Thursday, February 18, 2010

Teaching the knife.

“How do you deal with a knife attack?” Teacher asked the class.  He then broke us up into groups and directed me to three of the up and coming guys, Robot and the Wonder Twins. 

I inwardly gulped because this is definitely not one of my strong points.  I keep running the moves realistically in my head and became very anxious about confronting a knife-wielder.   This comes from practical practice.  I usually get poked in the belly or sliced somewhere sensitive when we practice with our wood knives.  Tuesday was no exception for a few of our students.  Pin point bruises and a scalp laceration were the definite highlights. 

So there I am trying to run through all the techniques and the guys I’m with are pointing out everything wrong with what I’m doing.  Thankfully Teacher came up and cleared up some basic things for me.  I was teaching them out right wrist captures – which I think we can all agree on is pretty close to impossible in most instances.  Teacher showed us the bigger block on the forearm that lead to a capture a second later.  Obviously something that needs pictures to explain, but as soon as we did it everybody in my group went, “ahhhh.”  The universal sign of understanding concept and action all at once. 

Even though my teaching was sub par I did feel a moment of pride in being able to remember 90% of the basic techniques –even Teacher did a small ahhh over things he’d forgotten. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Robots and Movies

Teacher leans over to me at half time and whispers, “I’m going to test the Wonder Twins tonight, but first we’re going to do some sparring to tire them out.”  While they get put through their paces Teacher leans over to me and whispers again, “I’m going to put you with Robot.  Just take it easy because he’s never done this kind of thing before.” 

The class theme before sparring was infighting and developing some comfort with elbows and targets up close. 

Robot and I bow to each other and he immediately gets inside my arms and legs and begins to thrash me.  Since we were in hugging distance he kept throwing knees into my thighs – unfortunately for me, they were accurate and effective.  I tried to step into him to throw him off his pace and his knee painfully collided with mine. 

The reason I call him Robot is that he had his knee replaced with a titanium one about 15 years ago due to cancer. 

What this meant to me is that his knee strikes are incredibly effective because he doesn’t have pain there whereas the next day I have a bruise on the knee cap.  Ouch.

Not to be outdone I decided to back out and use my kicks.  I tried a roundhouse and he caught it (beginners mistake) so I twisted my hips over farther and gently slapped him on the face with the top of my foot.  Awesome!  I got a lot of laughs and some respect with that one. 
While basking in the glow of a nice sparring session I noticed that the students were really doing a great job at blocking and kicking.  Much to my chagrin I realized considering their time in and level that they were much better than I was. 

I go through this occasionally – a moment where I see new folks performing so much better than I ever could and realize that I’m not gifted athletically; that everything I ever learned was hard won and never a natural feeling. 

I saw this boxing movie a long time ago which may have starred Wesley Snipes, where a young white guy and young black guy apprentice to a Russian drunk guy.  We find out that the Russian was an incredibly gifted boxer that had dreams, but they played out when he defected to the states.  So he teaches the guys – living his dreams though them.  Anyway Wesley is incredibly gifted and the white guy brings nothing to the table, but always has the will to do better.  They both end up getting close to the Olympics and Wesley gets cut in a street fight.  So white boy gets on the team (because we knew he wouldn’t make it originally) and, of course, wins the gold. 

I can’t help drawing comparisons to myself.  Not that I’m going to the Olympics or anything, but I know I’m not gifted in any sense – I just happen to be the guy that goes to class forever.  That’s not even saying much either.  I’m the guy that goes to class forever because I have an unencumbered life. 

I don’t mean to have a pity party, because I’m proud of the things I have achieved, but to see people that will easily surpass my dreams of physical achievement sometimes stings.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I normally like to start my posts with a humorous anecdote about some aspect of class, but I’m so sleepy I don’t have it in me.  I’m on day four of heavily interrupted sleep.  Long story short – life with geriatric, stroke-addled cats is brutal.

I haven’t been posting much lately because I either keep forgetting what we did the night before or I can’t think of pithy things to write about.  However, last night had a brief change in the regular goings on.  One of the Wonder Twins asked about jumping kicks which progressed from the crescent kicks we were practicing to a whole room of uncoordinated jumping, twisting and groaning. 

I usually leave this kind of analysis to Colin or Mark, but trying to sort out the body dynamics for this kick was dizzying. The kick is a jumping outside crescent, by that I mean that the right foot (in this case) comes in from the right and the striking surface is the bottom/arch of the foot.  With the jump added we pump the left knee into the air to launch before we perform the kick.  We could all do that via a huge twist in the torso (leaving my back incredibly sore this morning).  Teacher added a level of complexity to this – coming down from the landing with spinning back fist.  To do this the left leg had to not only pump into the air but also in the direction you needed you body to move (in this case up and to the left).  This was to mitigate the need to twist the torso in mid air.  We were horrible.  It was the proverbial bunch of monkeys humping a football.  Something to practice obviously since we never practice jumping kicks, even though they are part of the TSD curriculum.  Teacher is very uncomfortable teaching the techniques because they leave the floor and source of power. 

The rest of the night was practicing wrist-twist, four corners throw and various locks and basic throws.  Lots of fun now that I can teach a bit better and have the Wonder Twins to utilize as ukes. 

At the end of class we have one student stand while the rest us get in line and present as the uke. The student practices what they learned that evening.  I saw the frustration in everyone’s faces and even I would lock up when folks would offer a left hand. 

Teacher had everyone sit down and had me demonstrate Neihanshi Cho Dan before bow out.  Not sure why, but it was a nice treat to show everyone what I was working on.

Bassai in the park

Holy Cow!  So much time has passed since I've sat down and collected my thoughts for a quick update about my martial practice.  March wa...