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!

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