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. 
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


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


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. 

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...