Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tears Of Innocence

My wife and I don't have any children.  It was a combination of choice and circumstance and we're pretty okay with it.  She was a teacher for twenty plus years and acts as a Doula on occasion so she has enjoyed young people around her over the years.  As I've mentioned in past posts, I'm not much of a child person.  As such, my old teacher made sure that I had to teach kids classes for a stretch.  I'm not sure if that was a practical joke on his part or just helping with the whole teaching process.  Maybe both.

In my current school the classes can be incredibly small, so Reed Sensei can cycle through each student and give them individual attention.  However, the class can get just big enough that we should either all be doing the same thing to make it manageable or break into groups with separate teachers.  In the second scenario, available black belts will act as the extra teachers.  

We have a new young fellow (maybe six) named Everett.  He is enthusiastic, but not saddled with hyperactivity like so many others that have passed through.  Reed had me work with him on C-steps, downward blocks and punches.  He did pretty well with that so Reed had him work on the very first kata, which is just downward block and punch.  I was excused to work on my kata, but kept a vague eye on his interaction with Reed.  

Reed exudes some kind of vibe that makes people pay attention and it works with all ages.  It's like earnestness combined with a laser focus,  but it doesn't feel so intense that it's weird, but it helps you/me pay attention.  Anyway, he was working with Everett and then moved on.  The instruction was just to do the beginning of the first kata and repeat that over and over.  

After I got through most of my long kata I noticed that Everett was pretty much in the same place, but I heard some tears gearing up.  The two girls we have in class looked a little disoriented; unsure of what to do.  I finally went over and had a bit a chat.  

The weird part of this interchange was that I would normally hate this kind of thing, but I was drawn to figure out what was causing the problem.  After a few minutes I found out that he was upset because he forgot what he was supposed to do.  After I got him somewhat calm I pointed out that we all forgot, but that's why we practice.  So I worked with him until he relaxed.  

At the end of his class his Dad says, "well, I was going to buy a gi, but I guess we'll see if he wants to come back next time."  Well said Dad.  

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After class was short for me.  I had a dinner with the neighbors so I could only get in about 30  minutes.  I worked mostly with Daniel Sensei and things went fairly well.  I got to work with Reed for about five minutes; specifically on removing what he calls "quarter movements".  These are the pieces where hands or hips move not in relation to what's going on.  I've had a problem with this in the kata, but hadn't put that in context with the application.  More to focus on!

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Mano A Mano

In keeping with my Spanish theme from my last post I thought I'd try start with a bang.  A literal bang.  

Regular class was taken up with Celebration, the seasonal testing for under black belt grading.  For once I was able to concentrate on what was going on because I knew the kata and techniques well enough.  I just had to judge two people in the middle of their brown belts and there were doing all the same techniques, so I was able to compare and contrast.

Just as we were leaving to go to afterclass Reed Sensei said that Daniel wanted to practice sparring because he was leaving to a tournament soon.  The normal spike of adrenaline I normally experience wasn't really happening.  I guess I was tired.  

When I got to the garage, where after class takes place, I was the only person there for about ten minutes.  I stretched out and tried to go over some common attacks and counters that I thought might help me out with Reed.  I've never sparred with Daniel so he was an unknown.  Reed likes to blast in super fast when you show an opening so dealing with that is miserable.  I'm just not anywhere near his speed.

Once I got a little practice out of the way (on my application) we went to sparring. Daniel is a big thinker and not overly aggressive, preferring to be a responsive player.  So I often felt like I was pushing him into a corner, but as I got close he'd strike.  Before we worked out that dynamic we both exploded at the start with right punches and, bang!, both our fists contacted.  I actually had to stop for a minute from the pain - fearing that he broke one or more of my knuckles.  My hand functioned fine, but by the end of the night I had already developed a bruise.  My concern was a boxer's fracture; where the two knuckles over the ring and pinkie fingers are crushed.  Lucky me, this morning doesn't appear to be damaged.  

However, through the course of the evening, I had all kinds of impacts, but didn't really notice them due to sweet, sweet adrenaline.  When I got out of the shower last night I noticed my middle toe was black and bleeding out of the nail.  So I'm not sure it it's broken or just smashed to pieces.  I'm walking very slowly and taking ibuprofen. Definitely not optimal.  Doing kata this morning was terrible and that was only made worst by a terrible night sleep.  Hopefully, this will be good by Monday and I can go about my business in class with minimal degradation.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Las Rodillas Dolor

I'm not sure what I did last night, but half way through the class my knees started sending out alerts related to their dissatisfaction. I presume that I hit a stance incorrectly or got my knee too far forward at some point which filled the rest of the class with punctuated yelps of pain.  

We had a new student in our regular class who was about 6 or 7 and we had Reed Sensei's daughter come back after a month off so the dynamics of the class shifted quite a bit.  I ended up going over Nifanshi Shodan with Charlotte and Neva for quite some time.  After that I worked on Kyoku Roku Dan three or four times with Daniel Sensei correcting different pieces and parts.  

After class I got to practice my weak side of the application about three or four times with a lot of focus on weak spots.  Since Mark was out sick I worked solely with Daniel which meant I was able to really move fairly quickly.  Thankfully he's incredibly patient with me and was totally tolerant about going over my week sections repetitively. 

My knees are better this morning, but still feel a bit janky.  I'm studying Spanish on the side and thought the direct translation of sore knees was hilarious.  The knees sick or sad (that would have been triste, which is funnier).  

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Getting Up Is Hard To Do

And in the title I'm not referring to getting out of bed, but that comes with it's own challenges after 40.  I'm referring to getting off the floor after a foot sweep ends up putting you down.  

Before 40 and possibly a few years after I don't recall ever thinking about the process of getting up, but as time trundled on I became aware of the fact that doing a sit up was getting harder and harder.  I've completed several rounds of physical therapy for back problems and have always come out pain free, but as a result of the evaluation I had to give up certain exercises and learn new ones.  I honestly thought I was doing great, but the back thing has a certain way of compensating incorrectly and very subtly.  

My L5 has some issues that have been corrected by exercise and stretching.  Before I addressed it I would get the most exquisitely painful back seizures.  I haven't had one of those in over three or four years.  However, the damage has crept up the spine and now an area higher appears immobilized.  I don't experience pain like with the L5, but I occasionally get a twinge that feels like someone put my finger in an electrical socket.  

Ironically, the subtle nature of the infirmity was helped along by my old school.  We were big on seiza (being seated on your knees with feet crossed in the back).  And to stand from seiza you don't use your hands to stand up.  So over the course of several years anytime I was on the ground (working in the yard or what have you) I'd stand from a seiza like position. 

Fast forward to the last couple of years.  Now that I'm in a school that puts me on my back more and more frequently and the getting up position is never from seiza.  I'm literally flat on my back and I'm not supposed to be rolling on my side and pushing myself up.  I have now been taught now to rock myself up, tuck my leg underneath me, go to a one knee kneeling position, and then up into a zenkutsu-dachi.  I can do this but it doesn't look very smooth.  Kind of like a turtle getting back up, but less elegantly.

So I went to my PT and he gave me some very basic exercises to regain flexibility in my lower back.  I can see the progress when I try to bring my leg up to put on socks and things like that, but to do a sit up remains an activity fraught with pain. I should mention that I do everything I can do keep a healthy gut.  I do daily ab work containing crunches, climbers and hanging knee ups.  So I know my stomach is strong but if I can't get past a certain point, like 1/4 of the way up all the muscles in the world can't move me beyond that point.

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This griping came as a result of class last night.  Mark and I are learning each other's side now and it got a bit smoother after we did it about 10 times.  I'm hellaciously sore from the activity, including my right knee whiched is bruised enough to be sensitive this morning just doing some exercises.  Weeee. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Smallest Measure

I suppose it was only a matter of time where I'd get a bit frustrated with Mark.  We are always working together and pretty much always on the same stuff.  We both show up early to class and work on our stuff so we can squeeze in as much practice as we can.  

About half way through class he started forgetting what the next move is.  Finally, I asked if he was having low blood sugar; the change was that rapid.  My guess is that he must have the same problems with me.  I can remember what's next, but attention to detail fails me as time goes on.  I notice that I can't remember my foot placement, but it gets better each week.  Mark can remember all that, but forgets the next move.  I guess we are perfect for each other.  

Progress is being measured by increments.  Reed Sensei went over our Kata and chiseled away at small issues.  I think I had more than six things to work on.  This mornings practice found me me going over piece after piece.  

We can now tear through the bunkai.  Although I find my technique is still in question we don't have to think about what we are doing next.  We are also about to get through our original side of the application without too much hesitation.  When we switch sides we run into a lot of difficulty just getting through the first five steps.  So much more to work on before we even look smooth.

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I found out that the confirmation is a very private closed event.  I thought my wife would be coming along to take video, but no one but the practitioners are allowed in and video is absolutely forbidden.  Wow!


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Minor Milestone

I wasn't able to make it to Monday's class since I had to pick up my wife.  She was returning from a trip up North and it fell dead center in the middle of the classes.  As a good husband I swallow my tongue about my desire to get to class, but honestly I'm always a little glad to miss a class here and there due to wear and tear on the knees.  I just hate missing practice.

This was made painfully clear since it'd been a week since I got to work with Mark and we struggled warming up.  I really hope this was just due to focusing really hard on details, but it felt like Mark was really disoriented.

He said that he had to take multiple falls on the hardwood during Monday's class.  He was so sore that he got yelled at by his wife and doctor (who is a friend).  To get ahead of that we set up pads in case we were going to practice that stuff last night.  Although we didn't I felt better about being proactive.  I have no desire to get dropped over and over again. Reed Sensei is awesome, but he's only forty.  I think he might forget how fragile his two old snowflakes are.  

We did a test celebration last night for the lower belts.  To this end Black belt folks don't participate, but he wanted us to join in to a degree so he had us use components of our kata to emulate portions of the work they were doing.  

We finished up by practicing our katas a few times before time ran out.  After class we worked on application and fine tuning foot work.  Then we switched out so Mark and I could start getting a little farther.  We were able to get to the end, but it wasn't smooth. However it's a bit of a milestone in that we now both know both sides of everything.  The next four months are going to be making it as smooth as possible.  

An example of how rough I am is I get thrown down and need to get back up to stop a punch, but somehow while I was doing that I ended up cutting my achilles meat with my own toenail while getting tangled up.  Ow.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Moment Of Respite

Sensei Reed has the blackbelts in class on a text group so he can let us know if we are going to have afterclass .  99% of the time we have the class.  It's held at Daniel Sensei's parents garage.  As I've mentioned in the past, due to it's lack of insulation it can either be incredibly cold or equally hot during the summer.  

Due to the brutal cold snap we've been having going to afterclass is daunting.  I don't think I have circulation problems, but after an hour my hands and feet hurt.  And then it feels like it takes a day and half to get my body temperature up to normal. However, the second hour of instruction is fantastic because we have a narrow focus on the moves and get a lot accomplished.  

So it was equal parts sadness and glee when afterclass got canceled last night.  To compensate I went to class early.  This means that Mark and I can work out for a good half hour before class starts.  Unfortunately, for both of us our combined memory isn't always helpful trying to remember some things.  

Last night we ran into the same old block with our Oyo.  Unable to sort out a transition from one set to another we looked like to guys acting our age, Hah!  

Class consisted of:
- 3 x Kyoku Roku Dan kata
- 3 x Nifanshi ShoDan Kata
- 3 x 10 bunkai for Kyoku

We didn't quite make it all the way, but had a lot of refinements from Reed Sensei.  The class was far to quick.  Even though I wanted that respite from the conditions of the garage I feel like the clock is ticking constantly.  May is right around the corner.