Friday, December 09, 2011

Fight Night Recap

In an ironic follow up to last weeks post I blocked three whirling attacks, but neglected to keep up the pace for the next spinning backfist that ended up terminating on my brow.  Boooiiinggg. 

Class was relatively small with a new guy that comes from a Jujitsu school.  I’m not sure what his experience is, but he was pretty awesome with all the basics.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone move with their balance as well as him. 

In the second hour Teacher announced that we would spar since it’s been awhile.  This was met with a lot of excitement since we hadn’t done any since I was teaching the class in September.  Time flies and Teacher was most likely focusing on bringing the new students up to snuff. 

I got three fights which was pretty awesome.  My first was with the gal from the TKD background.  She was a bit intimidated due to the lack of pads and the requirement to check kicks and punches.  After we danced for a bit I started to get close and use my hands a lot which was not to her liking.  In an amusing turn she said, “get away from me!” and shoved me away followed by a brutal kick.  Hehe. 

The second fight was with Dave.  You never know what you’re going to get and this was no different.  He moved right through me which I was somewhat expecting, but he instantly got grabby and wanted to throw, but it was all sort of hasty and poorly executed.  Not to say that didn’t hurt when he contacted at a million miles an hour, but it’s safe to say that all I did was remain on the defense.  In our first exchange I got two knees to the groin and while I tried to back away he would attack further!  What a machine!  During one of those exchanges he got the spinning back fist in.  Ouch. 

The third fight was with our new guy.  I’ve never fought a Jiujitsu trained person and it was interesting to say the least.  I couldn’t close with him at all. And when we did it was on his dime.  I was able to stop his first takedown, but was never able to land a thing on him the whole time we ran around the room.  In the end he waited till I relaxed and took a leg into a throw.  Beautiful throw.  I hope he can teach us some of that stuff.   So fun.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Place In Between

The struggle to push through the thin meniscus that separates the differences in consciousness is a mysterious purgatory in which I don’t have a lot of sensory input, but nor do I care about that loss either. 

During the push to wake myself up in the morning I may be at all sorts of levels of awareness, but not necessarily awake.    This state of apparent (or false) consciousness  is the closest thing I can equate to where I’m located when I receive a blow to front or back of my head. 

I would say, in a totally unscientific way, that it must be like a computer system coming on line.  Not every system is on at the same time – multiple services come on line in a consecutive fashion, often dictated by importance or the role of the system in it’s larger environment.  By extension the body possibly brings up functions in a similar fashion.  In my case vision and hearing come up last. 

I’m drawing these similarities because I notice that seasoned fighters (at least in MMA matches) appeared to have that knock on the head and still function.  It’s led me to spend some time thinking about the few minutes I’ve spent in that mode.   It must be that these fighters are so well trained that they continue to function without sight or sound.  At a preliminary glance that actually seems to be the case. 

Unfortunately for me, my training doesn’t embrace this at all (probably best considering it might come with a concussion) so my immediate response is to stand dumbly as my hands slowly lower.  I can’t help but wonder why I don’t fall down.  Is it innate balance?  I doubt it because I’m one the easiest guys to throw in class.  Or is it that the balance system is still on line when hearing and vision are no longer? 


Class last week was filled with innovative throws and one that took me over the leg of Dave didn’t allow me to get a good slap in ended up ringing my bell a bit and took me back to the place in between. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Little More Action, A Little Less Conversation

Teacher called me a little earlier in the day and asked me to teach a section on side kicks.  He’s been experiencing some tendonitis in his arms and has been struggling with plantar fasciitis off and on over the years.  So my responsibility was fairly low, but I thought about it all day and tried to get my thoughts organized for class. 

When the time came I thought I was rather thorough, but after class I thought I might have gone on a bit much.  I spent a good 20 minutes breaking the moves down and getting everyone to focus on the little things.  Ah well, it was nice entry into the move to encourage thinking about the dynamics.  Storm, the advance TKD kicker, brought up a conversation about putting a snap into a kick.  He can put that last 5% of the move into nice twitch that really snaps beautifully, but trying to get folks to recognize that is really difficult.  I finally told them that it was an advanced technique. 

After class I met with Teacher for some beers and he wants me to take over the class for January while goes out of the country.  So I’ll get more time in being the sensei.  Hopefully I won’t have to do the kids class; of course I didn’t think about it till today.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Choking

I had Teacher around the neck in textbook choke when a pain shot through my arm.  The next thing I noticed was that I was laying face down on the mat. 

We had rare few folks show up last night due to the weather, so we got to work on some very advanced techniques.  Normally this either fun or painful or both.  It was more painful last night than fun, but it went quick. 

Any technique that requires that delicate balance point of action and thought is absolutely difficult to me.  I never realized I was such a strong rote learner as it relates to physical things.  So when we change around things and I start to think most of what I do is plain and fairly unimaginative.  This has a tendency to get me down pretty quick.  When I see the others really exercise their imagination I’m very impressed because I bring nothing to the fight.  I make the ideal Uke because of that quality. 

So the first hour and some we worked on all our techniques from the knees to borrow from some of our Aikido lineage.  This is something I don’t care for at all due to tender knees in the first place and then trying to take folks off their balance from that position means that I have to do the technique perfectly.  That’s the reminder that I’m not as good as I think.  I end up using muscle more than half the times I do the work.  Thankfully I got to work with Dave most of the night so we laughed a lot. 

The last part of class was devoted to escaping holds and chokes.  Teacher likes to utilize a multi-axial approach to escape.  The first point being that the escape needs to start before the lock is fully in place and synched down.  After that he’ll do a draw down on the choking arm with one hand and then with other he’ll work over pain points with the other.  These include the “funny bone”, small digit manipulation, knuckle strike to the back of the hand, and nerve roll on the forearm.  The last one hurts so acutely that  have to spastically try to get a way. 

After a half hour of that I could barely move my arm, my neck was red from gi-burn and fingers barely worked.   When the folks would exit the choke my fingers wouldn’t clear my body and end up getting bent backwards.  Not a fun night in the scope of pain management, but surprisingly educational.  This morning my arm feels heavy and sluggish. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sticks And Stones

I think I’ve used this title before, but it always seems appropriate after blocking kicks for a few hours. 

The essence of these classes being that the best block is not being there or, at the very least, stopping it before it comes to full fruition.   This is all and good, but I’m not Mr. Speedy so my ability to read a kick is really important. 

The ability to read anything is tremendously important of course, but the kick I have really bad problems with is the outside crescent (or the axe kick).  When the kick initiates it totally looks like a front snap kick and then I fall for the lower block and end wearing foot sunglasses. 

Last night we pretty much reviewed all the kicks and all the potential blocks at infinitum, but I had to admit my pleasure in that I was gaining in flexibility and control.  Normally, my back will let me know if I’m pushing it with it tail tell pull across the lumbar, but for whatever reason by the time we got to high, fast kicks my body was fairly ready to go.  However, I’m very sore today and getting fairly stiff as the day goes on.  Unfortunately, I’ve got legs day at the gym tonight.  Ugh.  

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Tater–Crusher Of Children

I’m not of huge fan of kids in general, but I’ve gotten better with more exposure to them in class.  As a secondary instructor I do feel a little pride when they see me in town and say hi or I get told by parents how much I’m mentioned.  Ego massage is such a great binder. 

So last night I’m helping out Teacher with the kids.  While they do upper blocks I’m supposed to walk around doing chops to their heads to make sure they are doing things correctly.  In this case correct would be my downward strike being deflected. 

A few of the kids didn’t have quite enough of an angle so I’d do the strike and they’d end up bopping themselves on the head with their own fists.  I immediately felt guilty about that and wondered if they’d show up again for the next class.  I think I’m probably over-analyzing again. 


In the regular class we barely had anyone show (10 seems small now!) and we focused on spinning kicks.  I don’t recall ever having a whole class working on variations and drills and it was great fun, but old age snuck on me when I wasn’t looking.

Dave, Trucker and me are all roughly 45 by a few months and we all have limitations physically.  Dave has rough knees and some flexibility issues, Trucker crushed a vertebrae and has constant back issues and then there’s me with my back and knees.  Thankfully, my knees have been coming along because I haven’t been running, but my back has been playing around with me. 

The exercise that started all this was the semi crescent block with one leg and then a jumping crescent with the other.  Great fun, but my back would “pull” a lot of the time with one side.  Very uncomfortable!  We switched out to a roundhouse that rotated to a hook-kick.  One out of ten felt dead on, but every poorly executed one sent electricity up my spine. 

After cooling down a bit at the end of class I could barely get my sweat pants on.  Dave said to me, “I wasn’t trying to be 20 again.”  Swine.

Thursday, November 03, 2011


Piss Poor Posting

I've found it extremely hard to sit down and right about class for the last month, but tonight I'm pretty wound up and figured I spend a few minutes typing down some thoughts.

In the past few posts I've been focused on the new folks and how much they mean to our class.  But I should have mentioned that there is this feast of famine dynamic that plays itself out.  Consistency in numbers really helps everyone learn because we all build at relatively the same time.  Each time new folks come we have to start out at the basics again to bring them up to speed.  Since you don't know if they are going to stay you still have to go through the motions.  We all also know that reviewing the basics is really fantastic, but it makes for a boring class.  Teacher is fairly good at not letting that happen so I think we are relatively blessed in this capacity.

So tonight we had a family start.  Three folks obviously very tight and interested in something new.  However the Dad is probably around my age and this looks like it's going to be a challenge for him physically.  None of then looked too bad through most of the class so they might end up staying.  I'm more worried about the new gal, who's a blackbelt in TKD.  If she doesn't integrate she'll take off and that would be sad.  One of the nice things about her is that she is very attractive.  After grappling with Dave (sweaty man hugging) it's a real pleasure to work with her.  Plus she can kick like a mule.  So, of course, I ended up hugging with Dave all night.  Not that it's bad, but change is nice.  The truth of the matter is that we work great together and there is no ego between us.  It helps that we are the same age.

The new gal joined us as we addressed injuries tonight.  I was concerned about my back which had been acting up in the last week - so much so that I took Tuesday night off.  Of course with all the kicking we did tonight it hurts, but not in a bad way.  We'll see tomorrow.

Friday, October 21, 2011

New Blood V.2

I’ve long been a proponent of having new people come to class, but I really love  new folks that come and have a lot of experience.  We live on the outskirts of nowhere, on the edge of the world, but we have a highly transitional population and we occasionally get lucky.  Case in point – last week we had a new young guy who was incredible motivated and appeared very excited to be in class, but never showed up afterwards. 

This week we’ve had a new lady show up and she’s also from a TKD school.  She has her black belt and appears to be enjoying our class, but you can see the confusion in her face at times because of the difference in teaching styles.  I hope she stays because she brings in skill as well as having another lady in class.  Our only other one is Swimmer, but she’s in High School and her schedule keeps her away from class frequently. 

imagesElbow Strike to Face! (I was looking for an image of Confusion?!)


I’m a bit behind in posting because work has become very busy as of late and when I have a moment to myself I forget that I want keep some memory of what’s happened in class. 

From last week -

Dave was worn to the bone.  He got a tip that there was some free firewood and he filled up his trailer and truck and still decided to come to class the same day.  While he yawned his way through class Teacher asked him about testing.  Dave said that he was ready to go, so Teacher asked if he could do the test that night.  He nodded his head wearily (I might be projecting…) and, boom, the test commenced during the 2nd hour. 

Teacher had everyone sit down, which is standard for his type of testing, but had Dave remain standing.  The additional surprise being that he had me remain standing as well.  I presumed that we’d start with sparring, but that was unusual because this was just Dave’s Green belt.  So Teacher had me join him at the head of the mat to help in testing.  To be specific he was actually using Dave’s test to educate me to the process. 

satis Not Dave’s Test (but came up under image search for Martial Arts Test)

During the test he would periodically turn to ask me what was next.  To which he received my blank look.  I think I made it abundantly clear that I cannot remember what was on tests, thus my making everyone fight way before it was required. 

Poor Dave had to do a lot of waiting while Teacher and I mumbled together.  I actually apologized a few times because I just didn’t know what Teacher was asking.  Derp!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New Guy!

It’s probably not a reason to get really excited, but after hanging out with kids class, which seems to be sticking to the 23 member level, the adult class can be a bit of a let down.  We had 8 last night which is honestly a good number considered the space we have, but I honestly worry about us losing some of our numbers due to normal attrition. 

So I was pleasantly surprised that a new guy showed up last night.  On top of that he’s a young guy with a black belt in TKD!  It’s like a dream to have energy and experience come into the class. 

He’s a nice guy and was able to quickly learn whatever we were doing with a minimum of fuss.  Teacher was nice enough to place me with him for basic punching drills.  He was a bit shaky with our variation on it, but you could tell he knew what he was doing.  Later, during the break, he did flashy spinning kicks with Storm.  He’s certainly physically adept.  Every time they do that flashy stuff I become a bit mournful, because I’m older and not really sure I can generate the physically adept synchrony to do any of what they are trying.  I think I’m going to have to force myself to try some of it just to see if I can orient at high speed. 

Friday, October 07, 2011

Week In Review

I had to leave early last night due to a friend leaving town.  Since we are on an island a lot of folks take the long ferry ride back to the main land to continue their journeys.  Because the loading process is so cumbersome the time to say good bye can take a few hours.  If someone has some problems with saying goodbye the stretch of time can be anxiety provoking.  Case in point – last night our friend sprinted out the bar a full ten minutes before she had too.  Not good at good byes.

Class on the other hand was a lot of fun, but I was panting.  My glorious return to the gym has not occurred yet so I’m not getting any aerobic work in.  I had a cholesterol test the other day that confirmed my last couple of months of inactivity.  At least I’m under 200, but my ratio is just horrible.  I can’t wait to see Dr. Sausage-Fingers this year. 

The big highlight is that we’ve switched to evening hours and the kids class has restarted.  Since I’m still shy of being involved with all those kids I go in a bit late to help out.  This just means wondering the rows of children straightening shoulders and feet while Teacher explains and leads.  When I showed up on Tuesday there was 28 children!  That means that there is literally no room to move.  Teacher was just down to punches and stances and absolutely no kicking.   Crazy.  By Thursday the class had reduced to 22 which mean they could move forward and back three steps.  For the first time in 12 years he’s actually telling folks he doesn’t have room.  They are actually going to have to call in a month to see if there is space. 

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Slideshow Update

For years I've only had a few photos from my first few years at class.  I just added a few of the most recent gang I've been working with.  What a cast of characters!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Teaching With Little Sleep

As I’ve mentioned before I occasionally have difficulty with getting to sleep for a couple of days, but exhaustion usually wins out and by the third night I’m all back to a normal.  I’m not sure what’s going on lately, but I’m on my fifth night in a row of disrupted sleep. 

dogWhat I feel like now.

Just like Tuesday Teacher had me run the class for the first hour while he slept in an attempt to catch up on jet lag and fight his cold.  I had kind of anticipated this and had a few ideas to work on before he showed up.  I’m somewhat fixated on working on things that I’ve been avoiding. Primarily I’ve been avoiding downward blocks to Roundhouse kicks.  We had once tried this and I got a hellacious goose-egg on my forearm that ended up taking weeks to heal.  I assume it was a monumental bone bruise.  Just like any injury anticipation of pain starts playing on technique and then I shy away or adjust incorrectly. 

So I worked on blocking roundhouses and ate bitter for awhile and was fairly surprised that I didn’t have massive bruises this morning.  Maybe tomorrow.

My second avoided technique is the spinning back kick.  Not something I’m particularly good at so I wanted to practice as much as as the class.  Bad idea.  No one was particularly good when we first started and I really needed to be paying attention to them.  Thankfully Teacher rolled in as was able to do that part while I stumbled around like a drunken sailor. 

As the class progressed I was supposed to act as the augmenting instructor, but if I wasn’t participating I was yawning enough to cause a vacuum.  The second hour seemed to drag a bit, but ended abruptly.  Teacher had me over for a couple of beers and asked how my time was while he was gone.  I tried to compile a quick list of lessons learned, but he mainly focused on how proud he was that I stood up and took control of the class for him.  Not too many times in my life has that occurred.  I went home and fell asleep immediately and then woke up at midnight.  The rest of the was light sleeping again, but I feel a bit more refreshed today.  We’ll see how long that lasts.  I’m supposed to going on a run with Dave.  Ugh.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Teacher Is Back!

I was leading the warm-ups as usual and had just got to the sit-ups and felt that tell-tale pull in my neck.  Figures – nothing like giving myself a tweaked neck before class has even started.  Duh!

neck-pain120Not me – I’m lumpier in real life.

Teacher had called me during the day and sounded horrible.  He’d picked up the flu or a bad cold during his travels and it was beating him up.  He asked me to run the first hour while he slept and then he’d come on down. 

He showed up while I was introducing distancing with the side kick.  Most of the time distance is closed in the side kick via a step behind towards the Uke.  In times of stress, like sparring, that step behind might not occur and it’s replacement is a shuffle.  So the rear foot replaces the front foot in position.  The trick is keeping your balance so you can still deliver a decent kick.  Easier said than done.

We spent the rest of the evening working on locks and throws.  The nice thing about having him back is that I can insert myself into the fun more, but I still had to instruct more often than not.  It’s tough trying to tell someone what they are doing wrong when your upside down. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Classes 6 + 7

The Cherub and I were doing some light hand work and for whatever reason he decided to pull a technique out of one of our katas that ended up going through every bit of my defense and plowed into the flesh over my nose and between my eyes.  The unfortunate part of this being that he picked a spear hand.  Traditionally a really advanced technique because it’s coupled with a lot of hand conditioning we don’t do.  In reality if you pulled this technique you’d probably break all your fingers. 

So The Cherub tags me once right between the eyes and the blood starts.  Neither of us is aware that he’s cut me and somewhat concerned about his control I stop the action and asked him what he did.  He shows me hitting me in the same exact spot!  Gad. 

eyes2smallThere’s actually cuts there – I swear!

The Cherub.  I imagine that he might come across odd to the average joe on the street.  He has pale skin this side of sour cream, fairly bright red hair and very thick glasses.  I think he’s around 15, but fairly physically advanced.  The reason he seems pretty cool to me is that we met his brothers early on and they seemed really odd.  Now that we have a new guy who has a lot of problems being socially appropriate (read: keeping his mouth closed) The Cherub is the model of the upstanding martial art student. 

Tuesday went pretty well with another class of six folks.  At the end the Twins and Robot pulled me aside and said that Teacher had told them that there we also going to get tested in the upcoming month.  Based on that I figured that I needed to do another pre-test class (Thanks Uchi-Deschi!). 

So last night we had nine folks and after the first half hour I was going to move over to test prep when, to my vast surprise, in walks Teacher!  So I had to continue like he wasn’t there and constantly refer to him as if he wasn’t standing there.  Kind of funny most of the time.  “Well as you know Teacher like to see…”

He just got back to the states last night so he was totally off his schedule and still decided to come in.  Ironically The Cherub had been at work since 5am and Dave had just got in at 6am.  So a lot of sleepy faces in the crowd. 

The only thing that caught me eye was when we were doing the sparring and one of the twins really stood out as being unflappably brilliant in his hand work.  He would forget to use his feet, but still beautiful hand work. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Classes 5 + 6

I’m having a hard time sitting down and typing for any period of time since I normally do these updates while I’m at work.  That’s what keeps the brevity most of the time.  For whatever reason work has picked up and so typing is broken in to a half sentence here and there.  Keeping to any kind of theme is really difficult.

I think I’ve mentioned that I like using an outline for class, but gave it up because of the dependence it was creating.  So for the last couple of classes I gave up on that and stuck with a loose two portion approach.  For instance, last night I went with a blocking drill that I changed twice and then had a nice flow going so we could get a focus on in-fighting. 

The second half of the class was split with kata and then throws.  As a rule TSD doesn’t really have throws, but due to our local school roots we have a few hip and trip throws. Both ideas came out of our last class where I learned an important teacher lesson.  Never put a exhausted guy back into sparring.  Also Never go into sparring with an exhausted guy when you are not up to speed.  Needless to say, I took some very hard lumps. 

The match started with a kick to my testicles.  After a rest break and restart I got behind Dave to which he immediately elbowed me way too hard and set me up for a throw.  We were locked up and I figured I’d just step around his leg. Wrong.  As soon as I moved my leg he took my balance and he threw me very hard.  I had a great landing, but we weren’t using pads.  He had to help me up.  Let’s just say I was unable to make the 90 second goal I had set for myself. 

Although it’s not a rule I would say that exhaustion also leads to horrible sparring.  The reason I took a shot to the testicles was that Dave was just throwing out random things instead of planning. 

So in class I wanted to work on hands in a tangle and various throws (on mats).  I introduced the class to the tomonagi and the idea of a sacrifice throw (you are going to the ground to do the throw).  After that we focused on throws based on driving one leg between your opponents legs. 

I have to say that I really like doing the class and I thought it went pretty smoothly.  Considering we only had 5 folks I tend to think that smaller classes are a bit more fun and easier to keep track of. 

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Class 4

Or, “All by myself” <sung in a haunting way>. 

This would be my first completely solo class and I chose not to have an outline sitting by the front of the class.  I figured that it was creating a weird dependence in such a way that I couldn’t think outside the outline. 

I’d planned to have two to three sections of class with leg work first and then our version of scaled down Aikido next.  I was kind of taken by an idea suggested by Uchi Deshi when I asked him for some pointers.  He said that if there is a student getting ready for testing that he’ll run through the exam several times and fine tune anything that needs work.  Since we rarely know when Teacher is going to test this wouldn’t have worked out for us, but just before he left he told Dave that he would test him when he got back in September.  I thought the next couple of classes could have a little time on focusing on his test. 

So class started well and we blew past the hour mark while we were all into the kicking drills.  After class I was going to work on kata so Dave could get some practice on his test specific one.  I totally lost track of time after the break because we (I mean me) got engrossed in teaching hand grabs and locks.  We ended the class on a “run”, which is to say we have one person standing at the head of the class while each person attacks in line so the person at the head can practice technique. 

We never got to Dave, but we were close to running over and everyone had a good time and a good workout.  Dave and I reviewed some notes from class and decided that I might want to reduce the amount of techniques taught at one time.  Oops.  I guess not everyone can drink from the fire hose. 

Friday, September 02, 2011

Class 3

Not much to say other than that by the break I was pretty much running out of ideas. Thankfully Teacher showed up to save the day. I really thought my outline was going to keep me going all the way through, but I realized my fanatical attention to the clock is not helping me here. I started precisely on time and then spent a fairly long time on warm-ups. That left around 35 minutes of instruction before the break. “No problem,” I think. Well, I was wrong. I had about ten minutes worth after words.

Teacher had me do everything up to that point including opening up the dojang and turning on the lights. I led the bow in and he didn’t show up until we got near the break.

At the end of class he told the class while he was gone for the next month that they’d all get to participate in my education. Boy, was I thankful for that. Everyone is being extra nice, but I thought that was even better.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Class 2

Although not totally officially in charge of the whole thing I ran the complete class with Teacher periodically poking his head in at random times.  The class was very respectful and called me Sensei throughout and the little outline I made worked very nicely, but I really needed Teacher to fine tune it.  I was way too heavy on blocking and he had me modify a few parts. 

Frankly I was impressed that I was able to get through the whole class without boggling too much and over focus on too many things.  I think the trick will be getting through the first hour and having a segue way into the second.

During the break I showed Storm the easy break boards we’ve been using over the years as I had found out that he was a significant breaker when he was younger.  He loved the wall mounted makiwari we’ve got, but can’t use (it would trash the wall) and even gave it a go on the black board.  That is the one that we’ve only been able to break with an axe kick suspended on blocks.

  tigerstrike-martial-arts_2172_16362632Not me.

Of course after he bruised his knuckles on it everyone else gave it a try even after I told them about the axe kick.  Ah youth, how I miss your unbridled enthusiasm.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Start Of Teaching

It's not like I haven't taught a class or two over the years, but I've never done it as a Sensei so this week was a little stressful in that I wanted to be better at instruction. I'm not very relaxed, and tend to get hyper focused on one student. In an effort to make a somewhat smooth transition to teaching full-time (only for the month of September) Teacher has had me take the first hour of class this last week to help me dial in a bit more before he takes off. The class has been incredibly receptive and supportive, but my imagination only goes so far.

I can do about 70 minutes worth of instruction, but my well of originality dries up pretty quick after that. Since I don't have the ability to make stuff up on the fly I use the "build on to the next thing" method. I pick a technique and break it down to the essential pieces and start the class on those and work up to the technique. Depending on the technique I'll add in partner work or focus drills with pads.

Teacher mainly just had me slow down and stop focusing on the new guy, but overall he liked what I had to say and how I did it. He gave me a few important hints about time eating drills and how they can fill in between times where I might need to think about what needs to come next. He also had me change content mid stream as I was kind of exhausting the one area (legs in this case) pretty hard.

So this week, while he's still here I'll do the whole class twice before he heads out.

One thing I hadn't counted on was that when you are teaching you don't get to do a lot of doing. I'm going to have to figure out how to do that because I felt like I was missing out on practice. Bummer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Little More Test Stuff

A lot of the Black Belt Test was standing for five to ten seconds while the board took notes and commiserated and, frankly, a lot of the stuff I did didn’t look overly impressive.  So in order to keep your attention I made a highlights reel. 

Some smooth things, others not so much.

Goodbye Look

Teacher called me before class and talked about preparation for his month long departure.   In a moment of drunkenness I volunteered to take the adult class while he was gone on vacation.  Let me stress that I, in no way, feel comfortable with this task.  For whatever reason I felt that there was an obligation to the class to continue on, but I sure as hell don’t feel like I’ll even do half the job that he does.

Noting my anxiety Teacher had me not only lead warm-ups, but do the first hour lead in.  I was able to this without too much trouble, but honestly didn’t have a lot of ideas for the second hour.  When I asked if I should continue at the hour break he took over to my relief.   It’s going to be a long month for me and the class.
During a moment of quiet I noticed that Little Sister wasn’t in the class and asked Teacher if she had left already.  He was somewhat mystified, but it became clear when she came in at halftime.  She thought we went back to the Fall schedule this week. 

We worked on trips and throws for the second hour, but near the end of class Teacher had us all sit down and had Little Sister stand alone.  I wasn’t sure what was going on, but the air was filled with a lot of positive energy no matter what.  Teacher announced that LS would be get to fight whoever she liked.  She covered her eyes and spun and ended up picking him.  After they finished a few minutes later I volunteered to go next and we tore it up!  I ended up with a stubbed toe and and torn skin on my wrist.  The remaining fights were pretty sterling and if Teacher could figure out how to get them off his Blackberry I’d post it here because we were awesome.

After class we took plenty of pictures, had lots of hugs, and promised we’d all keep in touch.  Hopefully, we’ll see her during the college breaks. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Little Black Belt Magic

Teacher once told me his frustration with earning a black belt was that it didn’t come with a bag of magic tricks.  I think he figured he’d be able to to jump to the second story and be able to single handedly defeat multiple magical warriors or something.  Well, that’s my take on it anyway. 

Since he told me that many years ago I’ve managed to keep my realistic hat one and not get too worked up about what would happen about achieving the belt.  Mostly, I’ve felt that I haven’t deserved it or felt ready for it, but I did get to experience a little magic last night. 

I noticed in the last two weeks that I’ve been able to pick up techniques after one exposure without any real difficulty.  So I’ve decided to attribute this to the magic of the belt rather than the fact that I’ve been doing this for 8 years and that all the building blocks are in place to grab the pieces from other lessons and tons of practical experience.  It’s totally the magic.


Storm, our black belt via TKD, has been studying our katas/hyungs and has pretty much memorized them all in about two months.  He’s now on to the Black Belt ones that I’ve only recently dipped my feet into.  Teacher asked us to try them together and we definitely had different impressions of what we seen.  I went back to the tapes and had to correct a bit.  We are both now on the same page. 

Question – how long do we keep practicing basic katas?  I stick with the more advanced ones so I don’t forget them, but when we go back to the first couple I stumble around because I forget them.  Derp!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Not the most fit guy in the room.

I started cardio and anaerobic training two months before the test in hopes that I wouldn’t look like this through most of the test.  Alas, I did.

Black Belt Test Video

Custom Kata

Teacher says, “it’s a kata a green belt could do, so you better do it like a Black Belt”.  I thought it looked technically decent, but I wished I could have been lower. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First Day With A Black Belt

I reached inside my gym bag with it’s signature Tang Soo Do fist at either end and pulled out my brand new Black Belt.  I rolled it around in my hands a little and told the guys in the changing room that this was the first time. 

Their response, “man I would have worn that around the house, “ and “I would have worn that naked around the house”.  Good men all. 

Teacher called me Sensei Tater at one point to which I ducked my head.  I really don’t feel like I’m a Sensei, since such a large part of the class has been there for awhile and know my good and bad points intimately.  Still, I can see where the change in thinking and pride in my accomplishment has started taking place.  At my wife’s birthday party I was doing falls to rolling standups in the front lawn while delivering drinks and then teaching folks how to do come-along wrist and should locks.  What a dork I am. 

I spent most of the class working with our newest and youngest student trying to get her up to speed on the basics.  We might be a bit beyond her skill acquisition level, but I’ll have to let Teacher figure that out.  I’m not sure what he does to decide if they go into adult or youth class, but folks like this gal fall right on the line. 

In a moment of insanity about a month or so ago I told Teacher that I’d be willing to take the class for the month of September while he’s out of town.  I feel somewhat sorry for the class since they are going to see me learning to teach all over again.  Tough on me and tough on them.  I’ll probably start to relax by the time Teacher gets back. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Post Test Notes

Long story short – I passed my Black Belt test. 

I’m filled with all sorts of emotions; pride and disappointment being the most prevalent. 

The test lasted about a half hour and consisted of running me through a variety of basic techniques like kicks and strikes, then pad, or focus mitt, drills.  I then performed Pyung Ohn Sa Dan, Oh Dan, Bassai and my test kata.   They had me do my test one twice.  The final section was fighting.  I did four or five matches which couldn’t have been more than 30 seconds a piece and finished it up with a three against me match. 

I’m proud that I’ve accomplished the belt, but I was disappointed in that I wished I could have shown a better performance to the judging panel.  I have yet to see the tapes (just thinking about it is making me nervous), but even during the test I have to admit I didn’t look or feel very sharp at times.  That coupled with my constant need for air made for a lot of breaks.  When I cobble together the video I can guarantee that will be left out. 

After each section of the test and even during sub sections the panel would stop to take notes and commiserate while I gasped and wheezed.  At one point one of the panel came up and did a breathing exercise with me just to help.  Pretty embarrassing.  But it wasn’t like I could say I was fine, because I literally couldn’t. 

During the focus drills that same panel member wanted to see combinations with a leg focus and he actually asked me, “do you have a favorite kick”?  Best thing I’d every heard, but we’d just done snap kicks so I choose crescents and during one of the runs my left ankle made a sizable impact on his left elbow.  Owww.  My left ankle is somewhat swollen today.

I got chided for turning and walking away at one point (watch your back!) and got pointers throughout the test which I’m sure I should be taking at just a pointer, but internally I kept groaning at what I thought were obvious errors I shouldn’t be making.  

I could keep writing about this until I was blue in the face, but to sum it up everyone gave me a lot of compliments and Teacher seemed genuinely pleased that I did as well as I could.  My personal shame was that I was not in the shape that I clearly needed to be. 

What compounded that feeling was when I was later read the score sheets, that pretty clearly pointed at mediocrity, to which my wife could only agree with. While she is no martial artist she has a shrewd eye as it relates to performance in any area. She’s seen me in several competitions and has a sense of how I move and definitely knew how nervous I was.  When I searched my gut I realized that it was true when I’d rather have been excellent. 


I was proof-reading this and if it sounds like I’m being hard on myself – I am.  I’ll try to embrace my achievement and give it the respect it’s due.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

One Day To Go

Anxiety seems to lead to a lack of sleep, which in turn, allows anxiety to fester.  Not the greatest way to approach the upcoming test, but it’s also not a surprise either.  I usually martial through all of this and do okay, but the nagging lack of energy I’m experiencing is making me frustrated. 

On Monday I went for an epic run (5k, cross country) and did better than my first time on that course, and assumed that I’d sleep like a corpse, but I ended up wide awake only getting minimal sleep.  So getting to class last night took a huge amount of energy on my part.

On top of that Teacher ran a pretty physically demanding class (or maybe I was just so tired it felt that way).  At the end of class I’d completely soaked my gi, but so had the rest of the guys. 

Teacher had me demonstrate my kata/hyung at the end of class and everyone said it looked sharp.  I have to admit I was pleased as well because I did it with a lot of intensity and did it correctly. Teacher had only one suggestion which should be easily installed (slow down in one area). 

If I can do a big carb laden dinner tonight and tomorrow for lunch I’m hoping things will go well in the energy area. 

Monday, August 08, 2011

Prep Time

Teacher called me up today and told me that the test will be held on Thursday. That was a hard call because of the adrenaline spiking off my kidneys. I was breathing fast and sweating long before we finished the call. Although he didn't tell me not to be nervous, he did tell me that I'd do fine. It's funny, but I have never found that to help much. Possibly it'll sink in by the test time, but I do such a great job of being nervous on my own that I will be a bit of a wreck.

An additional stressor is that my wife has decided to come to the test. She's never seen one and knows that this is kind of a big deal to me. At least she'll have video proof so I'll be able to post highlights of a sort.

This is what I know. It will be an hour, I'll have three Sensei's running the test (just like my Brown with the same guys), I'll do three katas including my own, Sensei Grant will test my knowledge on technique execution (oh crap what?!) and then I'll have to fight the whole class. Sensei Slim is an unknown so those two guys (him and Grant) are really what makes me nervous. Sensei Grant has said in not so many words that our school maybe not as tough as he would have preferred. So his portion of the test is to grind me down until I see the black spots.

To come up to level of expectation I've been running with Dave. I've only done this twice and it's an excellent reproduction of the physical state of the test. For instance our run tonight was 31 minutes, which is a record for me, but the absolute soul-sucking lack of oxygen and inability to move my limbs is completely like Sensei Grant's portion.

I'm not saying I'm going to be any better of course, but I'll be familiar with the state and hopefully my mind will be able to handle it better.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Tests–Little Sister is Brown

I guess the season must be upon us because Teacher let me know that he was testing Little Sister last night.  She’s been there for probably four or five years now and she’s leaving us for College at the end of the month. 

We started class as usual, but halfway through the second hour we sat down for the test.  Although we didn’t the three Black Belts Teacher ran her through a wear down for about 15 minutes before her kata and fights.  She looked good, but Teacher changed things out, but having her fight a majority of the class one minute at a time.  I’d actually never seen her wrung out before and by the time she completed with Teacher (the last bout) she was bleeding out a loose thumbnail and could barely keep her arms up. 

Previously to her testing we were working on up close fighting and I was partnered with Dave.  Alas I took a shot to the face and ended up getting rocked on my heels.  I thought I was going to lose a tooth, but everything turned out fine.  Although he’s got a cut on a knuckle very much like the one he gave me last month!

imagesNot me, but what I felt like.

Teacher ended the class, but asking when I’d like to test.  I guess we’ll be trying next week if he can gather the other Black belts.  I’m getting nervous just typing this out!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Training update 2

I'm up in the mountains with my family for a little reunion and the place I selected is a Spa/Hotel. I'm sure the discerning traveler could write up tons of commentary on how the place looks and feels. I can only say statement, "workout heaven"! The facilities here are ridiculous. And I mean that in a great way. One full floor of gym equipment, exercise studios, and seating areas for chilling out. That doesn't even hold a candle to the spa itself. The spa is split by gender so the men and women enter and leave by different entrances. Both of their areas contain lounges, steam baths (with euchilypis) and so on. The shared area has water falls over hot tubs to use gravity power to pound your shoulders into putty while you bravely smile to the other folks in the soaking pool.

So I bravely put the onus upon myself to exercise as frequently as possible. Strangely, I'm not able to pull the epic workouts I'd like to, but I'm still able to work out everyday and get a good caloric burn. My trouble is that I can't make the anaerobic threshold I was hoping for. The equipment is very difficult to sort out, but they have a tv on everything. So I was unable to sort a decent interval training, but I was able to watch HBO comedy while I was doing it.

I thought I was going to relax today, but got up and worked out anyway. My legs just feel so heavy, but my test kata is coming along fairly well. I've targeted areas that I need to work on, but the progress just seems so slow. When I get back Teacher is going to want to know when I want to test. It's definitely this month for sure.

Training Log Update

I'm currently on vacation and the heat is unbelievable! I don't recall this kind of heat - ever. Of course where I'm coming from, at a full third of what I'm experiencing doesn't lead me to making the best decisions as it comes to the out of doors.

The first day I got here I figured I'd better get out and run. I think it was in the high 80s and by the time I got back I thought I might be near a stroke. I stayed in a cold shower for as long as I can handle it and still didn't stop sweating for another couple of hours.

The next day I accompanied my Father to his gym figuring the temperature would be a lot better and used the fancy treadmill to set up an interval training run. This worked successfully and I was able to get two miles in, but didn't push my anaerobic threshold too much. Some light weights and I was good to go. However, during the each uphill interval I silently cursed Dave and my PT for this type of exercise. I imagine I should have been doing it years ago, but to have it rubbed in my face and be so bad at it makes me have to direct that frustration somewhere.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Test Training Log: I Hate Dave

Ever mindful of how grueling the Brown belt test was, my focus has been directed at my cardiac fitness.  Luckily one of my friends is a physical therapist and has a impressive knowledge in sports training.  Unfortunately, he reckons that I need to focus on anaerobic exercise as it matches my level of activity during testing.

About two or three weeks ago I tried emulate what that might be by taking a look at various workouts on-line and mirroring what I could.  My normal workout is kata, rowing machine, kata, burpees, etc.  If I can do 40 minutes I’m impressed with myself.  I’ve estimated that 170 bpm is my anaerobic threshold and my PT has told me that I need to get up there and work at that for 30 seconds or more and then bring it down to 165 or less for a few minutes and then drive it back up. 

So Dave calls me up and asks me to go running with him as part of his routine and I think to myself, “what a great idea.  I’ll be able to confirm my level of fitness in an objective fashion”.  I told Dave that I’d probably be able to do a mile, but after that I couldn’t say.  No problem we’d run as far as we could, follow it up with walking and then sprint up hill on a 5K course.  I should have known ahead of time that I’d be pushing myself well beyond my capabilities. 

The first mile was entirely pleasant, I was pushing 160+ most of the time so a small hill would blast me past 170.  It’s the perfect interval training!  And then we got to mile 2.  I wasn’t blacking out, but I definitely just couldn’t get enough air – what a horrible feeling.  Objectively, I thought this was really exactly what I needed, but subjectively the feeling of suffocation is about as worse as it gets for me.  On top of that Dave looked very relaxed and not out of breath at all.  If I had the energy I would have been bitter and jealous. 

By mile three I was mostly walking fast but he had designed his course with the hills at the very end of the track and as agreed upon earlier we had to run up the hills.  Perfect for anaerobic work, but now my legs weren’t cooperating.  The simply weren’t functioning.  I’ve heard people say that it’s like moving through molasses and I would say that was very accurate, but on top of that I couldn’t breath.  On the last hill I was faltering and had to restart the running many times and just fell over at the top.  Dave hauled me to my feet and made me walk around for another 10 minutes.  He’s the devil. 

When I was somewhat rested I wanted to show him my test kata and could barely get through it.  No balance or strength.  Yikes.

Today I feel like someone beat me with hammers.  Ugh.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Miss and A Hit

I had to miss Thursday night class because of work pushing it’s nosey requirements into my life.  I had some visiting folks from the mother ship in the big city and had to squire them around.  It’s not like they were bad or anything, but I had to get them back to the airport after an exceedingly long day.  I just had to remind myself, “this is why I get paid”. 

Class was still going on for a bit when I showed up so I said hi and made an appointment to hang out with Teacher on Friday.  I’d put together a few more pieces and parts to my kata and wanted to find out if I was going in the correct direction.  Here’s were I’m at, but I’ve got a slightly different ending after the double punches.

Struggling wit the awesome.

Instead of the jumping axe at the end I’ve got some hand work.  Teacher made it very clear – “This is a kata that a green belt can do, but you’d better be doing the techniques all at a Black belt level”.  Yikes!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Test Info and Notes

I talked to Teacher this weekend and told him that I’d gotten a bit further with my test Kata and was hoping to meet up with him to check my progress.  I really didn’t want to be moving on and have him rework a bunch of my stuff.  I’m not terribly smooth with the few things I have so to have major changes would be a bit anxiety producing.

We met early yesterday and I went through my starting sequence, one long pass and second sequence.  Teacher corrected a few pieces and changed around the entry and substance of the second pass.  I feel kind of bad because he’s such a part of it and won’t have any surprise, but I’m guessing he wants me to look good in front of the other Teachers. 

Needless to say I’m getting rather excited by the test, but not having a clear idea of when it’s going to occur makes me a bit anxious.  Preparations for something nebulous make me nervous of course, so I’m just focusing on the kata and my cardio.  Currently I’m using my rower every other day to grind out 5000 meters and that pushes my endurance to it’s limit.  It’s roughly around 25 minutes at 160 bpm.  I follow that with kata work and I can burn 500+ calories in a hour.  I’m hoping the alternating exercises will pay off in the sparring and whatever they throw at me. 

Dave has offered to take me on a running date, but I’m not much of a runner.  However, I’ll try to make a mile on Friday night on his normal 3 mile cross country course.  It’ll be a good measurement of muscles and fitness.

As usual, the ramp up to testing brings Teacher Slim out of the woodwork.  It felt like a year since I’ve seen him in class, but he was in his regular jovial mood and still applied a wonderfully painful twist to everything we did.  I mention his presence because for my Brown Belt test he simply asked me to spell Tang Soo Do.  I was grateful for the rest break, but I couldn’t spell to save my life.  At the end of class he asked me some basic Karate terms in Japanese.  I only know a few of these, but wondered if he was going to ask me that on the test.  I just made my flash cards! 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Kata Progress And Notes

Now that my system seems to have settled from my vacation I’ve been focusing on fitness and my kata.  Although this won’t help me aerobically or anaerobically I thought it was pretty kick ass. 

Such a simple set and so good. 

My kata is coming along finally.  I don’t have anything very fancy so the form is a standard “I” shaped form.  I’ve taken some hand techniques from our 10th hyung, Neihan Shi Cho Dan, but Teacher has had me simply focus on things that I do well and where I can demonstrate that I’ve mastered the technique (balance, execution, etc.).  I’ll try to get some video of that so I can check my own progress and express chagrin at my horrible performance. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Post Vacation Shake Down

I went down to Central America to visit my wife for a couple of weeks and had a great time, but as it relates to my practice I was pretty bad.  Our schedule is usually very compressed so there is little time or space to practice kata or technique.  However, during long rides I was able to start the mental work on my Black Belt test kata.  I’ve got the first eight moves nailed down and after last night I’m ready move to the next four or five. 

Upon return to the States I ran into a rather frustrating phenomena – persistent diarrhea.  It was if as soon as I had water in Northern America my body went into total shock.  I’ve been home almost a week now and I’ve been barely able to get through a work day and I definitely haven’t been to the gym.  After a four days of meds I thought I could do class last night, but I was dragging hard.  One of Teacher’s favorite questions is, “are you alright?” when I’m panting.  Last night the answer was, “no”. 

Each day I’ve been incrementally better, but today seems to the closest to a low level of regular health.  This weekend I’ll construct the next four moves or more.  And then try to get a bit of cardio in.   Boy do I look skinny. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Oh Snap!

Teacher says, "you're going to freak out."

"About what", I reply.

He says, " I want to talk about your next test".

Ironically that's exactly what I wanted to talk about when he asked me to hang out after class for a beer. Although I wasn't really thinking he was going to bring this up. Recently I'd been kind of wondering what was next in the chute. We don't have a formal system of how to determine belt testing so I'd kind of thought maybe I needed to ask what kind of horrible things he had in store for me for my next rank. Only there was a rub.

"I wanted to let you know that I want to test you for your black belt" he said rather straight forwardly.

Internally the hyper ventilating hit a seismic pace. Externally my pupils dilated and I just sputtered. I actually said, "I don't know what to say," which is pretty much what all the cool guys say when faced with an epic life experience. I will say this, I never for a moment said, or even thought, I don't deserve this. In retrospect I kept thinking to myself that I'm not ready for this, but he brought up some very important points.

He said, "it's been 8 years."

He said, "maybe I've been too demanding with my requirements for this." With which I don't agree, but I was still stuttering.

I was going to be a one in a thousand!!!

I think the gist was that he may have thought I might have been good to go earlier, but was coming to terms with a couple of things in his own martial development and realized that I was, indeed, qualified in my own, weird way.

Here's the test:
- beatings
- construct my own kata

Deceptively simple with a ghastly undertone. The beatings will be multiple and exhausting. By this I mean that I will have to have the cardiac fitness to survive the black belts in town and still look like I was conscious about my choices in sparring. Woof! After that I'll have to do a kata (or maybe before, you never know) of my own device. I need to be sure that I make it worthwhile and highlight moves that I'm good at. Dang. This is going to be tough.
Class tonight was awesome. Strangely it started with katas/hyungs. He made us do them at a very slow rate which focused us on the balance and movement. It's not like we hadn't done this before, but today it sunk in kind of deep. Segue ways aren't just a ham-handed conversation migration, they are a way to move from stance to stance.

The second hour was pretty much all fights. We started with the slowest combat analysis and moved on to sparring. I don't think I've seen so many interesting conflicts. Me and Trucker went around for five minutes and I really didn't do a great job, but I was pleased with my ability to make the choices I did. Nothing unplanned. He still rolled me in the end which was met with great delight by the crowds. Oh to be a gladiator.

My second match was with Teacher and it went surprisingly well. In the end I realized I couldn't do anything substantive and went in for a bad trip/bear hug and fell on him. He managed to turn me on the way down and I absorbed the impact for both of us. Ooff. End of class!

Honestly, I don't think I'd ever seen so many great matches. He let us choose who we wanted to spar and in a way it was pretty awesome. The two youngest kids put up an epic fight. I was surprised that there was no blood. Were we showing control? Shocking!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Catch Up

I just realized that I haven’t posted since last Tuesday due to a rather busy schedule.  My wife is out of town for the summer so I’m doing all the stuff around the house that would normally be divided between us.  As usual I forget that although it’s not a lot of stuff, it’s still more than I do normally so I have less time to dawdle. 

To add to general frantic nature of my day Teacher moved up the summer classes one hour.  So we get out early, but we have to get there early.  This means I’m moving fast after work.  I basically have enough time to change and eat a bit before I hit the ground running. 

So I can’t actually recall what we did last week, and even last night was a bit of a blur, but we did have a couple of stand out moments.

We call generic multiple attack scenarios “monkey in the middle”.  However due to the latest racial sensitivity problems I believe the word monkey is going to get dropped.  It consists of 5 person groups in which one participant stands in the middle and the other four try to attack in a consistent fashion.  It has nothing to do with real life, but it forces the person in the middle to contend with strikes initiated from every angle and not get tunnel vision for one person.  It also forces us to work on strikes that are really effective versus flowery locks and such. 

What we found out is that kicks to the groin and strikes to the throat were very popular, then came kicks to joints and so on.  Very focusing.  

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Feet, Don’t Fail Me!

Teacher quote for the week: as I tried to tap out of a rather painful lock – “you look like a penguin flapping it’s wings to stay warm.”  Nice. 
All of us looked like we ran across hot coals as we uncomfortably moved from one foot to the other or stared at the soles of our feet.  This was a direct result of the new rubberized sports floor put in several months ago.  Unfortunately kicks that require foot rotation are miserable because feet don’t want to turn at all on rubber.  I was noticing after my shower later that night I had actually torn the flesh between the toes and ball of both my feet.  This morning I was was walking very carefully.  Hopefully, they’ll be mostly healed by tomorrow night. 

Since I was only there for the first hour I didn’t get to experience anymore discomfort.  However, in that 45 minutes I was huffing and puffing.  My poor diet and lack of sleep really felt like they were weighing on me.  Hopefully, I’ll be back on a more even keel by the end of the week.

Friday, June 03, 2011


I knew, in those microseconds before, during and after my fist making a sickening crunch, that we had gone too far. 
As part of the summer Teacher moves the class up an hour so we can get out and enjoy the long sunny evenings.  Unfortunately, the class hasn’t adjusted to this change so we are in variety of  states.  Personally, I was half a bubble off – dropping keys and bumping into things all day.  Dave was so hungry that he had dull eyes and we had the addition of two news kids in the class. 

We were learning how to integrate the long punch into our regular work.  This is move comes from our 3rd kata (Kee Cho Hyung Sam Boo) in which the punch ends up out to the side, but the force is generated by a massive hip rotation.  I’ll have to do a video of this because it’s emphasis is totally neglected in videos I plowed through today.  Anyway, while were learning to do this Teacher decided to throw in an odd block in which you spin you opponents arm in a large spiral so you can move in to do a standing triangle choke (yet another video to make!).  However the timing was tougher than I imagined so I managed to only get things going after 10 minutes.  By that time we had run out of class time. 

I was getting very frustrated which in turn makes me worse at everything I’m doing.  Which is why we are back at the first sentence. 

Teacher says, “Do a little rondori for the last five minutes.”  We usually interpret this as very slow sparring to work on technique and strategy.  Since I was frustrated and discombobulated our speed immediately took off and I couldn’t get a hit in to save my life.  Out of the five minutes I had one minute in which I was able to pick out Dave and take advantage of his approach, but by and large he was eating me up. 

Our exchanges got wilder and in one of my poorly executed kicks I ended up getting kicked in the ass so hard that I had a hard time walking this morning.  In the final hurrah I shot a punch over a blocking arm, unfortunately Dave was moving at the time and he got my knuckles in his mouth.  Blood starting running out of his fat lip and my hand.  I was appalled. 

I have never lost that kind of control and been so emotionally unfocused.  What a horrible lesson.  Thankfully Dave didn’t take it personally even though I was all over the board myself.  When I called him today he was just counting his wounds and I started worrying about the cut on my hand – blood born infection is always a worry.  Neosporin do you work!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


My first years in TSD were marked with frequent “Aha!” moments. Over time those became sporadic as the learning of new skills was overtaken by the refinement of those very same skills. 

As of the last few years they have become far and few between.  I was warned of this by Teacher and haven’t really thought about it much until something struggled to the surface about three weeks ago.  Teacher is very clever and adaptable at times so a move he promotes may not exactly come from the Big Tang Soo Do book or his older practiced styles.  However, he’ll do them if they work and have a minimum of cons. 

So about three weeks ago we were working on entering our opponents space using the simple zenkutsu stance.  At first I was uncomfortable with giving my back to the opponent, but with the proper loading and speed I believe it to be a great set up for a throw. 

After a few weeks of testing this out it dawned upon me that I needed to try this out somewhat formally.  Bob, at Striking Thoughts, acted as a Catalyst via some email discussions about being tall and trying to throw. 

Here you can see a big dork talk about it:

Super Awesome Horribleness


The second realization was that experience does have a place!  One of the young guys in class, Ken, is incredibly gifted.  I only have to show him a technique once and he does it perfectly.  However when I tell him why we do it that way he gives the look that guys in the video have – blank, but humoring the happy lummox. 

When Teacher and I were reviewing the evening he put it this way: “Anybody can shoot a gun.  A person with innate talent can shoot well, but if you ask them to shoot in the rain, in the wind, while someone is shooting at them it’s a different story.  That’s why Blackbelt mills can be construed as dangerous.  The give the belt based on physical ability, but not necessarily the rationale behind what’s occurring or the wisdom to use any of the knowledge correctly.” 

All in all – a wonderful night.

Friday, May 20, 2011

On Thinking And Being

It is a rare thing that I have anything near to what I would call “clarity of thought”.  I imagine it would be like having the same train of thought for more than a few minutes at a time.  Although I’m self-diagnosing I am pretty sure I was one of those kids who was squirrelly and distracted all their lives that was later to be called ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) by the medical establishment.  Thankfully I had a parent that was very good with behavior management, but I remember the struggle of trying to focus during years of school, but having to contend a mind that flew about like a flock of birds on the wind. 

Over the years I was able to develop some skills to contend with that inability and found that several things really helped.  One of those being Martials arts or some intense physical activity.  Ironically reading did the same thing assuming that I like the material of course. 

So when I sit down to type about what happened the night before I can only recall a few of things we did and get very frustrated over the fact that I can’t recall the things I did successfully or why they worked.

When I add stress to the mix my mind gets even worse.  A common occurrence is that I will try to do to things at once and end up spinning in place – literally.  The result of having two competing thoughts turn into action.  My wife knows when I’m out of control when she saw me go in one direction and then the other and finally end up spinning on the ball of one foot. 

This lack of mental cohesion has increased because my wife is leaving for three months to go to an immersive language school out of the country and my single co-worker is leaving for a month’s vacation.  

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not not good with singularity, but I usually do just fine after the first week.  I just have to create a routine and stick to it.  A personal kata that doesn’t require a lot of thought.  Not a great way to go through life, but at least the plants get watered and I remember to cook for myself now and then. 


Class notes from last week. 

Storm got his first green stripe.  Teacher is going to test him once a month to get him up to his real rank.  His take on our first kata was pretty cool because it looked like it was all TKD instead of TSD. 

Teacher reintroduced the low horse stance.  60 seconds of thighs parallel to the ground.  Followed by massive kicking exercises.  Bad ass!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Backfist To The Dome

I don't know about the folks out there, but there is a couple of moves that have an automatic follow-up move. The one I see most (and also do myself) is a side kick that's followed up with a spinning back fist. We do it so often that when we are sparring we almost automatically raise our arm to block when someone even hints at doing a move after a failed side kick.

That being said, during the evening's sparring I neglected to raise my hand to block since I figured two things; 1. that my opponent was too far away and 2. he could control his strike. I was wrong on both accounts. Dave is my height but must have slightly longer arms. So the back fist did come and I did not have my hand up. Dave also did not have the control I would have liked to see. This led to a perfect placement of his two knuckles on my side of my head at the hat line.

I had to shake that off but I swear I could feel the fluid filling the new dent in my dome. Before I went to sleep I looked into the mirror hoping that I would have a nice bruise the next morning. Unfortunately just a little headache and nothing to show for it.
Class had a total of three students last night. This is a classic dilemma for our town. We rarely have sunshine, but we've had it for 3 days in a row and that means we'll lose class numbers fast. So Dave, Ken and me practiced two step sparring and regular sparring for two hours. Super fun, but tiring. Teacher broke it up a bit by having us do something along the lines of an Aikido exercise. Uke strikes and we block and take the hand. At the same time we turn fully to capture and allow Uke to keep moving (and helping him) and then set up a wrist lock for a throw. This is usually the Kotegoeshi (wrist twist), but with our variation.

In the few Aikido classes I've been in the move is usually performed with the Uke at arms length so he can't punch you. Whereas we keep Uke close to us and use an elbow in the face to "soften" him. It give us a lot of power, but it keeps Uke close so if the move isn't done well then you get bashed.

Teacher then had us move to practicing blocks and grabs at real speed. This is something I don't feel I do particularly well, but this practice was excellent and I was able to move reasonably well and get a few positive grips and move into a serviceable lock.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Las Manos de Piedra y Sangre

What with all the hullabaloo around the last couple of UFC fights in which the winner employed a front kick to end the match, has made me dying to integrate the move into our sparring. It’s not that we don’t use it all the time, but the simplicity of the move and my innate flexibility in that area really calls to me.

The only problem is that Teacher has been somewhat reticent to reintroduce sparring because of the plethora of plebeians (I love alliteration). For some reason we had a very light class last night and it was mostly experienced folks. That means that we’d have a better possibility to spar if Teacher ran out of energy making up class content. Luck was on our side as we had ten minutes of class left after practicing kata for 30 minutes.

I got to spar with one of wonder twins and found to my dismay that a slowly performed front kick is easily blocked. What made it worse was his block was horrible. Normally performed the downward block would be more than adequate to stop my half strength kick. However the Twin either didn’t see the kick starting or he started the block really late. Regardless, the top of my foot met up with his elbow while it was faced downwards.

It’s not that this kind of thing doesn’t happen all the time, but for whatever reason my foot got his elbow just right. And by that I mean wrong. When I was getting out of the shower this morning I noticed the obvious swelling and tenderness. Even my wife took a second glance at the apparent blob on top of my foot.

The second match was with the new guy, Storm. He holds a black belt in TKD and doesn’t really used his hands very much in sparring which makes me think he must be from a sports based school. Anyway our interactions would go between badly timed hand exchanges or hopping up and down closely waiting for an opening for a well placed kick. His youth and vigor definitely won out.

The title of the post is supposed to say “hands of stone and blood”, but I’m really unsure of my Spanish. But you have to admit even if incorrect it sounds great. The rationale behind the title is that I’ve been going through a hand hardening regimen for a couple of years now. Not that it’s much, but I was hoping to lead to a more solid foundation for my mitts.

It’s three steps now days. I have a brick that I backfist and punch (very lightly) 40 to 50 times, I do all my push ups on my first two knuckles (also the same striking spot) and finally added in finger pushups in the last year. I presumed that it would lead to a harder hand and stronger wrist. Since I’ve neglected the knife hand edge strikes in this regimen it appears that it’s the weakest link. During the sparring last night where our blocks seemed poorly timed I ended up blocking with the back of my hand toward the knife edge. Now I’ve got some nice hand bruises to go along my skins, forearms and foot.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Lucky Wishbone

I was standing in a moderately deep stance as Swimmer went into zenkutsu (lower stance with one leg bent and the other straight) between my legs.  With a sharp twist of her shoulders my front leg went out and forward and my rear was already kind of straight and going no where.  My only escape was to fall backward and hope that I could take the stretch I didn’t seem built for.  Mental screaming ensued. 

It seemed like a nice evening, filled with bonhomie, laughter and effervescent spirit.  This should be a warning after all this time; it usually means that focus isn’t on the mark and something is going to get mangled.  The first sign – me blocking a kick with an open hand and jamming my ring finger.  Nothing bad, but it stung liked I bent it sideways.  I was being over dramatic as usual. 

Next, as we working on weapons attacks I took a escrima stick from Dave as he swung for my head, but I messed up the technique and we became tangled and the stick fell from his grasp and clocked me on the head.  I had to do a few moments of the pain dance before I get back into focus. 

The third and final was working with Swimmer.  Teacher is very slow about introducing throws into the class, but today was a natural lead in.  We were to enter our partners stance and basically trip them with a shoulder twist and slight hip move.  Swimmer was doing fantastic until Teacher changed her footing and then the wishbone occurred.  I’d like to say that I’m overacting, but it hurts so much because I don’t think my hips joints can move beyond what we are asking of them.  It’s not that my groin gets pulled either.  It’s just pure pain.  I rolled on to my back and just gritted my teeth.  I didn’t care what I looked like, but just like always the intense pain stops in a few moments, but it’s actually hard to stand up and remain standing.  After about two minutes I’m ready to go.  Frustrating, because it’s really effective and I’m not really I can produce a counter. 

Teacher finished the class by reminding us that although we were having a really fun time we needed to be concentrating on breathing and focus.  I feel like that was my responsibility somewhat since I set the mood during stretching and warm up.  I’ll have to concentrate on being a bit more serious. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Kick And Falls

Kicks, kicks and more kicks.  I had hoped that we do some kicking to get that extra bit of exercise. My balance felt good as well.  Some nights that’s not the case, but for whatever reason the I was still and centered. Teacher started us off with side kicks and I’d forgotten how doing even 40 can be exhausting.  He kept us going by then adding a second kick (lower) without touching the floor between.  Presumably to break the habit of going to the floor, but definitely forcing work on balance.  Unfortunately I was out of breath with minutes.  I’ve returned to holding my breath?!

After break we pulled the matts out for a little ground work and minor aikido.  I did the first rolls and falls in 4 to 6 months.  It was like I’d never stopped, but I was very nervous about bending my spine.  I ended up doing about 6 warm up rolls and stopped there.  I took about 20 falls with no problems whatsoever. 

The fascinating part of falls part of the evening was that Teacher had everyone work on falls and it was really nice to see everyone do a reasonably decent job.  The worst thing was that folks just had a horrible tendency to reach back or bring the elbow down first.  As main thrower I’d try to ease them down so they’d slap a bit instead of hit hard, but that was absolutely brutal to my back even with super great posture.  I guess when we do this next time I’ll be doing a lot of dropping (of people). 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Overcoming Exhaustion

My wife and I recently got a new cat as the house felt pretty empty.  I sure with deep introspection we’d probably see that both of us needs to focus on something other than ourselves.  Whatever the case the cat provides energy and focus at the house, but it means that a lack of sleep is back into the fore if we don’t make an effort to exercise the cat during the day. 

Based on the cat’s behavior we assume that she sleeps all day and then remains awake during the evening.  This is exhibited by her sleeping on us, talking to us, sitting on us and cleaning noisily. 

As I mentioned in the past I have occasional problems with sleeplessness.  The cycle goes something like two nights of bad sleep followed by a night of deep sleep.  If I’m lucky I’ll keep on a good schedule for awhile until the next sleeplessness comes up.  

You may be asking yourself what this has to do with anything martial.  Well, the truth is probably not too much, but sleeplessness has a direct impact on my ability to pay attention and I notice that I’m definitely clumsier in general. 

So the notion of going to class at 7 after I’ve been relaxing for a couple of hours is a mental fight.  I have to force myself to get up and get moving.  Then when I get to class I have to carefully warm up or pull the crap out of some muscle I didn’t know existed. 

Short story long – I was yawning so much by the end of class I could hear the other students ears pop from the drop in pressure. 

Class was all about cat stance and then moving people around you.  The principle move was cross block, grab the wrist, lock the elbow with the other hand and keep the movement.  If done correctly (maybe with a little jerk) the opponent goes flying with little or no work on your part.  Mostly we were doing that and basic punch block.  I’m a bit sore today, but doing very well after a very long night of sleep.  If a tsunami came I’d never hear the alarm. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Knife Hand Strike

Teacher pulled me aside after noting my less than stellar attention to detail during a knife hand attack.  He held up his forearm and told me to attempt a strike with my shabby hand positioning (my fingers were spread, but my thumb was tucked).  Of course the energy of the strike was satisfactory, but my fingers make a nice cracking noise as they whipped at the end.  Owww.  Error noted and corrected.

Class focused on two major areas – knife hand and round house kicks.  Teacher is really just focusing on basics to get the new folks on board and bring everyone else up back to snuff after their month off (mine was three months).  My general lack of fitness as it relates to class is making itself known right away.  I take pride in my regularity at the gym and my basic level of fitness, but when it comes to our basic exercises I huff and puff like an old steam engine.  I know this, but I still have to make a serious effort to ramp up my breathing depth before I even start feeling the first fingers of breathlessness tugging at me.

We started with knife hand technique and added in movement to figure out the hips and how to build everything together.  Teacher stopped us and had a new guy, Storm, just do the hands and it pretty much blew us away.  Storm has a blackbelt in TKD and something else.  It’s apparent that whatever he studied the knife-hand was something he did very well.  I swear that he looked like he was moving slow, but there was an audible swish crack with every movement.  After his demo everyone was studiously trying to recreate his technique.   I’m use we all looked like we were having a sissy slap fight in comparison. 

After break we started work on roundhouse kicks.  I looked at the high grip floor with some trepidation, fearing the rotation of the foot would be really tough.  After a few practice attempts the floor didn’t appear to cause too much problem. 

The exercise was block with with a knife hand and then follow with a roundhouse.  Teacher purposely put us with folks our own height which is nice, but Dave and I are like two praying mantis getting tangled in our own limbs.  Our normal compensation for the limb length and distance problem is to step out a bit during the block to set up for a great kick.  This time Teacher stopped that by forcing us switch our weight and kick with the other foot – neat!  Depending on what hand I blocked with this was either easy or hard.  I quickly gave up on hanging onto to the offending arm for any kind of support. 

I was tired and nervous about class for some reason, but it really turned out pretty great.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


I'm not too stiff this morning and my back didn't seize up on me so I'm viewing my return to class as somewhat triumphant.

It's been 3 months or so since I've been to class in any formal fashion so last night was pretty important to me in a couple of ways. I wasn't sure how much I could do because I've developed an unwanted, but needed, hyper-vigilence when it comes to my back. Every little bend and twist has me wondering if I've gone to far and a question of will I paying for it later. I was also testing the waters about how much I wanted to be there. I sometimes struggle with the desire to be there versus the requirement to be there. I only want to go because I want to not because I think I have to. I was pretty stoked to be back and leading the warm ups was like getting back on my favorite bicycle, so I think that answered that.

The big surprise last night was the floor. During the month of time off (while Sensei was away) the owner of the space covered our worse for wear carpeted floor with an interlocking heavy rubber floor that doesn't go to the edges. We share space with an aerobics/kickboxing/Zumba school and we are only renters. The floor is nice but difficult to run bare feet across. The tend to stick so the normal feet always on the ground movements turn into a tripping, halting, squeaking ordeal. As Sensei pointed out - probably a realistic situation for us. You could definitely liken it to wearing tennis shoes on a non-stick floor. I led warm ups. As simple as that seemed I'd felt a little out of sorts with what I couldn't do. All the extreme stretches are gone and now filled with gentle, back friendly positions. Even though I know in my mind I'm really helping myself out I can't but feel a bit cheated because we don't have the really hard stuff to endure. What's become of me? I want the bitter now?!

Class consisted of the basics and I was warn out almost immediately. The combination of the time of the class and the length of the class rocked me. I'd been going to bed for the last three months roughly the time class was starting. And when I work out independently I rarely go beyond 50 minutes. I obviously have some catching up to do.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Come Back Kid

Since Teacher is on vacation I been devoting my time to sorting out what I can and can’t do physically.  My last evaluation at physical therapy left me somewhat upset about those limitations. 

Part of my responsibility in class has been leading the warm up and I’ve been doing what Teacher showed me years ago with only a few variations.  After having the therapist tell I can no long bend at the waist and do other exotic stretches he showed me alternatives to pretty much everything I needed to do, but the question would be, how would Teacher take a possible change like this?

Since he’s out of town for the next month I was doing a lot of role-playing in my head about how to approach him.  Thankfully Beard invited me over to his new in home studio so we could practice katas and I discussed my conundrum to him.  Although he didn’t give me a definitive answer I got the feeling that he supports the change given that he’s about 6 years older than me and appreciates the less the extreme warm up I used to do. 


This morning Teacher called me from vacation (half way around the world) and he asked about my back and how things were going and I gave him the thumbnail run down of what the latest progress was.  I finally stumbled into my conundrum about the warm ups and he didn’t have a care in the world.  He was totally okay with changing things up!  Woot!

Now I just have to wait to April to figure out how to tie it all together.

Your Clothes, Book Cast With 100%

  At 6:05am I looked at my phone quizzically while trying to wake up.  My SaBomNim (master teacher), who is legally blind, sent me the messa...