.  Teacher does all his lesson construction from the top of his head, picking from vast years of experience and applying whatever crops up in his mind to apply to whatever is going on. 

That used to drive me crazy because I like knowing what is expected of me and what we as a class we’ll be working on, but I’ve come to appreciate the finesse he brings to bear with what he produces.  With an ever changing cast of characters, progress that we experience as a group is always set back to basic as newer folks join our group.  Teacher seamlessly brings beginner techniques in while getting advanced students to work on variations. 

With the kids I’m not quite sure what you can teach or say just yet so my exposure to their very fast hour is really helpful.  I tried explaining the outside crescent kick to them and got a lot of blank looks.  I realized sometimes you just have to move on and hope that works. 

The adult class was packed and we had three new people that have the look that they may stay around for a bit.  We had 17 people and three were missing.  The room feels particularly crowded and the heat level kept going up.  If we keep this level up movement based work is going to be a challenge.  We did a few katas/hyungs, so everyone’s stances got short in an effort not to trip over their neighbor.  

Friday, November 05, 2010

And so it begins…

To get ready for my upcoming “test” I went to class early to work with the kids. I wanted them to get used to me by having me around instead of treating me as the substitute teacher.

I wandered through the rows of students correcting hand positions and stances then Teacher had me lead kicks for awhile – giving me a moment of control over the class.  I thought it was going to go well, until my first monkey wrench appeared with in five minutes. 

We had just begun crescent kicks (inside) when a hand went up in the back.  My first mistake – answering questions.  I can’t repeat it verbatim but it was so left field I wasn’t sure what to do. 

“Yes?” I said.
”I don’t want to be here.”
”What?”
”I don’t know this [sic]move.”

My confounded look and stuttering response was interrupted by Teacher who explained that we get to learn new stuff all the time. 

I was really expecting interrupting and squirrely behavior, but that was novel.

---

The adult class was kick intensive and sweat inducing, only made worse by my warm up.  I have no idea why but I decided to make it a real stressor.  Just a lot more volume, but pushed the push-ups to 11.  Big Dave said, “you’re my hero” after we did finger pushups.  

We did a lot of pad work to get some force into our front snap kick.  This was followed by two punches.  It was illuminating to see who could project that hip and create some power.  I did see a lot of folks holding smashed and twisted toes.  I realized that this was pretty important in that it forces folks to get the proper foot position or pay a price immediately.  

We finished class up with Katas/Hyungs.  We did the first 9 with many repeated for newer students.  As we moved up the newer students would sit out and watch the rest of us.  By the time we got to 9 (Bassei) it was just Teacher and I and I was breathing like I’d been sprinting for the last 15 minutes.  No pretense of breathing normally.  Just gasping. 

After class I had teacher explain a triangle choke to Dave and I.  Dastardly stuff.  He took me down and used my body weight to put pressure on my neck.  Horrible position. 

Beard wanted to see me kick for some reason without touching my kicking foot to the ground.  I gave him three successive side kicks – one at to the knee, one to the gut, and one to the chin.  I actually touched him on the chin!  I was impressed in spite of myself. 

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Tests and Nightmares

First day back to class and all was well.  Exhausting, but in a good way. 

Teacher pulled me aside after class and told me what my next test was going to consist of – I have to teach two children’s classes in their entirety while he and Teacher Slim critique me. 

I didn’t think that was too bad, but that night I had horrific nightmares about getting to tournaments in sports I really didn’t know much about and couldn’t get to the airport on time.  A connection?

To prep for the kids classes I’m going to start going in early to participate in the class.  I’m not even sure how this is going to go, but I’m not going to smile and I’m not going to joke around – two things that mess me up as a teacher. 

I told Teacher that I hated him and he laughed.  I told him that I’d rather run around in a circle for an hour instead.  Ironically, in my head I didn’t think it was too bad.  It should be challenging, but not deadly, but I thought I should play along in how horrible it was going to be.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Beatings Starting Up!

After a month off of regular class we are going to reconvene tonight and see if I kept the rust off by working with Dave.  I’m a bit sleep deprived today, but I’m hoping the anxiousness and excitement will wash that away when 7pm comes around.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Yoga and Beatings

Moody dark lighting.  Trance-based, Hindu-tinted, soft music.  People in abstract poses. 

I stared at Dave when the lights went down and wondered what the hell was going on.  Apparently the room we use was being coopted by a yoga class that couldn’t care less that Dave and I were practicing throws and locks. 

---

We’d had the room to ourselves for almost the entire hour when a few folks started trickling in with mats and doing some basic yoga poses.  I thought this was a nice change from the guys who were listening to Death Metal especially since the women coming in were very easy on the eyes. 

By the time we started working on basic locks and then throws the lights went out unceremoniously.  Followed by “ching-ching” of temple chimes.  I was mostly focused on tell Dave about some esoteric component of the throws to realize that more people had come in and that a class was starting (how’s that for zanshin?). 

Call me passive-aggressive, but they might have mentioned the class to us, but Dave and I decided to continue unabated so the sounds of the evening consisted of:

“Downward dog.”
”Plank pose.”
-Thump-
“Warrior pose.”
”Something pose.”
-Thump-
etc.

We kept that up for a good half hour before the constant standing up, even with Dave’s assistance, started playing havoc with my knees.  Using his arm to get up was great because I never do it in real life, but it totally extended that part of the lesson for me.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t pull out mats and work on his falls which I’m dearly excited to do – since it means I’ll get to throw someone.  However, we’re running out of time since Teacher gets back in a week or so. 

After we left to change out I noticed a flyer on the wall saying that yoga class was starting that night – whoops. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Pilgrim’s Progress

Bang!

Even as Dave’s strike left the side of my head I recognized the hammer fist by the way it covered my tiny, shell-like ear.  Dave winced and immediately stopped; sputtering his apologies.  I was just thankful that he hadn’t cupped his hand or I would have been deaf in that ear for a while.

After a few days off I was a bit rusty and having a hard time getting centered.  I was pretty tired and emotionally at a low because our cat was diagnosed with kidney problems.  However, after we started going I was able to pull together a nice progression from a base lesson. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m systematic and could be perceived as boring or repetitive, but I find solace in the known and it allows me to warm up carefully and reinforce the basics.  During this time it’ll dawn upon me that there is something to work on and I’ll try to sort something out. 

With that in mind I thought we’d work on shifts.  The shift is a movement forward without taking a crossing step.  The front foot stays in touch with the ground and glides out to where you’d normally step to and the rear foot immediately closes into a normal stance. 

I had Dave do a block to the outside while shifting towards me (at a slight angle) then doing a jaw strike/push to turn me around.  The progression went from the head control to a head lock/rear choke. 

We found a boxing timer on the wall and set it up for 99 seconds and did some light sparring.  Dave was definitely taking advantage of the fact that a forward attack is hard to get away from.  That’s when I got bopped on the head.  I was pretty creaky this morning. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Scheduled

My schedule is a bit off because it’s October.  There is something magical about this month that converts any kind of pattern into a mess.  I think it’s because my birthday comes late in the month and the build up to the “special day” creates all kinds of stress.

Social obligations pour in as people leave town and side work suddenly picks up for some strange reason.  I’m glad for the work, but the amount of time it leaves to work on beatings and fitness can dwindle quickly. 

My dream schedule for this month was to do beatings with Dave three time a week and try to work out three times a week.  I was able to accomplish that for one week.  After it was broken up pretty quickly. This week was a great example – Beatings Sunday and Wednesday, workout on Monday – nothing until next Tuesday.  Plus I’ll be fat from all the eating during the weekend. 

Last night we did the standard warm up and ran through all the blocks and strikes.  I introduced pivots into the strikes to get focus on the hips and their power.  After that we used the bag to work on actual force.  I forgot how much labor that is compared to striking at air.  Thankfully my balance was mostly good, but the power felt like it was really lacking. 

While we were practicing punching/blocking drills apparently someone walked by the door and gawked.  Dave interpreted this as awesome.  I only hoped we didn’t look like two guys over 40 with pot bellies trying not to punch each other in the nose.  I’d rather it be perceived that we looked like dangerous, steely-eyed martial artists barely escaping being punched because of cat-like reflexes. 

I put our sparring section into the middle of the work out so we could come down off the adrenaline a little sooner.  We started easy, but as always, intensity ramps up quickly.  Dave did a spinning back kick while I moved in – and I saw him control that kick fairly well, but the impact was on the nerve on the thigh – it caught me and just buckled my leg. Wow!  Was that painful. 

We finished off with the first three katas and I was pleased to note that Dave is keeping his shoulders straight and relaxed.

Monday, October 11, 2010

External Training Update

I’ve got anywhere from a month to six weeks to prepare for my next test.  I remember vividly being wildly out of breath through most of the test and just getting through by sheer will power. 

To mitigate this feeling of oldness and general lack of fitness I’ve really tried to amp up my exercise regimen.  I’ve been training with a new class member, who is my age, three times a week in two hours blocks and other days it’s off to the gym where I try to get in a decent work out with emphasis on aerobics rather than weights.  I’m finding the fear of failure very motivational, but boy am I tired.  I get the sneaking suspicion that I’m not getting enough rest, but days off allow huge amounts of anxiety to seep in and thus, throw fuel on my motivational fire.

So this morning I’m completely tired because I couldn’t turn off my brain last night and ended up having a lousy night’s sleep.  Definitely not conducive to seizing the day. 
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Work with Dave has been pretty great.  I don’t feel like there is any stress around what we are teaching and he takes instruction extremely well.  The exercise for me is mental in that I have to break things apart for easier consumption and his sticking points aren’t necessarily ones that I’ve experienced in my past. 

Dave and I are continuing sparring regularly in hopes that we’ll learn to breath better and think a bit more before running in and exhausting ourselves.  Two minutes is good so far.  I’d like to see that at more towards three.
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Possible insight to test – An old student was in town and ran into Teacher somewhere and they talked about the test.  It sounds like it’s going to be heavy on teaching.  I’m intrigued. 

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Proper technique

Every once in awhile Teacher will throw in a change to our warms-ups.  A few months ago he added finger-tip pushups into the mix.  I liked this change because it was interesting and I’d never done them before.  I was pleased to find out that I could do five.  Since then I’ve worked up to 10 or 11.  I’m pretty sure I could do more, but the pain stops me.  This led me to a very quick search on the internets about proper technique. 

I’m not kidding when I say that there is nothing of value out there, but I was briefly entertained by Jack Lalane pumping out superman pushups while on his finger-tips.  Badass!

I’m doing them straight fingered and experimented with bent fingers with not much change in capacity.  Anyone out there with any feelings on the matter?

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Roughly two months to the test.  Trying to develop that cardio, but not sure that’s what matters…

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Sore Knees

In the back of my head I was wondering how careful I needed to be to remain safe after a lot of intense one on one with consistent sparring.  Our last session on Saturday left me with a slightly tweaked pinky toe, so I thought I was doing good.  

Everything in moderation – even moderation.  I’m not sure Ben Franklin said that but I love the sentiment. 

With that in mind I figured I’d try to keep the current pace set on Saturday and just add some features that came up.  One of those was teaching Dave to fall.  Being taller in class comes with a frustrating component – I don’t get to throw very often because it’s hard to get low and the less experienced students are terrible with their break-falls.  I also can’t remember who knows what in class, so some can do a fair fall and others are horrible.  Since Dave seems so good at other things I presumed he’d be good at the falls.  Our first night months ago led to a partly separated shoulder because he reached down instead of slapping.  Now he’s tentative, but motivated to get over that.

After a nice warm up where I was surprised that he didn’t have experience in punching drills (where have I been?) we moved to punching and moving at the same time.  Another area that was very tough on him.  It gave a us a nice scale of measure for what to work on. 

The next area of work was taking falls.  Since he has a really bad knee and I’m always watching mine the normal set up to learning the back fall was a bit tough.  We have the uke kind of do a one legged squat and then fall into the landing position.  After they are comfortable with that we have them go higher and higher till they can do it standing. 

We practiced that for some time and I tried to show him how to do a shoulder throw, but that was a bit beyond his skill.  Never the less I felt pretty excited because if we can get him up to speed then I can work on throws!

We finished up the evening with sparring again.  This time I wanted to make sure we kept breathing as the most important thing.  We were able to last ninety seconds on first round and used a 1 minute timer on the second.  Although shorter we weren’t even huffing. 

Because he doesn’t have a lot of flexibility yet his kicks are low and that meant my knees kept “getting in the way.”  At the time it just stung a little, but today to top edge of both of my knee caps are fairly bruised.  Ouch.  It makes bending down very unpleasant.  Thankfully we’ll have Thursday off so I can have an extra day to heal.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

One on One

Teacher has taken the month off to travel to far off lands, so the class is left to its own devices in the mean time.  So although there is no official class offered, me and a few of the over 40 club decided to get together whenever we can. 

I’ve decided to call us that because we stick out so significantly.  A bulk of the class is in their teenage years, followed by the three guys in their early 20s and then there are the four of us oldsters.  Between us the litany of physical complaints would probably never stop if class wasn’t in the way. 

It makes you wonder where the missing population segment is - Probably busy having families and other important stuff.

I asked Teacher a week or so before he left if it was okay to train/teach with Big Dave while he was gone and I got the nod.  However, as soon as I got a yes Big Dave goes to Trucker and tells him we’ll be working out.  Oof.  Awkward.  Not wanting to exclude someone I took his number and wondered how I was going to manage that. 

Dave and I met on Saturday and went to his gym; literally the most modern and beautiful place I’d ever stepped into, and began warming up.  We were sharing the massive “aerobics” room with a single guy when we got there who was fiddling with the stereo which led me to ask Dave what music he listened to.  “80’s music.” replied.  He never grew out of it like many of my generation.  As if by magic the guy started playing death metal circa 2003.  Ah well.

While we were going through basic kicks and punches and identifying weak spots in form and technique more young men came in to use the room.  Occasionally I’d look through the mirror to see if any of them were going to give the old men any flak.  I needn’t have worried because they were pulling up their shirts to check if their abdominal muscles were in the peak of bulginess.  I kept asking myself, “was I like that at their age?”  Probably.  Now I’m afraid the combination of white flesh, hair and sagging mid-line will terrify my opponent. 

They all left after twenty minutes of primping and squeezing so Dave and I got to spar.  This was the breakdown:

- 30 seconds
- 45 seconds
- 90 seconds

By that last round we were both watching our breathing and made sure we weren’t flailing wildly.  Dave would amazingly move to throw!  I couldn’t believe it the first time, but we was totally okay with soaking up a few punches to get his hip in and do a beautiful throw.  Hunh! 

We shall see what tonight brings

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Close And Personal

Tang Soo Do has a fairly straight forward precept – move forward.  Or, at the very least, Teacher pushes this as a basic building block to our one and two-step sparring.  You’d think something that simple would be easy to absorb, but as with all simple ideas, instituting them becomes a challenge.  For many of us in the class a natural response is to back away in the face of advance to create space naturally and temporally. 

I’m far enough along that I can push beyond that natural response if I put my mind to it.  So during sparring practice I like to focus on my weaknesses (and there are so many) and in the case of last night we’d practiced getting close so sparring gave me the opportunity to try it out with Beard. 

We hadn’t actually sparred in ages.  Maybe 3 months or more to the best of our group recollection.  This was due to the fact the bulk of the class consists of new folks and when they get in the mix someone usually gets hurt. 

Teacher asked who of us that would like to go first and I threw my hand up with most of the experienced folks.  I got to start with Beard and fun began. 

By and large I would have to say that from the first person view that I got popped in the head more often than not, but it was because I was deep into his territory in hopes of bringing the elbows into play; which I did.  The conflict was close and if we did back out it was accompanied by kicks.  

I was pretty tired when we sat down and didn’t think much of how good or bad we were until the next three pairs went to work.  It was as if everyone of them was a new style.  A majority of them looked so good and clean that I immediately felt embarrassed for Beard and me. 

After class I complimented one of the Twins on how beautiful he looked against Tall J, our new Brown from another school.  I said that I was appalled that Beard and I didn’t look anything like that and he said that we looked awesome.  I wish we had film so I could see what happened.  Frustrating to do analysis off adjectives. 
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The other side of being up close and personal is that you get the inevitable whiff of body oder or an improperly washed gi.  I was working with Big Ginger last night a few time and noticed to my disappointment that his clothes or hygiene wasn’t up to snuff.  Bummer.  Then while I was banging elbows with Beard I noticed that sour smell of a gi that might have missed a wash somewhere along the way.  At least we weren’t rolling around on the mats.  I’d hate to have a stinky gi rubbing my face into the mat. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Magic

A few years after Teacher got his Blackbelt he said he the experience was very anti-climactic.  “Where was the super powers? The magic bag of tricks?”  I understand what he’s saying on a objective level, but on an emotional level I’d love to have the same thing.  You get a belt and, poof, you walk through walls. 

Last night was grueling for several different reasons but as we filed out Teacher pulled me aside and wanted me to do the unbendable arm.  Mentally I was trying to get ready for failure and think of fuzzy baby bunnies at the same time.  While futzing with that I realized that Dave was bearing down and I wasn’t using any muscle!  I freaking did it!!!  I hugged Teacher and felt a blast of yummy chemicals paint my brain.  After five years and finally I got that damn thing.  I only hope that I can do it again.

The reason class was so exhausting is that Teacher threw some Kounseling (K for Karate) at me the other day.  Basically, I need to stop giving people accommodations.  I need to give them situations where they can explore their limits and try to grow or push beyond.  By giving so many adjustments no one has to try harder than they are offered. 

With that in mind I had to keep biting my lip and stopping myself over and over during warm ups and basic exercises.  I hadn’t realized I was so focused on making sure everyone could enjoy that I was potentially robbing them of ability to test their own limits. 

So my normally semi-relaxed state during the warm-ups left me befuddling and I started second guessing everything I was doing.  Which leads me to the next frustration.  We’ve just had a bunch of folks start in the class with a wide variety of skill and knowledge.  The best being Tall J, a second degree brown, and the worst, Big Ginger,  a borderline obese teenager that may or may not be developmentally disabled. 

In the past couple of years we’ve had several kids like that show up and eventually disappear for whatever reason.  Since the Father has shown up a few times I don’t have a lot of faith that difficulty will drive Big Ginger and his brother away anytime soon.  Big G is one of those folks that says non sequitors and spouts random giggling.  Basically weird. 

Never the less I went home with a spring in my step and barely slept form the excitement of the night.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Semi-casual Aside

The room was sweltering, which I didn’t think would possible in September, but the crowd of 13 bodies drove the humidity through the roof.  None of this was helped by the new addition of finger pushups during the warm-up.  Teacher is one of those guys who can get to two fingers (thumb and pointer) during push-ups and is encouraging us to strengthen our hands the same way.  I was able to do five with all fingers which surprised the hell out of me.  Nothing I’ve ever tried before.  I felt bad for all the new kids in class.

For the first time in a long while, or as long as I can remember, we actually have more people new to class than old timers.  Beard and I are the most senior, followed by the Twins and Robot who just started within the year, and the rest are all sorts of new within the last two months. 

After warm-ups Teacher placed me with Tall J, who I presume is in high school and is very pleasant.  We did one-step sparring and he obviously knew what he was doing so I finally asked and found out that he was Brown in Shito-Ryu Karate.  Hah!  It’s awesome to have folks in the know.  Teacher was spoiling me instead of taking lumps with all the new folks. 

Dave came in a bit late and joined me and Tall J and we noticed something sweet in Tall Js punches.  Both Dave and I are taller than Tall J so his middle height punches come in at that range between a middle and lower block.  It slides in 9/10ths of the time.  Phenomenal!  The fact that he used a casual speed at the start of the punch completely threw us off every time. 

At the end of class Teacher pulled me aside.  I should have known this was coming, but he wanted to find out what I was doing for Thanksgiving.  Was he going to invite me for dinner or ask to get invited to my house?  No, he was telling to get ready for a test.  After he gets back from vacation it’s going to be go time. 

I asked him if I needed to study something in particular.  Other than doing everything with exceeding polish he said he was going to test my “control.”  He didn’t want to give me anymore than that.  I don’t even know why I asked.  Anxiety powers activate!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Karate Kounseling

After I earned my Brown Belt some time ago (7-08!) Teacher pulled aside from time to time to work on my progress towards my next rank or Blackbelt.  I say next rank because I was unclear which route he was going to go with my next ranking.  On all our other ranks we have to “stripes” between each main rank.  So altogether there would be 10 gups – the 10th being the blackbelt.  So based on that logic I’m technically I’m a 7th gup. 

Our school’s ranking system is based on subjective measure so there’s no hours to watch and no skills to acquire to determine what I need to be working on to gain my next rank.  However, Teacher makes it fairly clear that I need to work on two things before he’s ready to test again.  Situational awareness and assertiveness. 

One thing that agitates Teacher more than anything is someone walking around with their head down and absolutely unaware of the surroundings.  I don’t I fit in this category in the extreme sense, but he has caught me texting and walking or just numb and not paying attention – I guess I do fall into that category…

The assertiveness was related to my role in class.  Since the belt test he’s slowly allowed to take portions of the class and wants regular reports on interactions with older students as well as new.  It’s obviously easier to work with the newer because of the lack of history, but the older ones seem to be coming around.  I’m just working hard to concentrate on what I know and stop when I don’t. 

He asked how that was affecting my life outside of class.  I couldn’t put a finger on it, but I can’t help feel like I’m interacting with folks differently.  I have to admit I dealt with some depression this summer and although there was many factors that came into play I wonder if my old roles in relationships were changing and it was causing me some distress.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Burghers of Calais

When I used to live in Washington, D.C. a lifetime ago, I stood in an outdoor sculpture garden and stared at a work by Rodin, the Burghers of Calais.  The work represents the way people might approach death – fear, resolve, etc.  I realized on Friday night that I got a taste of that when I worked at Teacher’s women’s Self Defense course.

The class lasted three hours and moved from lecture to practice about every half hour.  I was fairly interested with how it was going to be laid out because of Bob Patterson’s comments at Striking Thoughts (him doing a self-defense based course). 

Since this was a single class no effort was taken to train from the base up.   We were literally teaching the most minimal moves to excise one from a situation and then get running.  Based on how hard some of these ladies were hitting and kicking they would definitely make an impact on anyone stupid enough to hassle them.

As the women and young ladies cycled through the various stations we had set up I got to see their faces in various states of concentration.  Plainly some of them were using memories to get charged up to strike the various pads.  That’s were I saw the Burghers of Calais.  To some of the members issues were being worked out in front of me.  I felt like a peeping tom.  Being the quiet guy in the back afforded me some anonymity and by that very association I got to take some hard shots. 

One of the easiest shots taught was the kick to the groin.  I held a very heavy pad between my legs and they got to go to town.  There was a few people actually lifted me off my feet.  I’m pretty sure I pulled a muscle in my leg. 

I was trying to emphasize that they needed to, at the very least, look at what they were striking at.  So during one set of combinations (groin strike, elbow strike) a young lady missed the pad I was holding low and smashed a poorly formed ridge hand into my genitals.  Luckily I was wearing a cup, but that didn’t stop the standard man-cringe and wince of pain on my face.  Thankfully she didn’t follow that up with a elbow in the face. 

Every time she cycled through the line on a new technique her face would flame scarlet before she would start. 

A very interesting evening.  Afterwards I wondered out loud to Teacher about using the class as an advertisement for our classes.  He admitted that he wanted to do that a bit and actually had a few people ask him about it.  I was thinking more of a flashy demo where he threw me around or had Little Sister take me down.  He didn’t think it was appropriate and I guess I should be appreciative because I was able to wake up with only the most minimal muscle pains.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bodies Flying

The thing about Beard is that he contains this huge amount of knowledge encapsulated in a person with little or no patience to explain extremely complex concepts to people with only the slightest idea about he’s talking about. 

We had another huge class and because Teacher Slim was there we broke out the mats for almost the whole two hours.  Slim teaches in the most non-linear fashion so you do a couple of techniques and ask him what he thinks and he’ll teach a dizzying array of alternatives while leaving you gasping in shock and awe. 

To wit –our base technique was to block a punch at the elbow and bring our up our other arm (into what could be shoulder/neck choke), but moving to take down.  You can either use you thumb in the neck (preferred) or press the shoulder (tough).  So I’m practicing with two of the new folks and Slim comes up and shows two variations – one with a throw that blew Dave and Swimmer’s minds.  Clearly beyond what they knew they’d be in for.  Slim, thankfully, didn’t demo on them. 

Beard came in at half time and participated in the various groups on the mat.  Eventually working with me and my two folks.  Whereas I’d like to think I’m gentle and repetitive he makes this pin-point focus on a very esoteric issue.  In truth it’s really important and I’ve love knowing it, but he’ll get caught in that stuff and the new folks stand around with a dumb look on their face. 

He ended up getting a bit distracted by Teacher so I was able to work on basic falls with my guys.   I don’t know how anybody teaches this stuff.  I mean I know all the hints and basic exercises to get them ready for the falls, but as soon as we do one they revert to reaching for the ground or landing on an elbow.  Clearly something that takes a lot of time to get used to.  In this case it was killing me because I’d have to stop them from landing poorly putting a huge strain on my already sad back.  No head injuries so I was feeling pretty good about it. 

Beard’s final touch of frustration and genius was the knee and balance.  After we take someone down we are supposed to kneel on their liver (assuming you throw them on that side).  Depending on where you land the person you throw can shimmy out pretty easily if you’re not careful.  Beard’s expertise in Judo allowed him to show us an escape – don’t try to move the guy with your hip upward, try to move the hip on the floor under.  I liken it to holding a cat (when they don’t want to) and then can rotate in their own skin.  It’s a beautiful move, but my back was clearly screeching from the work of it. 

At the end of the night by back was sore, I had a charlie-horse on my right leg, my right knee was slight swollen (wtf?  Where did that come from?) and gi burns on my neck from the collar and the throws. 

Tonight will be an added bonus in helping Teacher with women’s self-defense class.  Three hours of getting punched in the balls.  Wonderful.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Heat

We’ve been getting an influx of new folks for the past couple of weeks so the class hit maximum capacity at 12 last night.  This means we actually have 3 lines for bow in and it also means a larger pool for rotations.  Unfortunately, it means that during the rotations I’ll be placed with new folks.  That means I’ll be doing simple stuff with a huge amount of repetition.  It could be argued that this is fantastic for me in that it helps me to focus on cleaning up bad habits, furthering my teaching skills, and generally lowering my stance (so many short folks).  The only thing I miss out on is the higher speed and advanced creativity that comes with working with a more advanced student.  When I finally do get partnered with one of them I find my creativity at a low and just stick with the straight stuff.

Somewhere in the second hour someone noticed that the heat in the room had hit an unacceptable level.  This is such a profound difference compared to our regular bland cool temperature that no one noticed it until we started grabbing each other during one of the exercises.  Sweat slicked arms, hands and wrists make terrible surfaces in which to grab someone.  This is amplified because several of our young guys have decided to cut the sleeves off their gi tops ala’ Cobra Kai from Karate Kid.  The worst part is that a lot of grabs that I favor utilize the sleeve of the gi.  Ah well, adaption. 

Sensei pulled Little Sister out of class second half of the first hour and had me run through the kicks.  I was inordinately pleased that he had me run the class without prep, but it wasn’t any real big deal.  Everyone was patient and threw in a couple of suggestions that helped me and the new students through some of the more esoteric portions of the foot placement in the side kick. 

I woke up fairly sore because of those low stances and all the kicks, but not so much that I had to run to the Ibuprofen.  Weee!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Almighty Knee To The Balls

I think most guys have felt it at least once in their lives and most women can sympathize, but an almighty shot to the pills is universally cringe-worthy no matter who you are. 

I rarely wear a cup during class because of the profound discomfort, but if I know we are going to be sparring I’ll force myself to “gird up my loins” in preparation.  Ironically, the incident of groin shots is absolutely minimal during sparring.  I presume this is because everyone is working very hard on controlling themselves. 

Last night was filled with a lot of frustration and silliness.  Teacher separated the class and gave half to me to work on an “out of time” move.  In standard hard style feet movement is characterized by making half circles while moving forward.  This allows the feet to remain in constant contact with the ground and allows for a nice trip setup if that’s your thing. 

I ended up teaching my group absolutely backward even though they understood everything correctly.  The Uke is supposed to attack when the student is at the point when both feet are together.  This teaches the student to maintain balance all the way through movement and deal with the fact that reality rarely waits for a user to step then punch.

While we are undoing my mistaken approach to teaching this concept Tall New Guy (Dave) comes in and joins right away.  He’s not warmed up and he knows it so we start easy, but to my chagrin one of his first shots while his feet are together is a knee to my groin. 

After a nice little explosion of pain to my nethers I let someone else take that role while I spent a lot of energy not grabbing my crotch and rolling around on the floor. 

We took our mid-class break and resumed this exercise and I partnered with Dave again.  At the last few minutes of class he mis-judged his distance and punched me right in the throat.  Groan.  I mean urp!

I slept very well. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Aches And Pains

Teacher called me up yesterday and asked if I could run the class from the “doing” standpoint.  He lost a filling and apparently when right to infected.  His jaw is swollen and misshapen and appears to be fairly miserable.  However he still showed up at class and taught a fairly normal class.  I only led a few things that required jostling so he could avoid moving his head.

A remarkably small crowd last night: The Wonder Twins, Swimmer, Me and the Tall new guy came in late.

Swimmer is a 16 year old girl who looks perpetually exhausted.  She is a competitive athlete at our local high school that requires her to practice two times a day in two hour blocks.  For whatever reason she’s pulled into our class and appears to enjoy it fully, but hasn’t really mastered controlling the strength she applies.  I notice this is a common factor with a lot of female new comers.  Weird. 

During our four on one attacks (weee!) she would be set upon by all of us and would deliver the most brutal counters.  Teacher would constantly try to slow her down, but even the slightest adrenaline would remove any governance in her strikes.  My favorite – which I wish I had video of; it would have made a million hits on you tube – was her attempt to a ridge hand strike on one of the Wonder Twins.  This was not foiled but briefly interrupted by the second Twins head.  So she executes a shot to one brow and moves on to the others neck.  All done so fast and furious that we presumed she broke her fingers in the process.  Excitement! 

I woke up today feeling like I had the precursor to the flu.  All my joints seem sore and I feel achy across my back and shoulders.  Great.  Just in time for the weekend.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Drop The Hips

After what seems like years we are finally having some semblance of Summer weather.  This usually has a negative impact on class size because you literally don’t know when you’re going to get a chance to get outside.  So the hardcore (read dumb) come to class no matter what.  In our case Teacher, Trucker me, Beard and the new girl got started kind of late.

Near the end of warm-ups the Wonder Twins, Robot, and Tall New Guy showed up to fill out the class to it’s normal 8 folks. 

Teacher kept things pretty basic because of the new gal and had us really focus on some very beginner items – most specifically the chamber (the fists ready position previous to a punch).  After a lot of practice we did the first kata/hyung to check ourselves.  Nice exercise. 

Afterword we did the basic locks and grabs I partnered with Beard.  Normally I’m a bit trepidatious of his heavy handed approach to locks, but we actually had a very informative session.  His blackbelt in Judo turned out to a very good thing as supportive piece of knowledge. 

When we do a few of the locks (especially as a lead into throws) I often run into the problem of getting someone moving if they have a solid stance.  Struggling to take someone towards you doesn’t work out when you get all rigid.  So Beard taught me a little trick of “dropping the hips.”  I took this to mean that I needed to bend my knees quickly and fractionally and it worked like a charm.  The balance was disturbed at a low level and I was able to move him. 

I wish I had more of me to have the time to learn Judo.  Sure looks fun.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Back on Track

The remnants of my slight back strain are fading away, but they always make me wonder about the extent of the original injury.

I can almost track the healing process after the lockup.  Even after I’ve got back to full mobility I feel that deep muscle ache down through my glutes and into my hamstrings. 

As usual when one part hurts I end up thinking about everything else that hurts and start feeling really old.  Add being tired from work and not enough sleep and I get maudlin.  Thankfully in the middle taking some hard floor falls I realized that I didn’t hurt at all and felt pretty good.  Thanks adrenaline and corticosteroids!
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We got a new gal last night and since I’m the sempai it was quality time with the new person.  I know I wasn’t the most physically gifted new-comer, but I was really impressed with the lack of ability she brought.  Even warm-ups were a start and stop adventure of hand-holding and explanations. 

Punching was a new experience with her as well, but by the end of the first hour the fist was good and the chamber was held most of the time.  I’ve definitely been spoiled by the other student rapid learning curve. 
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I had a nice surprise when I got home – a friend dropped off a bottle of Tequila (gooood) so I was able to have a snort before bedtime.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Whitewash

I took the week off last week due to a slightly tweaked back and felt relatively good to go last night.  Of course being up and around is way better than sitting for long periods so I drug myself to class and led the warm ups.  Once class got started I had a tremendous run of negative thinking to tend with. 

My neighborhood could be considered borderline anywhere South of the 58th parallel, but in my rural town you could say that it’s relatively nice.  My wife spends a lot of energy working on our gardens and our neighbors spend a lot of time on the upkeep of their homes.  So the ‘hood looks fairly nice and things like old spa tubs, abandoned cars and heavy machinery in front lawns tend to get overlooked. 

Our neighborhood is also very nice because people have a lot of friendly pets, but tend to let them off leash to wander freely. That hasn’t turned out to be a problem before, but my wife pulled me aside after I got home from work and gave me the bad news about our neighbors cat.  The new dog in the neighborhood killed the cat that I was quite fond of. 

Every since my wife and I had to put our older cat down during the winter I’ve become a clingy, emotional wreck around any animal, but cats in particular.  The neighbor’s cat was an especially gregarious male that like to hang out with us.

So, short story long – I wasn’t really in the mood for beatings and had an impressive mental shopping list of things I didn’t like about class running through my mind.  “Are we going to be doing the same things again…” and so on. 

Needless to say that didn’t last very long when Tall new guy elbowed me in the ear during drills.  We both got to laughing something fierce and the bitter bug that had been up my ass died quickly.  Of course after a week I wasn’t at my best and ended up kicking TNG in the mouth with the ball of my foot.  That’s what I get for trying to judge distance with a mirror instead of watching the target.  Sorry New Guy!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Relax

Teacher let us know on Tuesday that he wanted to work on meditation last night.  This usually means that he wants to do energy work as well or what I call “feats of strength.” 

After a short set of blocking drills we refocused using a circular block that really requires relaxed shoulders and arms.  Teacher will occasionally take a foray out of our hard-style comfort zone and attempt to get us to relax portions of our physique that should be relaxed no matter what.  I mean that a cross-block in TSD (Tang Soo Do) is also a strike to a certain degree and requires muscle tensions in all sorts of directions.  So not only are you blocking, but you are also striking.  As I’ve mentioned before dynamic tension in the move is a shockingly difficult concept to get my head around – something best felt rather than intellectually encapsulated. 

What Teacher is trying to show us is that certain things need to be strong and other things need to be relaxed.  My ignorance of the physiology involved makes me guess that what makes us fast is a certain set of muscles and not all of them.  Brighter minds probably know.

To amplify on this Teacher had me block punches very close at real speed.  A majority of these made it through to varying degrees.  He had me practice a quick relaxation and unfocus from the situation then he punched again. 

I should mention here that my mind was completely occupied with trying to ignore all the external stimuli and figuring that I wasn’t going to block his shot for all the tea in China. 

While my mind was struggling to free itself from the monkey-madness Teacher took the shot and before I could even think I had already blocked the shot.  Stunned, I just gaped for a minute.  Teacher punches very fast and I performed a beautiful block with little or no stress.  He saw my obvious disbelief and had me relax again for another shot.  As my mind inevitably got itself into a dither he did another and I blocked just as nicely!

Tall new guy joined me in disbelief.  There was a lot of mouth breathing. 

We worked on unbreakable arm for awhile.  Only two folks in the class could get there last night.  After all these years I still fight believing it even though I see it in front of my eyes.  Doubting Tater – the pragmatic martial artist who can’t grow for that very reason. 

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Steamrolla

Beard’s been out for several weeks so his arrival filled out the ranks quite a bit (we had nine!).   Any more makes the space a little close.  For instance during the second hour we practiced kata/hyung and we had to be very careful or we’d end up clipping each others heels. 

Our technique for the evening was a cross block that leads to a behind the elbow grab.  This is integrated with a step forward with a hooking step.  The uki gets his/her shoulder bunched up, balance disrupted, and then falls. 

I started out with Tall new guy and found out that whatever flourish he uses ends up knocking me on my butt.  He doesn’t know what he’s doing so it yet so we were just appreciating the fact that he was effective without too much fuss.  We then rotated and my new partner was the new gal, Swimmer.  She’s about my wife’s height (a foot shorter) so automatically has an advantage in certain spots.  This was definitely one of them.  Once she had the basic dynamic we tried our first variation (I punch with over my lead foot) to which she added a slight bounce with with her hooking foot.  The result was my feet flying and since she had twisted my shoulders I had to take the fall from fairly high on the hard floor.  I landed beautifully.  Yeah experience!

When it was my turn it took me a few times to work out distance and get chagrined about the closeness that is required to execute the move properly (It’s very intimate to have my leg firmly planted between a lady’s legs – especially when they aren’t my wife).  The third time I did everything correctly and she went flying – except she wasn’t supposed to and ended up crashing to the floor.  She was writhing in pain from a really bad fall and I thought she had broken her wrist!  Thankfully she was okay and explained to me that she tried to stop the fall poorly and the shock went up her arm and slammed her shoulder into her jaw.  Bad Sempai!

I was examining my feelings after the fact and was surprised that I didn’t feel bad over the possibility that I caused another person possible serious injury, but the horror to know that I still have problems with controlling my power.

___

On a lighter note – my hunting trip was grueling and my legs are very tired.  No bambi’s were harmed.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Dynamic Muscle Tension Choke

I got the new guy in a straight-armed wrist lock, jumped up, clamped my legs around his neck, fell to the floor in an arm bar before he even knew what happened. 

That didn’t happen at all because I would have hurt my back and probably kicked him in the head instead.  Never the less, after choking one another for 20 minutes it had felt like I’d done the flying arm bar. 

Teacher was going over all the basics to prep Robot, and the Wonder Twins for the test in the 2nd hour, but got a bit burned out and decided to teacher a blood choke for the last half of the 1st hour.  When done correctly it goes smoothly and the main vein on one side of your neck gets pinched you go nighty-night. 

What I learned – Some people have a big vein on the neck and it’s easy to choke them (me).  Some people must have their vein buried deep in the or their body takes up the slack by pumping hard on the other side (new girl).  So when you can’t knock them out you crush them and that doesn’t work at all.  So the lesson is you better have something else up your sleeve.

Needless to say learning this technique means that everybody has a sore neck and has been choked out a multitude of times.  It left me wondering how much brain damage we were causing.

---

Teacher keeps harping on the judicious use of muscle to stabilize positions. For instance – in preparation for a side kick our chamber is standing on foot, that knee bent, the kicking leg thigh is almost parallel to the ground.  What he sees is that many of use are not using a bit of muscle to help us stabilize here.  Once he tells folks their balance in this position improves dramatically.

This got me thinking about how much other pieces of the pie are tied together with a bit of dynamic tension.  Normally, the demonstration about being relaxed and kicking (for instance) is contrasted by having the student squeezing the muscles through the kick to demonstrate how it impedes the process.  While a fully relaxed exertion moves very quick.  It’s only at the end point in which tighten to give the big boom. 

I don’t know how to adequately describe this phenomenon, but I know it’s fundamental to a good kick, but hard to teach. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Click, Click, Boom

I may have mentioned that I live in a very remote section of the country in the past.  Part of that means that I get to do things that most folks don’t have easy access to do.  One of these is to go hunting.  Let me just say that I have never really hunted.  As a suburbanite raised gringo the closet I ever came to seeing wild life was at a zoo or cows along the side of the road.  It certainly means that I’ve never seen the taking of an animals life up close and personal.  That’s all about to change.

In an attempt to eat healthier and save some money my wife and I have been trying to stick to fish caught during the summer and occasionally eating of venison or buffalo for a red meat fix. 

Where we live fish is given almost all the time as way to share the bounty and spread the luck, but venison is a prized possession because of the effort to get to it and get it back. 

Short story long – my friend invited me on a hunt.  The season starts on Sunday and I’ve got to hike into the mountains and bring something out.  Unless the weather is bad.  I guess deer hide very efficiently in bad weather.

This leads up to how I’ve been changing my work out routine as of late.  Normally, I try to work out three times a week and go to beatings twice.  The irony is that with that schedule I would presume that I would be reasonably fit for a hike in the mountains, but the truth is that I’m huffing and puffing within the first few minutes uphill. 

Too be a good hunting partner I’ve been hiking instead of going to the gym.  My wife and I head up the mountain behind town every other day for a couple of hours in hopes that I’m not an entire embarrassment to our friend.  

This radical change in exercise pattern has been nice for a bit of weight loss, but my legs are completely shot.  This makes beatings nearly hilarious.  Last night Teacher had us focus on kicking in close range.  In order for us to kick at any height the knee must be very high.  After a few minutes my tell-tale wheezing and sweating had already made an appearance, but I noticed that I was able to do the kicks whereas in the past that might not have occurred.  Also, my level of soreness this morning is the same as any other day so maybe I’m making some progress after all.  

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Video Outtakes

Teacher pulled me aside and said that he was going to be taking video of the students doing their kata/hyungs.  He remembered years ago where he and I had done some elementary attempts and it turned out to be a great teaching tool. 

The first hour was an ironic treat.  He pulled me and the new tall guy up front and we worked on “how to attack a tall guy.”  Something I’m all too comfortable with.  Not that I know what to do with it most of the time, but to give everyone ideas was a little stressful.  One of the shortest guys in class is a nightmare to spar with because he simply climbs inside and beats me to pieces. 

Thankfully, after a frustrating time of getting pummeled he pulled me and the other guy aside to give some pointers about what to do.  These turned out to be hilarious because it took advantage of head control.  So if my less that average heighted opponent got too close I could steer or turn his head.  That lasted about one round with each of the students.  They immediately started slapping that hand away.  Attack, riposted, repeat.  

The video review portion showed pretty much what we all expected – bad shoulder position, standing too high, etc.  Plenty to work on in the coming weeks.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Wrist Locks

On almost every paper I’ve read there is a main title and then a subtitle that is a play on words.  I think mine would be "and other forms of self abuse via teaching.”  I’m pretty sure that any psych professor would be pleased to see that in the pile of their evening reading. 

Teacher is trying to get us to use more combinations and to this end he’ll have us do a sort of Simon Says routine.  He’ll do a staggeringly complex combination of blocks and strikes and count and we are supposed to follow along.  Hilarity ensues.  We’ve found out that you have to move slow or suffer that dumb look when you know you’ve done it wrong. 

During break I asked about a throw I’m not very good at and that got Teacher’s juices flowing for the 2nd hour.  So we brought the mats and learned how to do that throw. 

Imagine someone grabbing your left shoulder from behind with their left hand (improbable, but it’s easier to describe this way).  You reach across with your right and clamp down on their hand, your thumb over their web.  You step back and pull the hand down at a 45 degree angle in front of you.  To avoid a painful shoulder the bad guy needs to roll out in front of you.  Simple, elegant and frustrating as hell to do right.  

After that it was basic wrist locks from every conceivable angle.  I was given the new guy, Shootah, again and I took him through everything I could recall until the end of the class.  Ouch. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Too many laughs?

What is becoming a predictable joke in my repertoire happened yet again last night but with a bit more substance. 

I love telling people that I get my ass kicked by children, adolescents and whatever comes across as a juxtaposition on my size compared to theirs. 

It’s not a great advertisement for our school based on the fact that I’ve been crippled by children more than a few times.  The worst was when I was in a perfect chamber for a side kick and a kid kicked underneath and collapsed my ankle.  Result – rehab for months.  Thankfully nothing was torn completely through.

So last night one of the new girls, Swimmer, did a one-two on my face.  One chop in the jaw that snapped my head around and the second in the lips because my head was turned.  Double ouch.  End result – two fat, bloody lips.  I got to smile at the class with my carmine stained teeth whilst I knuckled away a manly tear. 

At the end of class I noticed that we’d spent most of the class laughing hysterically about little things.  Many of us appear to be tickled by the smallest things and Teacher isn’t stopping it so it goes on unabated.  A lot of fun, but I’m worried that we might be less effective in our learning.  It’s not often that folks launch into combat while they are laughing their heads off.  What do I know?  Maybe it happens all the time.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Joints-a-poppin’

Yet another night of being the prime demonstration fall guy.

Not too many people in class lately (during the summer we loose a lot of folks to work and travel) so it was nice to see four folks run in just as we finished the bow in.  Dorks.

Teacher seems to be ratcheting up the action more since the base level of our group is pretty high.  As a result, the new guy is struggling to keep up, but he’s game for all it and loves every bit of it.  In keeping with the theme, the post warm up punches, blocks, and strikes were twice as much and twice as long.

The practical part of class was with the mats, which I eyed with some trepidation.  After taking a thrown I get worried about the constant standing up.  Coming out of seiza isn’t too bad because I use my right leg first, but if we do throws that require me to bend or lean with the left leg first it usually starts squealing pretty bad.  No problems emerged as we started flying through the air.

Continuing with Tuesday’s theme of what do do with the person who tries to drag you to the ground we started with steering the shoulders, backing away, and shoving a person down all beautifully performed by me.  Alas, this meant that I had the wind knocked out of me a couple of times and generally had to take a beating to get the best views for the rest of the class.

By the end of class me and the new guy were wheezing horribly because ups and downs, but mostly due to the take down in which the shoulder or elbow are pressed down on the mat while the wrist is controlled caused the most anguish. 

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Tight and flight

As we finished our bowing out one of the Wonder Twins said, "this was the best class ever."

During the class I had a few fleeting insights that I'm wracking my head over. They seemed really important, but nothing is surfacing as I type.

For some reason the class is clicking as a phenomenal level. Tonight it was only guys and everyone was an adult.

I'm trying to take my job as junior instructor seriously with the new guy and he appears to be totally open to everything I'm saying. Teacher often pairs him with me, because I enjoy as well. During the break I was talking to him about the word Randori and was pointing out the differences between schools. For whatever reason the jujitsu schools came up (because we have no idea what they do) and I mentioned that we rarely "rolled." I guess Teacher over heard me because we went right into how to deal with someone who tries to take you down.

Unfortunately/hilariously I was the demo man. Teacher spared no expense in using full effort into driving me into the mat, throwing across the room and in one demo kicking me in the chest at 90% force. I let out the worst strangle noise as my chest collapsed and my shoulders tried to wrap around to the front. Either the class thinks I am the hardest man they have ever met or the dumbest; perhaps both.

We went directly to the next stage which was "if he's got you in this position" scenarios and how to deal it and finally ended with "if he's got you in full mount what do you do?" During the former I was working with Beard on how to get a good hip throw into the mix and he borrowed to illustrate a point. I basically had him in a side head lock and he picked me up and for whatever reason I was particularly light this evening and shot into the air. I came down pretty well considering the height, but he was really being nice and laid me straight out instead of a throw. More minds were blown. No one had ever seen a throw that high given or taken.

The later was having another fellow sit on you. It's such an intimate position especially when they are punching you in the face. I was watching a video at Patrick Parker's and the fellow was saying that martial arts are good for you because the physical contact is fantastic because you touch all the acupuncture points. I don't think he meant that another dude was going to sit on you with his privates and then punch you though.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Unbendable

This was getting ridiculous.  I was literally using all my muscle at this point.  My left hand was in his elbow and my right was under his wrist.  The other students were starting to titter as my face become congested with blood and the veins in my neck bulged with the effort.

I’m often picked for demos because of my height or size in class.  It shows that a smaller man can easily manage a man 50 to 60 pounds heavier than him or 5 to 6 inches taller.  In this case Teacher picked me for the muscles.  In demonstrating unbendable arms he picked me because I was going to pop out of my gi trying to fold him up. 

Unbendable arms are something I never request to work on.  I’m not even sure I can sum it up it quickly either.  Teacher puts it under the heading of “energy work.”  He says we are to visualize a ball of energy that swells in us and then is channeled by leaving us via our arms.  The analogy is our arms are fire hoses.  They are without structure until water is moving through them and then they are like steel. 

I keep waiting for a trick to emerge so I can understand this phenomena, but there is no trace of muscle use that I can see or feel.  When I try to do it I immediately start using muscle and it fails. What made is worse last night is that a majority of the class could do it.  As a senior student/semi-teacher I totally thought I had egg on my face. 

At least my knee didn’t hurt during the class.  That and during one of our exercises I farted loudly when one of the twins got a good punch in on my gut.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

!@%*ing Knee

A couple of years ago I promised that I’d stop complaining about physical pains or injuries in class knowing that there is a fine line between whining and letting Teacher know that I had an impediment.  I made that pledge to myself, because when I saw others do it I thought it was incredibly unflattering to the student and the result was mixed.  Most folks can’t remember to hold back unless it’s an obvious injury.

In interest of full disclosure I have a chronic irritation in my right shoulder which is perpetuated by our constant shoulder locks.  My L5 is a bit dicey and can lead to spasms if I don’t stretch regularly and the other massive problem I’ve got is my left knee.  Apparently the inside surface (cartilage) of the kneecap gets easily inflamed.  That takes endless patience to rehab and beatings doesn’t help at all.  Last time I had to take about two months off from class and that was painful in itself.

That being said following vacation I savaged my knee playing on the neighbors trampoline.  This means no running until the inflammation cools off.  Of course we go to class and bulk of the first hour is cat stance.  In the beginning I didn’t feel a thing because we were warmed up, but as time progressed the pain just kept growing.  At the same time I noticed something that gave me a little pleasure – all the bicycle work that I have to do as part of the rehab process is paying off.  I could sit in a fairly low cat stance without problem – a first for me until the knee starting playing up.  Ugh. 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Shaky, shaky

After three weeks off I presumed that moving and kicking and such might be rather painful.  The over indulgence at pretty much every meal made the multitude of plane flights seem like mobile veal pens for humans.  I’d put on 8 pounds in that brief amount of time.  All my pants are tight and I’m always looking for an excuse to put on sweatpants. 

My friends call and invite me over to dinner.  My immediate response, “is this a casual affair?” and then, “how casual?”

Since I’ve got back I knocked of two of those pounds, but I’ll feel better once I’m back into beatings and the gym regularly.  The addition to the blubber is that prolonged inactivity sets me up for knee problems.  As soon as I try anything after a couple of weeks of sitting around my left knee acts up.   So when I got back the first thing I did was inflame it.  So running is out for a while and I have to sit on the exercise bike with no resistance to rehab the knee.  Not exactly a great way to burn calories. 

Class was nice though.  I thought I could get away with a high stance to baby the knee, but the higher the stance the more I tend to straightened the leg.  Kicks instantly got off balance.  Teacher had a great time pointing that out.   So I tried lower stances and didn’t have any problems.  When everything is warm it’s good to go. 

Teacher has been putting me with all the new students for some time.  I went to thank him because not only has it been fun, but really helpful in correcting my own form and so forth.  He told me that was exactly the reason he did it. 

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Whiplash Hustler

Last night we took a lot of falls.  I’d forgotten that we had new people that had no idea how to slap so I’d grit my teeth when they’d reach out to catch themselves when I’d throw them.  So we’d stop and I’d do some basic education about landing, slapping, foot and hand placement.  The only problem was that to get them used to the timing I’d hold them longer in order to set them down.  I’m going to say that this is a bad idea through and through.  My lower back is absolutely thrashed.  Thankfully, no spasms, but definitely tired and sore. 

I did a lot of Uke time to get the new folks into the groove of the throws, but as a result I got sloppy with my slaps and ended falling wrong more often than not.  When I fall wrong it’s really wrong.  I don’t land in one piece, my head isn’t tucked, etc.  One of the new guys threw me beautifully and when I hit my lower back beat all of the rest of my by a beat.  The last thing to hit the mat was the back of my head.  Whiplash!

I figured when I woke up this morning that I’d be miserable, but thankfully 800mg of vitamin I eased my woes.  My back is sore and so is my neck, but not as bad as it could have been.  My primary worry being that I’m going on vacation tomorrow and sitting in a plane seat for multiple hours does nothing for me or my back.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Schooled

I was having one of those Karate Kid moments where Pat Morita was using some mundane task as a base for a movement. I wasn't that awesome, but I was working with a new student, Nurse, and found that if I broke blocking exercises up and did repeating patterns she immediately got the rhythm and did a nice job. I'm awesome.

The 2nd half of class was mostly a tripping throw. Going calf to calf with someone and rotating their shoulders until they fall. I'm the king of falling. I can't stay up when my shoulders are twisted so I'm the best Uke anyone can get. I was partnered with Trucker for the first part of class so my arms bruises from last week had a nice flair up while we did exercises.

Trucker has decided to make more of class and start studying on the outside. Our class is complicated in that we teach in Japanese, but it's a Korean art. We forget to tell people about this and they assume it's just Karate. Anyway, Trucker called me and I had to go through the whole history of our school and help him with some internet searches. The frustrating part of TSD is that we are not affiliated with a school down South or anywhere else. So our style is a blend of Karate and TSD with a bit of Aikido mixed in. This makes learning material very tough to focus on. TSD has a wide variety of style if you go by the internet. I've found two sources to be most reflective of how we do things, but neither is very similar. Master Kil and Master Pak are my favorites.

Our school started as an informal club with no fixed curriculum. Teacher Slim would just teach whatever he could remember off his head. He has four Black belts, but his only 2nd degree is in TSD. When the old students moved on and the other Teacher moved away my Teacher stepped up, but everyone knew Japanese and not Korean. So when Teacher got his black from Slim we just stuck with what everybody knew. I can say that I wish we had a static curriculum from one of the books, but I've been there long enough to see the benefits of how Teacher runs class. It may seem eclectic, but we all progress in a circular fashion.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kick, Block, Twitch

Our small town has a festival for Memorial Day and it gets pretty geared up for a special function.  Unfortunately, it means that parking downtown is totally unavailable during the four days that it’s going on.  So Teacher has been cancelling class for several years around that weekend.  On top of that our weather has finally turned nice and that means that class was doubly empty of bodies last night.  

After warm-ups we went right to blocking, then blocking kicks.  Teacher let us beat our selves into a pulp for a half hour or so.  I’m not sure what thing I’ve come to dislike over the years, but blocking a kick hard-style has to be one of the big ones.  I got partnered with Trucker and the very first block felt like it snapped my ulna (or radius).  We went over every kick for that half hour and never have I looked forward to a break more.   I’d gotten to the point where I was blocking minutely lower or higher just to avoid the golf balls that were rapidly growing on my forearms. 

As we found out later, Teacher was purposely making us dread that nastiness to get us ready for the next part of class.

Twitching – or the art of knowing what’s coming.

Teacher had us pair off and work on “guess the kick.”  Basically the two folks stand face to face and one of them initiates a kick and the other has to guess what it’s going to be based on shoulders, hips, etc.  After a bit we were able to pick everything up pretty well.  This meant we could take a bit longer to execute a block, have more planning for follow up. 

We then paired up for some practice.  Me and Trucker got into position with our new skills and went after it.  Surprisingly we were able to block kick initiation, move in faster, and generally be more assertive into an attack than before.  A great lesson.

Blessed Synchrony – Trucker and I had a moment of blessed synchrony.  It was that moment in sparring that every shot was blocked and everything was lined up perfectly.  I don’t even think he knew he was doing it, but he was stoked when we stopped.  A beautiful moment. 

Feeling awesome – I’m normally shy about stupid stuff like showing off my body.  The last time I took pictures of myself after class I felt great, but saw an icky fat man in the mirror.  Last night was a nice surprise – I actually look like I’m in shape for once.  And I normally smile, but I was concentrating on getting a shot in focus.  This was the only one.

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Full Iron Circle

When I started at the Shudokan school five years ago, MaryAnn Sensei was working on her San Dan and as part of that she would teach me the k...