Monday, December 1, 2008

My life

Ooo, bad blogger! I've been very distracted with something quite important. See, I've decided to pursue another career, Nurse Practitioner. Here in Burlington, VT, we have this great university, the University of Vermont, where you can choose from a variety of subjects and then put yourself out there to (hopefully) be selected. We're talking the Graduate College, my friends. We're also talking about only 16 people being accepted into the MEPN (Master's Entry Program in Nursing) program.

Four weeks ago my husband and I were talking about how we needed to get ourselves into better careers. We're feeling the economy's strain quite a bit. He's a carpenter, I'm a massage therapist, not exactly recession-proof jobs. Plus, we just picked ourselves up and plopped down here to start over again in a time when money is tight and pockets are being pinched. It's scary and I often find myself short of breath. I told him that I was regretting not taking the opportunity I had seven years ago to go to medical school. His response, "Go for it now." I was a little taken aback, but my brain started turning. A few days later he came home and mentioned that a friend had suggested I look into becoming a Nurse Practitioner instead of going to medical school. The training isn't as intense and there's more need.

So, I did some research and found the MEPN program at UVM. The catch, a deadline of December 1. Also, I would need to take the GRE. That freaked me out! I had SAT flashbacks, and they weren't pretty. The thought of all of that math almost made me change my mind. Almost. They're scheduled for next Wednesday (I am able to take the test after the deadline as long as the rest of the application is complete and on time). The application made the deadline. Now I cross everything, and keep on studying for the GRE.

This, of course, now leads us into training. It's been minimal and that frustrates me. I have been spending much of my time studying for the GRE, writing a personal essay on why they should pick me (because I'm awesome, of course!). However, I'm still training, and I'm still teaching a new student. I'm also still taking the Muay Thai class, which isn't as scary as it used to be.

I have these training goals that I'm working very hard to stick with, and even if I don't manage to do all of them in one week I can say that for at least three days I kicked my butt. That makes me feel good.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Shiai!

This past Wednesday I travelled south to my home dojo for a brown belt shiai. It was all guys. It was intense! This was the first time I'd been back to the dojo since moving, and it was great to see everyone. I miss the family terribly. However, I did have two new students join my small karate family up here last week. They were very excited when class was over and couldn't wait to train again. That happens today. It was a wonderful experience for me, teaching. I train with one of them again today (along with my friend, Tanya). We'll just have to see where this leads...

Now for some shiai pictures:



Getting ready to spar. And spar they did, for 40 minutes!


Ray (go to his website for a photo collage of the entire shiai) and Tristan.

Hasso (of Deadbooks fame) and Brownie (he's Jamaican).



Harry (he was going for purple) and JR.

Here's a funny put together by my dear friend, Kitt (she got her brown belt at the last shiai).


You'll notice that both Sensei Bottomms (on the left) and Master Morallo (on the right) have their eyes closed while Ray is performing his kata.

It was an amazing shiai, full of energy and great form. Master Morallo was impressed.


On a final note, I don't know how many of you have seen this video, but it's priceless:


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Halloween











Wow, three posts in two days. Can it be? I thought I'd share some cute pics of my boy going as Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender. When I told him that I wanted to be Toph he stated that he wanted to be Aang, so I sewed our costumes to the best of my ability. He had the best time gathering candy; it was his first trick or treating experience. I love Halloween.










It's not ciabatta

My good karate friend and former masochistic partner in crime, Ray Chen (check out his link. He's a chef, whose recipes show up in Bon Appetit) was kind enough to enlighten me on the ciabatta mistake. It's actual Tabata Intervals. Go here to check out these beauties.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My week

Okay, I'll see how far I get in this post. Kiddo is watching Alvin and the Chipmunks and I'm just itching to write!

First off, last week was the best martial arts training week that I've had in a long, long while. I managed to do three trainings, plus a little extra cardio and heavy bag work. Yup, that's what I'm talkin' about!

It started with me needing to work on the Muay Thai kick that had perplexed my body the previous week. Nathan over at TDA Training made a great point, "As far as the kick, try not to think of it as a roundhouse, or any other technique in terms of what you know (I can tell that's what you're already doing), but always aim through the target. Follow-through, not control. There is a "snap" but it takes the form of a whipping type motion." He gave me this tasty morsel over at the Convocation of Combat Arts Forum. It's difficult to have your body do one thing when it's muscle memory tells it to execute it a different way. However, practicing the kick on a heavy bag was a good thing to do.

On Wednesday Sensei Moe came to Winooski for our weekly YMCA training, which a good friend of mine (Tanya) has also been attending. Brian was late due to a meeting, so Tanya and I just ran through kata, and I was seriously slipping up. It was a bit frustrating. Therefore, I've decided to dedicate my Tuesday free time (yay for preschool!) to kata run-through. I'm talking an hour and a half (okay, it will probably be closer to an hour. I'll work up to longer, I promise) of nothin' but kata, all the time. I've learned a new one, which brings my kata total to 16. I can't believe I remember all of them, but it's true what is said about certain movements becoming ingrained into your body the more they are performed.

Thursday brought another Muay Thai class, which was a bit easier this time around. We started with a light jog around the room, shadow boxing as we ran. Then Jared had us line up in the middle of the room, where we were then to do 10 burpees, 10 clapping push-ups (I stuck with regular since I have only recently begun to get back into push-ups since my shoulder problems) and 10 jump squats followed by four easy laps around the dojo. We did this four times. Then we went to the focus pads and worked on some combos and ended the class with what sounded like ciabatas (I know, that's a bread....I'll get the correct term). What that lovely sounding word meant was 20 seconds of all out followed by 10 seconds of rest done, I think, 8 times. I say I think because I lost count. The "all out" included punching focus pads, mountain climbers, burpees, and jumping jacks. These were performed as fast as possible. It was a great class.

And last but certainly not least I had the honor of attending one of Sabum Gordon White's Taekwondo classes on Saturday. I have to say that it was incredibly fun. We did not stop moving from the time class started until it was over. Kicking! Gordon had us doing all kinds of great kicking drills, and I was so excited to do them, I'm not kidding! What I do have to mention was the cordiality of all his students. They were incredibly kind and respectful and made a point of introducing themselves to me and asking me about my karate style. The class was also structured very traditionally, which gave it a high ranking score in my book. I'm hoping to return soon and have some more fun with Taekwondo.

Phew, that's it. It's a new week with new training possibilities. Other than that it's me working on getting a massage practice up and running so that we have some extra bucks, which, at this time in our history, is a very needed thing.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ugh...

I've never been so sore, not since field hockey practice, and that was back in the late '80's!

When I was a field hockey player back in high school, we would start training two weeks before the beginning of school. I knew the day that school ended that I would have to begin exercising to prepare myself for field hockey. Did that ever happen? Not once.

You think I would have learned from the previous year what the first day of practice was like. My coach, Sandy Adams, was a hard-ass, and rightly so. We had one of the best teams in Washington County, NY, and always made it to sectionals. The first day of practice started bright and early at 7am, rain or shine. We ran, a lot. We sprinted, jogged, sprinted, passed a ball around up and down the field, those of us not ready gasping for our breath. She even came up with this exercise we lovingly termed "killers": sprint one end of the field, grapevine up a side, sprint the other end, skip down the other side, and then sprint diagonally to start all over again. I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but you get the picture.

The day following the first practice I could barely walk, and we had to go back to practice and do it all over again. Eventually I would stop being sore and began to be in great shape.

Last night as I left my first ever Muay Thai kickboxing class at Vermont Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I was reminded of those long-ago field hockey practices. I was shaking, queasy and had a difficult time unlocking my car and seeing straight. This made me laugh, because when I had pulled into the parking lot I was full of jitters! It was crazy. I'm not sure why I was nervous, maybe since this was something very foreign to me (or the fact that I fear going places where I know no one)and I just didn't know what to expect. It also could have been precognition.

As I walked in I was impressed by how nice a dojo this was. It was in this large warehouse, so there was a lot of space for training. I arrived at the end of BJJ class and watched a bit as everyone rolled around on the floor and thought to myself, "I really have no desire to train in this" (sorry Steve!), but was enthralled by how it was done. So the class ended and those of us who were masochistic in nature entered the room.

We began innocently enough with three one minute rounds of ab exercises, rocking on our backs with hands and legs extended, pushing our hips off the floor. Part of me felt this wasn't going to be so bad. We then progressed to pad training, with the first combination of jab/cross/hook/roundhouse. Now, I should stress that the roundhouse used here is very different from the karate roundhouse that I love to do.
Here's a good example:


The mawashi geri that I've used has more of a snapping action to it instead of throwing your hip into it. Needless to say, it took some getting used to.

As I was hitting the pads I realized how much I missed training this way. I also realized how long it had been since my body had felt this kind of training. There were quite a few moments where I needed to catch my breath. I believe the term "sucking wind" could have been used.

The next combination involved the above, but with a twist. Another cross was added after the left hook, followed by a strike to the left inner thigh and then immediately followed by a roundhouse kick. Phew. We did not do as many of these, so I was spared the embarassment of wheezing. We ended the class with 10 repetitions of 10 punches followed by 5 burpees. Burpees! I got through four rounds before my muscles gave out, but I did manage to pull off two more rounds.

As I type this I can barely get my fingers to work. Last night when I got home my hands were shaking, and I don't mean with the nervous jitters. I haven't punched like that in months. Does this mean I'm never going back? Of course not! That was the most fun I'd had with that type of training in a long time. It's also been very needed in my life. As I've mentioned before, I love to push myself (I know I should link back, but I need to finish this so that I can stop typing), and the harder the better.

Next week it begins. I will be training karate three times a week! I'm so excited. I will also include the Muay Thai training. My son will begin pre-school, which is three days a week, giving me at least nine extra hours, which means at least one hour on two of those days to do karate training. Two of those days I will be training my friend, and one day Sensei Moe come up to make us work. Ah, it's never felt so good!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Back again

Well, it's all over. Poppy was buried yesterday and I'm at peace. It's just been an awful time for me, but now I'm coming through the fog, into the clearing. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I actually got to train on Wednesday, which was fantastic! My health has been shady as of late due to all the stress I've been under, but that did not stop me from karate. We did lots of kicking, which felt so good to do. I haven't had the energy, and it's been frustrating. Now, I'm ready to get back to my training!

There are a few corrections about my Wing Chun teacher, Dan Leahy that I need to make. He did not learn Wing Chun in China, but in Chinatown in NYC. He studied Lee Moy Shan and Vingrove A. Thomas (Lee Moy Shan's top student) from 1977 to 1989. Then from 1989 to 1992 he studied T'ai Chi with Dr. Nan Lu (Chan style). Sifu Leahy of course found my blog while googling his name and asked to make these corrections to make my info accurate! Thank you!!

Wing Chun has been such a wonderful addition to my training. So far I've learned just a few things, but they are already becoming a part of my martial art. That's as much as I can write about it at this time. It hasn't been long enough for me to really dig into it yet, but I plan on making it a regular thing in my life.

I'll be back into the blogverse soon. My brain is finally able to make the creative connections again and the ideas are coming to life!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Poppy

This will not be a martial arts post today.

This past Friday I went home to be with my grandfather, Poppy. He's had this insidious thing known as cancer and went downhill very quickly last Wednesday. Not wanting to die in a hospital bed, he went home on Friday morning, where they began the morphine. When I arrived that evening he was taking quick breaths in through his mouth, his false teeth were gone (I never knew he had false teeth! Apparently he lost all of his teeth when he was 19. Go figure...), and he was unresponsive. I sat next to him and held his hand, softly murmuring in his ear that I was there and that I loved him very much.

That night will be in my memory forever. The women of the family were there, tending to him, touching him, giving him more morphine and ativan to keep him as comfortable as possible. In the past month cancer had spread to his spine, making for a very painful existence. Poppy should never had gone this way. He was an extraordinary human being. So compassionate, so full of love and life. Always joking, whistling, saying "This is the happiest day of my life". Aw, I'm so sad.

This whole journey with death has really had an impression on me. It has made me notice how circular life is: birth to death, which is really another birth.

My grandmother had called a priest that night, being that Poppy was Catholic, since she felt that he would have wanted that before passing on. It was the most intense moment of my life so far. We all gathered around him. I was holding his hand and had my other hand place on top of his head. The tears were streaming down my face as the Father read the last rites, Irish brogue and all. I have never been so present, so in the moment, as I was at that time. It was beautiful. We all should experience that; it was humbling.

Throughout the evening my mom, aunt, sister and I would take turns sitting with Poppy. My grandmother went to bed. She had had enough. I spent most of the night on the couch in the same room as Poppy, and my mom was in the recliner next to me. As I lay on the couch, listening to him breathe, all I could think of was him taking his last breath. Every time he gurgled and coughed my mom and I would sit up straight, our bodies tense, the only thought, "Is this it?"

When morning came I decided to go back to my parent's house to try to get a little sleep. My aunt needed to go home as well, but before she left she told Poppy that it was okay to go. Not five minutes after she left Poppy did let go. My grandmother had been sitting with him and noticed that his breathing was very, very shallow. She walked out to the other room to ask my sister (who is a R.N.) to come and listen to Poppy's heart. When they returned to his side his heart had stopped.

A little while later my mom, sister and I dressed Poppy in his clothes. We put on his Redskins T-shirt (his absolute favorite football team. They better win the Superbowl this year!), his underwear, his jeans with the ironed crease (yes, he ironed his jeans. I believe he even ironed his underwear), his sox. Then my sister and I rubbed Nivea cream on his arms. He used to call it supercream. It smelled so good. Then my sister, brave soul, put his teeth back in.

It will be very hard to not have Poppy in my life. He was someone you could look up to, someone who you wanted to mirror you life after. It's sad when the world loses someone like that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My Chaka Zulu Experience

Since Patrick Parker desires more info about my Chaka Zulu experience, I shall elaborate. This man stands no taller than 5'6", but has the presence of a very large dinosaur, the carnivorous kind. Think T-Rex. However, he moves like a puma, sleek and sinewy.

My Sensei, Jon Bottomms, spent some time training with Chaka Zulu and asked him if he would come to our dojo for a seminar. Luckily for us he said yes. What this man taught us was downright amazing. Most of his attacks were done with the elbows or grabbing the fingers. What Chaka showed us was an elbow routine, which I cannot for the life of me remember. This makes me quite sad, since it was this great flowing routine, with one elbow attack moving into the next in quick succession. I now people who still remember it, and it would be to my advantage to poke them about it. The seminar consisted of only those elbow techniques since there was a time limit. Since then there have been periodic trips to New Jersey, where he trains, but I have not been able to go. Maybe someday.

The thing I remember most about Chaka Zulu was his demeanor. He was so friendly, yet you could sense this fierceness about him, something almost feral. If you were to cross him you would most likely not live to see another day. I have not met many people who have that feeling about them, in fact it's just Chaka Zulu and Master Morallo (the man whose system I train in). There is just this energy they exude that says,"I will be nice to you if you are nice to me, but don't push it." They are constantly assessing their surroundings, who comes into those surroundings. That is the way I want to be.

On the teaching front, the wheels have begun to turn. If all goes well I may be teaching karate here within the year, or even within six months. It's so exciting, and brings up every single doubt I have about my abilities, both in karate and as a teacher. Yay self-esteem!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chaka Zulu

This is a video of Chaka Zulu that every martial artist should watch. Apparently my Sensei, Sensei Jon Bottomms, had everyone view this and it was forwarded to me. This is an amazing man. I had the honor of training with him about seven years ago and it was a great experience. The video is just over 15 minutes long, so sit down, take a breather, and let it soak in. It will be worth your while.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Where does my time go?

And how do I reclaim it? The past week has been filled with chest cold loveliness and it's put a damper on my training, just when I was ready to get back into it all. This was not a surprise to me, with the move and the big changes, it's just damn inconvenient. Usually it's business as usual when I get sick, but not this time. However, it has lent me some time to just be here and not become obsessive about getting back into the swing of things.

I miss my dojo terribly. Miss the camaraderie, the trust, the routine. Put me on my own and I flail a bit until I get a new routine. This has been my goal in the past three weeks, but instead of giving myself time to stretch I've been impatient to find a new path in all of this. A spark arrived last week when I found out that the local YMCA was looking for a karate instructor. Fate? Coincidence? I'm not sure. All I know is, I'm not permitted to instruct in my style yet, but can be a second.

This leads us to Sensei Brian Moe (pronounced "moy"), one of the senior instructors of Koro Ken. He has said that he was willing to come to Burlington to train me and another student who lives here once a week. If he becomes the instructor at the Y, then I become his second and teach when he's not there. I'm not sure if all of this will work since he will not really get paid and can't charge a fee, which isn't very realistic. We shall see what happens.

Back to finding the rhythm of training. I have a place to train inside, have childcare, and have someone to train with (and also instruct at the same time since she's a green belt and will be testing soon.) There is also Wing Chun once a week, which will become a nice addition to my style. Then there's the conditioning that I want to do. Where does all this fit in when you have suddenly become a stay-at-home mommy? There lies the rub...

Again this brings me back to patience. I have very little of it and need to begin the practice of being here now instead of five minutes ago or five minutes ahead (or sometimes years ahead; to allow myself the space to breathe instead of doing it NOW. I used to meditate every day to keep my brain from running away on me and that all stopped once I had a child. However, meditating with a munchkin whacking you with a ruler he found on a shelf could be a great way to find inner peace.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wing Chun

Well, last night I went to my very first Wing Chun class, and even brought a friend! It was fantastic and it feels like the beginning of a new relationship. My friend was even delighted by what she experienced (she has experience with Judo and Kung Fu but hasn't trained in quite some time.) We began by observation, watching the first and second forms. As I sat watching I was amazed at how the Sifu moved and how simple those movements were. Every move came from the elbows, pooling the chi just below the bone. It was fascinating. Sifu Dan Leahy studied in China for fifteen years with a man whose name escapes me. So much was said and so many moves were shown that my brain couldn't quite keep up (I'm purely a kinesthetic learner.) The only moves we did were the vertical punching. It was very difficult to do. The move was so different from what my body has been used to, but the longer I did it, the easier it became. The rest of the class performed this punch 800 time. It was so intense!

What struck me the most was the simplicity of the moves. Every technique was performed from the center line of the body, with the waist providing the thrust. I'm so used to low stances, upper blocks, moving to the outside. There were some moves to the outside, but they were done very close to the attacker.

That's the other part, the closeness. Every block also contained a strike. It was done simultaneously, not with the block and then the hit. The kicks were all low. In fact, only three types of kicks were employed - front kick, upper rising kick and a side kick. Very simple. I can't stress that enough!

So, I'm hooked. Sifu was very engaging and full of information. You could see the passion in the way he moved. That's what I want in a teacher, not someone who professes his style is the best, but one who loves what he does and desires to pass along that information.

I was supposed to go train this morning in Rutland, but we ran into a SNAFU with the child-watching. You know what, I was okay. Before I moved I was so worried about continuing my training with Koro Ken, but now that I'm here I'm forced to see that I may not be able to train in that style (unless it's by myself) as much as I would like. I'm starting to feel that, and it makes me sad because before I left I was really in a groove. That doesn't mean I can't translate that groove into Wing Chun. Now that I know how to move and how it feels to move that way the transition from one style to another will be relatively painless, I hope. However, that does not mean that I will stop training in my style, just as often in the dojo.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A new home

Well, I've landed. It's been pretty bumpy.

All in all the move went very smoothly and most of the boxes have been unpacked. There's still a few, but it's decoration, which we're not ready for just yet. The rooms have been dedicated, dissected, drawn in. Me, however, I'm feeling a bit lost. This is not a sob story, nor is it any kind of complaint. I'm feeling lost because I'm in a new home, a new area, one that' much bigger than I'm used to. Even though we have many friends here I'm feeling lonely for my old ways. Mostly the karate. It hasn't even been a week yet and I'm so itchy to find something. Next week, I say, it all starts next week. There's such impatience in my character and it's maddening!

Next Tuesday evening I'm trying out a Wing Chun class. I'm so excited about this because that is a martial art that I've been wanting to try for a very long time. Hopefully, it's a fit.

Then on Wednesday I'm driving south to Rutland to the mother ship to train and then speak with Sensei Morallo about training privately to begin my teacher training. This is the only way for me to stay in this system. However, their is another sensei, Sensei Moe, who is willing to come to Burlington and teach a class once a week. If I can train with Sensei Morallo and then with Sensei Moe I should be fine. What I need is sparring partners, bunkai partners, ippon partners. That just takes scheduling. A good friend lives directly across the street from us and she's had experience with Kung Fu and Judo so I may tap into her well of knowledge. I'm sure she'd love to scrap now and then.

So, it's starting and I just need to find my patience. I'm also not working anymore, which is another reason for feeling lost. I love having a schedule, having me time put into sections. It's just a little glitch. I'll get back on track soon...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Some thoughts...

When I was a little girl my mother was always telling me, "Karrie, you don't know your own strength." This response was given whenever I beat up on my little sister and brother, who would often gang up on me leaving me no choice but to rough them up a bit. I'm the oldest; they are just over a year apart. This closeness often led them to stick together. The reality was my brother followed my sister's every whim, at least until he was old enough to know better. Don't get me wrong, I love them dearly, it's just that when we were kids we didn't often get along, and my sister spent a lot of time yelling, "Mom, Karrie's going to hit me!"

Why do I tell that story? Well, I still don't know my own strength, be it too much or too little. Last week was spent sparring and sparring. This was due to our dojo having a shiai, specifically a shodan shiai. When it was my turn to spar the testee I felt so weak and ragged and my form was awful. I was wearing 12 oz gloves, which I absolutely detest. They are bulky and I have had difficulty hitting with them accurately. I feel like a clown, and when I get hit in the head, which happens way too often (okay, I'm barely 5 feet tall and I spar with people much taller than me, which results in my head being directly at the end of their punch. Yeah, yeah, evade, I know!), I want to scream! Needless to say I got some good hits to my face. On the other hand, I gave some great shots to the body. One of the important things we work on in sparring is to get used to taking a shot. Specifically, take a shot, give a shot. It works wonders. Practice it enough and it really happens.

Strength. There's a lot to that word. My strengths in karate lie in kata, kicking and ippons. Sparring is my weakness. Two weeks ago I took a class at the mother ship, where we sparred for the first 30 min. of class with absolutely no gloves. I shined. With no gloves I was strong. It was a defining moment: there I was, using mushimi to keep contact, taking people to the ground, all without gloves. It was so effortless and I was in the zone. I was also sparring with people who I didn't really know, which would normally make me incredibly nervous, incredibly doubtful of my technique. Sensei Moe, one of Sensei Morallo's senior instructors (he trained with my Sensei back in the day), said this excellent thing: you have to find what you don't like about karate and practice it until you love it. I took that to heart, and decided then and there that I would spar as much as I could with as many people as I could.

So last week....taking that mentality I went into the sparring with gusto. Even though I felt sloppy at the shodan shiai I still felt happy about it. It was the next day where I faltered. I was "shark bait" at the end of class, a class where we spent most of our time "working the meat", meaning really getting into how horse stance is performed, moving the muscles around to the correct positions. It hurts, a lot. After all of that work I sparred for one minute with 8 different students. At first everything was fine, and even though I had on the 12 ouncers I was able to keep my form. The levels varied from expert to the very, very new, which gave me a wide range of technique to work with. The very last person had on the biggest, bulkiest gloves I had ever seen. Whenever they hit my head it was like being bonked with a pillow. I have never been as frustrated in karate as I was at that moment. When Sensei came back into the dojo (he had left while I was sparring) I was ready to scream. He saw I was flailing and stepped in to spar with me. At that point I was done, the tears were already falling down my cheeks. I bowed as quickly as I could and ran over to the door, where I knelt down to collect myself. It was very difficult to control sobbing that wanted to come out of my chest.

Why was my reaction so strong? It goes back to strength. Last week was a very difficult week for me. There has been a lot of processing going on inside of me that has to do with moving. The day I lost it was the day I was done. I didn't have much left to give. It was also the best thing that happened to me. After I collected myself I went back to sparring with Sensei and I had a clearer head. Of course I wasn't done crying, but I was able to keep it together for the rest of class. If there's one thing I take from my training, it's how well I've come to know myself through karate.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Since I've been gone....

It's been too long!!! I decided that instead of a post (see I'm having a hard time finding the time for quality posts and most of the time I start to tear-up, then get frustrated and turn off the computer) I will entertain you with some youtube finds that made me laugh when I needed to laugh. Just remember, we all need to laugh at ourselves every once in a while....





And remember, there's much more to martial arts than fancy footwork.


I'll be writing posts again soon. Right after I move....

Monday, August 11, 2008

Exhausted

That's it, I'm finished, done, kaput. I want no more of packing, no more of stressing about anything. We move in three weeks, and in those three weeks I have 12 full days of massage to do. It's daunting, overwhelming. It leaves no time for posting. This is my apology for not getting to post in the next three weeks, in the expectation that I will not be writing much at all. If I do write I will try not to complain too much about how much I hurt, how hubby and I are ready to throw each other out of the highest window we can find. It's not that bad, just a little crazy! My grand plan is to have another blog about our moving adventures, which will mostly be for my clients and family since to keep in touch will all of them at once is never going to happen. I'll put the link here so that I won't be repeating myself....

And now, the last Deadbooks teaser. Premier is August 18 at deadbooks.com

Thursday, August 7, 2008

more deadbooks

Oh, I'm late with this...



Season premier is coming soon!

Haiku

How can I post words
When life is frantic, like
Willow strands breaking.

Karate is fun,
Sweating now my passion,
Life is so much fun.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Tales of a JOP

That means Justice of the Peace. I was "voted in" almost two years ago as one of the JOPs in our small town. Someone had called me and asked if I wanted to be on the ticket that election year since they needed another Dem so I said "sure, why not". Well, it's been a rather simple adventure, with only ballots to count (yeah, we're that small). Today, however, I'm going to marry two people. It's a very strange thing. Last night we had the rehearsal and it was a small, powerful feeling to run a ceremony that will eventually end up in two youngsters (they are both no more than 21, if that) being joined together hopefully for as long as they live.



The interesting part is the glow that I'm feeling, and also the butterflies that I'm desperately trying to will into non-existence. I really do not like public speaking.

Well, now it's all over. It went by so quickly, and I was so elated. It's an amazing thing to marry two people...now let's just hope it lasts. I know that may sound slightly pessimistic, but these two were barely 20, and they had a baby a year ago today. There's hope, and I'm feeling it. I just wish for them to feel it, too.

Boy, could this post be any further from karate or what? My life has begun to cycle towards moving and my brain is very frazzled. Every morning I wake up and say to myself, "Just focus on today", which is becoming increasingly more difficult to do. What keeps me going is that I only have to massage my hands off for four more weeks and then I'm done for an unspecified period of time. That is a wonderful thing.

Last Thursday when I got home from work (two massages in the morning followed by an hour and a half karate session followed by a two hour break leading into three more hours of massage. Ouch) there was nothing ready for me to eat. I'm not getting into that, not here. As I was mashing up two hard-boiled eggs in preparation for an egg salad sandwhich I started to cry. Not exactly sobbing, but close. My body was in so much pain. It happens sometimes, and I roll with it, but not this time. I put down my fork, marched through the house and announced, "I'm going to take a bath RIGHT NOW" and proceeded up the stairs. My little one joined me and I found instant relaxation.

Massage is very hard work, and it's even harder when you do karate in-between all the clients. It's even harder when you're a mom and married. There's not much left to me at the end of some days. My massage is not fluffy, it's straight to the point and it gets a lot done in one hour (sometimes an hour and a half). The whole time I'm focused on the person and the muscles and where those muscles attach and why are they acting so silly?! Ugh. I do love it, I just need a break.

Okay, now for the karate. We have a shiai on August 20, which I am so happy about. It will be the last shiai for me, and now that I'm a shodan I get to watch and support instead of sweat. I'm sure that I'll be able to make furture shiai, but not as a full-time member of my dojo. They are always so much fun. Hopefully, I'll have some pictures to share.

I've decided that when I finally get settled I'll spend some more time on my posts and post more regularly. I enjoy writing. It's cathartic. Plus I learn a lot about myself and my karate journey the more I write about it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

short

Well, here's the next youtube installment of "DeadBooks". This should be a very interesting ride. I'm going to continue to promote it until it launches, so you have been warned...



The move is moving along. I'm very, very, very excited to finally get up to the Burlington area. There's just so much more up there for my family.

This will be short and sweet. Life has just been very crazy lately (plus it's my busiest time of the year for massage) and I'm hoping to get to a post I'll call "Female MMA fighters". There's so much more to it and it's rolling around in my brain. It will take some time since I have to find videos, quotes, etc., but it will eventually make it to the page.

Just know that class is still of the caveman variety and I'm all over CrossFit. Thanks to Steve...

Maybe even go as far to say that I'm thinking about getting certified....yeah, certifiably crazy!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Deadbooks

Okay, a dojo mate of mine is about to do something fantastic. It's a series called "Deadbooks" and must be seen by gazillions of people:


Not only is this guy a talented writer, he's also an amazing martial artist. As are his wife and two young sons (young, one is on the verge of teenagerdom! Go family martial artists!). I'm thinking there are some scifi/fantasy people out there in the MA world, and even if you aren't you should definitely stay tuned. I know I'll be watching...So, all of you head on over to deadbooks.com and place it in your favorites. Prepare for greatness.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You can blame me for the caveman

A few weeks ago, the day after the MA blogger roundtable hosted by TDA Training, I hopped on over to Rick's Kicks Boxes for a viewing of a blog that I haven't really spent much time reading. What I discovered was Caveman training. That same day I mentioned this new discovery to Ray, a san kyu in my dojo, who I train with in-between class days. We tried out some of the aspects of this type of workout: do something fast, lift something heavy, hit something hard, hold something and explode. Needless to say we were both breathing very heavy by the time one round was finished (and he's one to run up a mountain for fun). There was also a white belt there, and she, too, was breathing hard. I discovered I felt great after the punishment. Even though it was one of the hardest training experiences for me it really felt good to do it.

I've written before about trying to find new ways to eat and train for martial arts. I really love to push myself, often beyond what a "normal" person would take. For some reason my body really does well with that type of training. I do not, however, do it more than twice a week since I do have to work and still go home and have some of "me" left over for hubby and cute little boy. The trouble is, I rarely do this on my own. I usually do the tough stuff with other people or in the dojo. I find it hard to kick my own butt, and that's something that will need to change once I move.

In the beginning I will have to train mostly by myself. There will not be time at first to find a new dojo to train in, and I'm thinking that I may lay off on that for a while. I have a friend who used to train in our dojo who has moved to Burlington as well, and she's very excited to have me in the area. So, I will also train with her, plus I have a big yard and the snow won't be here for at least another month (Hee, hee. That actually starts around the beginning of November). There is also the possibility of travelling an hour and a half south to the Rutland dojo, too, at least once a week. I will need to come up with my own Caveman regimen to follow, and stick to. Perhaps said friend will be into that as well.

The absolute worst thing for me is to have my training schedule broken apart. Therefore it will be of utmost importance to get one going as soon as I get to Winooski. I admit it, I get lazy. I can picture karate in my head until I go blurry, but that doesn't get me very far in the training world. I have this plan to go to a Wing Chun class once a week, but that's not enough. If I set the goal to do the Caveman-like training at least twice a week, Wing Chun once a week, Rutland once a week and maybe another day with my friend in Koro Ken, perhaps I will escape the I-don't-have-the-time excuse.

So, I blame me for the Caveman training we went through in class today. Sensei had found one, too, separate from the one I discovered. Now he's all fired up about it, and it's a good thing. We hopped over punching bags, ran from side-to-side, did sit-ups on an incline while punching at the top of the move, held a medicine ball and swung it down over each leg, jumped rope, and lifted heavy bags as you would a tractor tire. Each station was performed for one minute with a 30 second break in-between them. This went on for at least 45 minutes. Kata was next. Then we all took turns being attacked by the rest of class one at a time. At one point Sensei came up behind me and grabbed me, completely taking me by surprise. I fared just fine. It's amazing how much faster your body reacts when it's wiped out.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Popularity

First off, I must say that in my last post I wrote of my desire to be a fighter. This, my friends, is pure fantasy. A few of you even commented on the fact that fighting may not be the best course for me to take, and I wholeheartedly agree (I'm not sure if there's a hyphen between those two words, so just let it go). The training aspect is more important to me. Of course I want to fight in a real situation! That does not, however, mean I'm actually going to do it. I can picture it now: the crowd cheers as I enter the room, swaggering down the long runway to the ring (in this scenario I am not wearing skimpy clothing or a skirt. There's a post in that sentence somewhere, I just know it!) As I enter the ring I peer over at my opponent, a good foot taller than I am, at least ten years younger and bursting with muscular fortitude. I feel a warmth on my inner thigh, and look down to see me peeing on myself in front of a cheering crowd. Seriously, this is not something I will pursue, at least not in the ring.

Popularity. By that I mean blog popularity. I've been taking BBM's Blogging 101 course and it has begun to change the way I view (and write) my blog. I certainly recommend it to anyone who blogs, not just MA writers, even if you've had your blog for a while. It's given my blog direction and inspiration. It has also instilled in me this desire to be popular. I WANT people to read my blog and like what they read. I want to know who visits me, what they do, why they popped on over to my place. At the same time this feeling shames me (that's hyperbole, people). I'm embarrassed to say that I want many readers to follow what I write, hanging on every sentence, coining key phrases. Am I turning into a blog monster?

Writing, to me, was always this cathartic thing, where I poured my heart out onto a piece of paper. I wrote of all the wrong-doings, the heart breaks, the periodic poetic inspirations. When I started blogging all of that began to change. Complete strangers would now be reading about how sweaty I got in class or what I was eating to maintain my body for training. Who would want to read about that? This, needless to say, made me VERY self-conscious of what my subject matter would be with each post. Should I be witty or serious? A little bit of both? I began to view myself as a writer and decided that I was going to make damn sure that what I wrote about was somewhat interesting.

The more that I write in my MA blog the more that I'm finding that it's really, really important to keep to what I know. However, there are these lingering ideas inside of my head that are dying to come out in blog form, and they will. They just need a little more effort to create. Blogging is so much fun and I enjoy the evolution that is taking place with mine.

I suppose that popularity really isn't all that important. I just want to be liked! That sounds pretty desperate and is just a little sarcastic. What IS important is that I'm a respected MA blogger, not just a chick who writes about beating people up, and liking it.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fighting, a passion


I have this secret desire. It involves training hard. It involves focusing like I've never focused before. I'm talking about this (the fight starts at 2:30, so just skip over the reality stuff). Yup, it's fighting in a ring with nothing but my wits, my technique and a pair of small gloves. I'm not talking about MMA, either. MMA is okay, but I like Muay Thai fighting better. It's quick, it stays up, there's no ground and pound. The techniques are finer, especially when using elbows. This is my opinion. Plus I really love to kick and use my knees and elbows. I'm short, it suits me.


I must admit that I love watching Gina Carano fight. She's got great form, but her Muay Thai fighting is so much finer and smoother than the MMA she does. The best thing about Gina's fighting, she takes no prisoners (she's at the end of this montage, the one who's fighting isn't at all sloppy). She keeps her balance, she's grounded, she's got a mean hook. I absolutely love it! Another impressive fighter is Kerry Vera. This is a great fight, and pay close attention to the knockout. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any recent information about Kerry and am not sure if she's actually in the fighting circuit. Such a shame....


What is it about this violent sport? Why does it get me revved up the way it does? It involves getting hit, and getting hit pretty hard. It involves possible broken bones, and definite bruises. It involves the shedding of blood on more than one occasion. Maybe it's the fact that it's all about you and what you can do, your power and your strength. I know I write a lot about moving from hara and kata being the best thing for training, but way down in the pit of my stomach is this tiger who really, really wants to fight. It could be I want to see what I'm made of, to see what would happen if I were to step into a ring with another woman. Fighting in that capacity intrigues me, it's that simple.


There is, of course, a caveat: the older you are, the harder it is to recover from injury. I'm 36, a bit old to be getting into this type of sport. My body does not recover like it used to. The training for Muay Thai is very difficult and would take a considerable amount of time out of my week. Would my body be able to handle that kind of beating? My right shoulder was injured not long ago and has healed very nicely (two months of PT and one Corisone shot later) and I've finally been able to get back into harder training. This past Tuesday I hurt the left one while throwing a 250 lb. man off of me (we were practicing the throw where someone is sitting on top of you holding both of your arms down). What would happen if I followed this passion to fight? It's one thing to be 26, but 36 is a whole other ballgame.


My age, of course, would not stop me. I'm not sure if I'll pursue this dream. Burlington has a Muay Thai training program, fighting included. It may be something I train for only and never enter a ring surrounded by a cheering crowd.

Monday, July 7, 2008

It's going to happen

We actually have a place to move in to. I never thought it was really going to happen. See, I'm pretty good with denial and although I'm excited to go to a much bigger town (small city, actually) I'm secretly scared out of my pants. The apartment, however, is more than we could have hoped for. It happened on a whim, really.

This weekend was meant for relaxing, seeing friends, swimming in pools, dripping with sweat because it was so darn hot. However, the fates decided to throw in a visit to a place directly across the street from a dear friend. Not only is our new landlord down-to-earth, but she's an artist, a really good artist. Located in Winooski, which is a stone's throw from downtown Burlington, the house was built on two lots, which means the yard is to die for. We have the entire downstairs, which consists of a HUGE kitchen (yay for me, I love to cook!), three bedrooms, a cute bathroom (tiled and everything) and a basement for storage. There are all sorts of creatures thrown about the yard and gardens, which were created by the landlord. She lives upstairs, but leaves for the winter. It's perfect, really, so why do I have this hollow feeling in my stomach? Did I actually think this was really going to take place?

I thought that I did. I also thought that I was okay with it.

The scary parts: moving away from my family, leaving my massage business (which will be sold for some amount to another massage therapist), leaving my dojo.

Leaving my dojo.

That makes me a little crazy on the inside. Although, one of the senior instructors has informed me and another woman (who has also recently moved into Burlington) that he will come to us to train us. He's very, very good, up there with Sensei Bottomms. It would be an honor to have him. Plus I have this great yard, which is surrounded by these stately hedges, to train in. It's like this secret dojo....

So what happens in the winter?

I've written about finding another dojo and I really don't want to. Wah, I don't want to (picture me stomping my feet)! That's purely BS, I will look for one and will most likely start with Kung Fu. Sensei Morallo has mentioned that, unfortunately, the guy who teaches at this particular school is better at acupuncture, but to give him a go anyway because it really is all about learning. I'm finding that as a shodan that's the most important thing. Okay, that's a whole other post, so stay tuned.

There's also this grand plan to travel with my friend to Rutland to train at the mother ship, perhaps twice a week. However, this woman is single and has no children. Maybe in fairy land this could potentially happen. The Trick is for me to find childcare since hubby will now be taking over all the earning in our family.

Yikes...

This brings us 'round to me not actually believing that moving away from my ten year stint in the town I was raised was actually going to take place. It's a comfort thing. This realization does not lessen the high level of anxiety that I am now feeling. No kidding, kiddos, my anxiety is in the General Anxiety Disorder category. I'm not that crazy, just a little. When the stress gets up there I have a hard time functioning. All I have to do is get back onto my regular training schedule and everything will fall back into place.

See, I've been sick all week and have been unable to train as much as usual. This makes me cranky. Who wouldn't be cranky! Place on top of that cranky cake a few sparkly candles and you might get an explosion. I will be okay, I will be okay, this is a positive move....the more mantras the better.

Alright, now that I've vomited that forth I feel much better. The move is going to happen and I will be happy once it is all over. What happens next is the adventure of a lifetime.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A very cool video

Check this out. This is a compilation of pics put together by a kohai of mine pertaining to our Sensei's godan shiai this past winter. It's what we're about, baby!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Fear


Where does fear come from exactly? Is it purely an instinctual reaction or something much deeper, and is there such a thing as deeper than instinct? The fight or flight reaction is based in the instinctual part of our brain and surfaces in times of extreme stress, but does fear also reside in the same house? There seem to be so many levels that contribute to this response: the instant fear, the phobia, the I-should-really-be-afraid kind of fear.
When I began my karate journey I was afraid to perform solo in front of the class. After a while, through diligence and repetition, that fear eventually subsided. However, there's still the hint of sweaty palms, the racing heart beat every single time I get up in front of the class to perform a kata alone. Fear, in that sense, remains instinctual. I don't think about it, don't recognize that I'm afraid, yet I still feel the anxious body reaction as I stand in front of the class, ready to spring forth like a tiger.
There was also the fear surrounding sparring with another person. In our dojo the introduction to sparring for new students is with bunkai. This means one person throwing a specified strike and the other performing a specified defense technique or combination of techniques. The fight or flight response was so present when I was new to bunkai, and yet again I still feel it insinuate itself into my stomach to this very day.
Fear is a very complex emotion and to overcome that fight or flight response, the dumping of adrenaline and cortisol, is a very difficult thing to do. These days I enjoy sparring, although not the heavy kind where you need gear in order to prevent serious injury. I find that slow-flow is a much better way to hone sparring skills because you work on controlling the adrenaline dump, are actually forced to, in order to remain calm and relaxed. As soon as you stiffen up the fight or flight response has won and the energy it takes to get back to center can wear you right out.

There is also a whole other type of fear, the one related to your children. My son is an extremely active boy, climbing, running, dare deviling. With each of those actions I find my heart thumping against my chest, my palms sweating up a storm. I often have to control the impulse to go scoop him up in order to prevent him from slamming his head into the ground or falling off of a rock. There have been bruises and bumps, but that's all a part of growing up. With him there seems to be very little fight or flight involved in many of his actions.
The desire to experience far outweighs the desire to prevent injury.
He's three. Where does this begin to change?
I love the fact that he's so active and willing to explore, yet at the same time I keep finding more gray hairs underneath the red than I would like. It also takes an immense amount of energy to control the adrenaline dump when you are a parent. Perhaps this is why I have found it easier to do in karate class lately. I get plenty of practice at home.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What I did on my summer vacation



I was here. It was good. Seriously, vacation was much-needed and it's too bad that it couldn't have been a bit longer. However, there is only so much time one can spend with one's family before one gets really agitated. I spent Tuesday through Saturday of this past week at this amazing lake house with my entire family. We go there every summer at the end of June. This house sleeps at least 30, so there's plenty of space, but three crazy kids and six crazier adults can make for an exhausting time. Don't get me wrong, folks, I had a wonderful vacation. We had one solid day of rain and the rest was sunny and partly sunny. Not bad for early summer in Vermont. I was also able to attend a karate class (man, I just can't let it go, even for one darn week....) at the mother dojo. It was so amazing. The class was a toughie and focused primarily on kihones, especially kage uke along with sebake and sudiash and following through with a seiken tsuki. We then translated that while receiving a punch to the head, using the kage uke and striking with mawashe tsuki to the temple, jaw or carotid artery. I lucked out and worked with Sensei Morallo, and it was so worth the time. He showed me how to root down with my rear leg and send the chi shooting up through the leg, up the back, along my scapula, down my arm and through my fist. The result was an effortless punch that packed a huge amount of power. This was the first time I was actually able to get it to work. I rocked the Sensei, yay me! Now I know how this man can send another man flying across the room with apparently no strength. My plan is to go to this same class every other week so that I can train with him in order to supplement the training with my Sensei. The two together will add so much to what I'm trying to learn before I move. What was so wonderful about this experience is that I finally "got" how to translate hara into my strikes and not just my movements. It was just a simple twist of the knee and hip, that's all it took.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hara you doin'

Recently I've been thinking a lot about how connecting with hara really, really improves your karate. It's a simple thing really: move from hara and the move is effortless. For me it's happened a lot lately, mostly when I'm teaching a technique to someone else. When I'm in that situation I'm not thinking about how the move works, I just do it. I show how the technique is supposed to go and spend no time thinking about it. It's the thinking that hinders performance. When my brain gets too involved in the technique it doesn't work the way it needs to. In our style both hard and soft movements are incorporated into the self-defense techniques. Go too hard and the technique falls apart. Go too soft and the technique has no substance. Somewhere in the middle lies a technique that originates from hara. For most of my karate career this has been an elusive feeling. It is now not quite so elusive, but in trying to teach someone else how to move from hara the "mysterious" properties have resurfaced themselves. It's really not magical but completely practical. However, how do you describe to someone who has no idea how to move in a karate way how to move in a karate way using hara? It's damn difficult. The thing is, you can't put your brain into it in that way, either. You just do it.

So, have you ever incorporated plyometrics into your martial arts training? We did the other day in class. Plyometrics are very exhausting, I tell you! Today my left calf is so sore I have a slight limp (yeah, yeah, poor me, I know. Don't cry for me, baby! I do this to myself...) and going down stairs is slightly challenging. I suppose it's time to incorporate them on a regular basis. They really are a beautiful thing, and for what they give you muscle performance-wise, it's worth the initial pain. The series we did incorporated an aerobic step. We jumped onto the top from a squat position, we jumped up and over from a squat position, we jumped up and over with a turn from a squat position. This and more. Ugh, it was awesome!

Well, I'm off to lovely Lake Bomoseen this week for some rest and hopefully relaxation. I plan on doing much playing about in the water, finishing a few knitting projects (I start them and never finish because I move onto something else. Hey, I get bored!) and read many books. It will also give me a chance to visit the "mother" dojo (I really have to find the right name for that) to train and talk to Sensei Morallo about opening up my own Koro Ken dojo. Ooo, so exciting!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

This weekend I took my son to his first movie. It was purely a selfish act, I'll admit that now. We saw "Kung Fu Panda". This was one great movie, with a simple, yet profound lesson for all you serious martial artists out there (and you know who you are...). Profound? In animation? Yes! It's a must-see, go now. Skadoosh!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What color do you wear?

Today I meandered on over to Charles James Sensei's blog and found a very, very interesting thing. The message was clear: not everyone who wears a black belt really IS a black belt. It got me thinking, am I a black belt or do I just wear one? My training over nine years has consisted of so much repetition, so many kicks, so many punches, and many, many rounds of kata. Does that time warrant me wearing a black belt? Recently I've begun looking back to how I felt when I first began karate, but it has been hard for me to re-capture the feeling of being really new. Now that I wear a black belt, do I feel a different kind newness? When I train now I always look to the new feelings that crop up with old moves. I'm constantly aware of how I'm moving, constantly aware that there is still so much for me to learn. There's also this itch to go so much further, and how does that happen? To me this signifies that I am a black belt. If I just wore a black belt, I believe that all of my actions would come from ego-elephantitis. I see it in my dojo, and it's not pretty. Not many have this, but when I see it I think that where I am coming from is so different. For me my training is about improving spirit, improving movement, improving skill, but also keeping myself humble and open to learning from my kohai. If I keep in mind that I'm always a new student whenever I enter the dojo, my training will always show me new things. This does not make the shodan path any easier to follow. In fact it has made it so much harder. I relish that difficulty because it makes me stronger.


You may have noticed that I deleted a few posts. When I wrote them I was coming from a place of anger and frustration. I feel that now I have resolved the issue I no longer need to be reminded of what happened. Going through that experience and conquering those feelings of inadequacy really moved me along in my training. I feel more confident in my teaching, more true to myself as a martial artist. I am indeed a black belt and earned every ounce of it. That, of course, does not make me an expert. On the contrary, I'm still a newbie.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ah, I can breathe again

Class was fun! We did a lot of defense off of grabs and relaxing into them. This has been my biggest battle, relaxing that is. I get so tense when I'm grabbed. My water needs to flow downhill...There was even a moment when I grabbed my sempai's leg and thought I was going to pick him up and throw him. Really, I did! Too much muscle. I'm forever muscling.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Finding a new school

At the end of August my family and I will be relocating to the beautiful Burlington, Vermont area. This move, however, will result in a lot of change for me. This change consists of 1. leaving my 10 year massage therapy business that I built myself and 2. leaving my dojo where I have trained for 9 years. When my husband and I first started to plan this move I was resistant to this change and kept changing my mind about where to move to and when. After much thought and looking inward I have come to terms with the fact that I will be leaving the area where I grew up. This is not a bad thing. Burlington and it's surrounding towns offer so much more for my family, so much more for our future. My husband does not like where we live now and he does not have much of a future in terms of employment opportunities if we were to continue living here. He grew up near Burlington and longs to return to where all of his friends are. Me, I have my ups and downs. I know Burlington and lived there for five years when I attended the University of Vermont (where I got a degree in wildlife biology. Go figure) and to this day have wanted to return. But the sense of loss that I am feeling really pulls at my gut and there's a part of me that's just not happy to go.

The reason for this post is to write about leaving my dojo and my sensei. There will still be opportunities for me to train, just not on the regular schedule that I have now. My family lives here and I will be travelling here on the weekends, when I can attend a Saturday class. However, I am currently training to test for nidan, which I'm not sure I will be able to do once I move. Burlington has many, many martial arts available, but I'm used to forms and tradition. There is not one karate dojo, so maybe it's time I start my own (with permission from Master Morallo, of course). That, however, makes me a little scared since I do not feel I am ready to open a dojo where I am the head teacher. Yikes! There is so much more I want to learn first before I teach my style to strangers. It's going to be very hard for me to leave my dojo and the family feeling that I have cultivated there. My sensei is so extraordinary and that will make it difficult for me to find another place to train.

Most of the martial arts in Burlington consists of Kempo, more Kempo , Brazilian Jujitsu, Taekwondo, Aikido and Kung Fu. Kung Fu is where I am leaning since it is a form-based school and I have always been fascinated by this martial art. I tried a kempo school and it just didn't fit with what I wanted out of a dojo, although the self-defense aspect would be invaluable to my training. Kata is very important to me and through kata I have learned an incredible amount about how to move. Sparring is important, too, but I don't believe the Kung Fu school has this. I can always go somewhere else to fill that need. I have two friends who are both at the nidan level in Kempo and they are more than happy to spar. BJJ is also a possibility since I really like grappling, but have not had much experience. My body type is perfect for BJJ, but I'm just not sure if I want to put it through that kind of training.

So, the quest for a new school begins in September. In my heart I will not be leaving my dojo, and I need to open myself up for other opportunities. This will only further my experience as I travel down my martial arts path. It really is a Way for me, and I want it to continue on in that fashion.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Training in the grass

I was asked to post a picture of my sensei that I mentioned in a previous post. Well, as soon as I remember to ask his permission I will do so. The picture is now in my computer and is awaiting approval...

Today I went to the local park with a dojo mate to train. It was clear blue skies, 70 degree weather, in other words, a perfect day for karate on the grass. This particular friend just started in our dojo this past fall and has yet to test for her yellow belt. However, the drive this woman has is fantastic. You can feel her excitement to learn, can almost taste her level of commitment (although I'm not really sure what that would taste like...maybe like a strong coffee.) It's always a pleasure for me to train with her, which most often includes me teaching. Today we reviewed our separate bunkai: Saifa for me and Empi, Taikyoko Shodan/Nidan for her. I've been wanting to dive into bunkai lately since we haven't been spending any time with the upper kata. This seems to happen a lot. We have some new people so we spend most of our class on the first four kata and the bunkai for each one. This is not a bad thing, mind you, since having those flow without thought is so important once you reach shodan. However, I have never learned all of the bunkai for most of my upper level kata and really want to have a working relationship with them. This would most likely require a private session with sensei, or at least an upper belt class. We have those. I'm working.

Anyway, we also worked on our kicks, especially the balance aspect related to kicking. I taught her inside/outside mikazuki geri (crescent kick) today. Those, besides mawashi geri, are my favorites. Yesterday she asked me to show her how to do spinning kicks and I originally told her no since I wasn't sure she was ready. I had her show me mae geri keage and kikomi and mawashi geri and she looked solid. So, I showed her the beginnings of a spinning kick after class. Although I do not use them in sparring I do feel they have value to balance training. Plus they look so fancy! I think that's why most beginners desire to learn them...

Balance training. It is imperative that a beginner learn this early (at least in my opinion). Balance is so important in every aspect of karate and to learn it and master it early on makes life so much easier. I often find myself standing on one leg and throwing a variety of kicks. I also train kicks very slowly in order to train hara. Some people really have to fight for balance and for others it's second nature. Karate training really helps those who have to fight for balance because the repetive nature really hones the muscle memory, specifically the proprioceptors. This, in turn, results in a more finely tuned movement where you are able to shift and change much easier and much faster. For example, today we also worked on me throwing punches to the face and my dojo mate lightly deflecting them with an open palm. At first she was plodding around on the grass, slapping my hands away. When I showed her that the hand movement was more like an instant contraction of an initially relaxed hand, she immediately changed her movement and the light went on. Then as soon as I showed her that when she was moving to use evasive maneuvers (sudiash and sabake ) she also quickly shifted. The result was a smoother, more attentive way of moving. I love it when the lightbulb lights up so fast.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Back to myself

It always seems that when you have something that prevents you from training and you take a little time off and then return the class is sure to be a tough one. That happened today. However, I love these moments. There was a time when I hated it with a passion and would often feel like crying, like I couldn't hold kibadachi one more second. It was in those moments where I learned the most, especially how to breathe through hara, breathe into my ribs instead of my chest, expand the entire torso with breath. At that moment when you feel at your weakest you are actually at your strongest. There you reach mushin because your body physically can no longer hold on, but your spirit stays strong and guides you through the kihones. I went there today and it felt fabulous. There is this new picture of sensei sitting on the desk as you walk into the gym. It was taken at his godan shiai. In this picture he's covered in sweat and it looks as if he's about to fall to the ground from exhaustion. Upon closer inspection you notice his eyes, notice how sharp they are, and you notice he has reached mushin and zanshin, the perfect combination. It's an amazing picture. This is the place we all strive to be in during our training, and especially during those moments of physical discomfort and of self-defense. The place where it all "just happens", without thought, without ego. You are moving as an entire unit. I've discovered that this is a place not easily accessible, especially if you have any ego in your training. It is also a place where you must respect yourself and your abilities as a martial artist.

Tooth is out, back to training.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Pity me

Okay, I'm feeling very frustrated. Last Tuesday I had a molar prepped for a crown and afterwards everything went downhill. The pain I experienced was only quelled by 800mg of ibuprofen every four hours and a percoset to sleep. Then the right side of my face swelled up to my temple. I did go back to the dentist this past Saturday and he felt that I had had some reaction to the novocain injections (he had given me four. I haven't really been able to open my mouth, either...), but decided to put me on antibiotics just in case. Well, today the swelling is practically gone, but the pain is worse. So, I'm getting it pulled in two hours since the money for the root canal isn't there right now (we won't get into that. That's what my other blog is for). Pity me, right? I haven't been able to eat solid food for a week. When I attempted that the pain got much worse. This has affected my training, which #$%%$# me off to no extent. All the hard work I've been putting in, the time I've put in to heal my shoulder. All I want to do is get back to my push-up routine, my sprinting plus calisthenics! Argh! This extraction will go smoothly and I will be back in class on Thursday happy as a clam, with a missing tooth. I could say I got into a fight....and you should see the other guy!

Anyway, training is at a standstill just for the moment, but will resume. There's just a certain amount of venting I need to do with moments like these.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Kids shows

Okay, this is a great clip. Our son, Griffyn, enjoys this show called The Backyardigans. If any of you have kids you probably have seen this and sing right along with the great tunes they come up with. This particular show is a favorite, and you'll see why. By the way, we went to see them live yesterday. You know you're a parent when you're more excited than your child is to go see a live showing of their favorite characters. Ah, parenthood...









Post delay!

Oops, I meant to post long ago, but the days have gotten the better of me. The shoulder is doing fabulously and I've been a "good girl". Really. Most of the time when I'm injured it takes a straightjacket to keep me from doing the things I shouldn't. This time I know that if I don't follow the treatment rules I'll have to stop training, and that's just not going to happen. I think I would go crazy. Okay, very exaggerated. At the least I would be sad. So, what has been happening? I've begun a better diet more streamlined towards my training, which means during the week I'm eating 4-5 small meals with a protein/carb combo and limited fats. This has been only a little difficult since I'm the cookie queen. And the scone queen. And occasionally the ice cream queen. However, I'm allowing myself a day of indulgence. At first I thought this might sabotage my eating since I absolutely love to eat (it's a minor miracle that I don't way 300 pounds. Although knowing what I would look like at that weight certainly keeps me from going there...). I'm also working on doing other types of exercise, like yoga and power walking (you will never catch me running for fun) in order to keep the body going. My PT recommended that I now begin exercising to do martial arts since my age (36) will now prevent me from recovering the way I used to when I was thrown around in my 20's. The thing is I often find that my entire body hurts, sometimes in such a way that I can barely make it out of bed. He seems to think that it's more my body type (stocky, muscular, short tendons) and the fact that inflammation is causing most of my pain. Thus the change in diet. So far, so good. As soon as the shoulder is good to go I'll start doing vinyasa flow for a more dynamic stretch. I love to do them, they make me feel great.

Class has been going very well lately. I taught the other day. It's still so foreign to me to lead a class by myself. I'm so self-conscious and often feel that the students are getting nothing out of what I'm saying. Of course that's not true and it's just my inner-sabotager talking. I know that the more I do it the more comfortable I will feel. The other thing I do while teaching is participate while I'm instructing. This doesn't alway work, especially if you have new students who need to be watched and guided. So, I changed that tactic and it was for the better. If I want to open my own dojo in Burlington down the road, this has to become a comfortable thing for me to do.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sort of side-lined

About three months ago I was holding hand pads while sensei pounded into them. As he threw his right cross into the right pad I lost focus for a split second, the second where he connected and my arm flew behind me. Of course there was pain and I had to stop and hold onto my arm, but then continued on. That's always the case, hmm? You get hurt but then figure it's not that bad and keep going. Well, now that shoulder is not doing well at all and I requested physical therapy. I went today (he's also a good friend of mine and dojo mate) and while I can still do karate I cannot do many of the blocks and strikes. Anything that goes above my head or too far into abduction is not on the menu for the next four weeks. At least I can still train! I'm also forbidden to do push-ups and heavy bag training (at least with my arms. I can still kick!), which makes me sad since that's been my weight training recently. But, if it means my shoulder will get better and that I won't have to get a cortisone shot then I'm more than happy to make those small sacrifices. Train smart. As for the handstand push-ups, I got halfway down and back up, but now I have to stop those as well. The reality is I need my shoulder to heal so that I can continue doing karate the way I want to. That's the important piece. The lessons aren't only in how you train, but how well you keep your body going, too. Injuries are a pain but they can teach you to slow down and pay more attention. The world will not end if I can't keep up the level of training I want to for the next four weeks. It just means I now have the opportunity to work on those pieces that need polishing. No biggie.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

You have got to believe

You really, really do. Today I believed in my technique, in my self more importantly. The past two classes have been primarily on bunkai of Gekasai Dai Itchi and Ni. For Itchi there are five bunkai (at least in our system) and for Ni there are two. The very last Itchi bunkai has been difficult for me to get right ever since I learned it, oh, seven years ago. Today it just clicked. It finally went smoothly. The tricky part of this particular bunkai is to step straight back away from the punch (a chodan punch) in order to "suck" it into you (which forces the uke forward even more into their strike), while at the same time striking a pressure point found on top of the forearm (just below the elbow) with one hand and performing an uchi block with the other. It's like a windmill, or a whip, type of strike/block which results in the arm of the uke being thrown behind him/her. At this point you then move in for a double punch, one aimed near the bladder and the other at the solar plexus. Seems simple, right? Well it's not! At least for me it hasn't been. I've always performed it cautiously, aiming at the pressure point, making sure my uchi threw the arm back in a whipping motion and then moving in for the strike. Today I just decided to believe that the two hands moving in unison would find their marks. Well, it worked. Funny thing, belief. But you have to give yourself over to it and leave doubt completely out of the equation. As soon as my brain started to assess this move it would not work. In fact, I treated all the bunkai in this way today and it went so smoothly. Just let go, seems simple, doesn't it?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Aikido

Oooo, class was so much fun today! Remember the student I was teaching and I got this weird vibe and all? Turns out he's actually pretty darn cool. He did aikido for seven years and today he taught our class. It was fantastic! I'd done some aikido before, but only briefly, but we have done the rolling and falling used in aikido in our dojo for as long as I can remember. I love the roll and today at the end of class boy did we roll! We also practiced the first escape you learn, and I have no idea what it was called. You use tenken stepping to move off to the side so that you are shoulder to shoulder with the tori and then step back using your arm to ward off and drop the tori. It's a beautiful move. I think all aikido is beautiful, but have never been around an aikido dojo. However, when we move I believe there is one near where we are going so I may just have to join. I love aikido, love the way the movements are executed. It suits my body. The best part is that it stresses the use of ki and hara, which is so important in any martial art. Muscle will only get you so far. Sensei remarked today how we will be doing more of this in the weeks to come. The trick is to practice it inbetween those days. So far I've incorporated another day in the dojo to practice. Now I just need more people to practice with. There's a kohai that's been practicing with me, but more bodies means more learning, but I'll take what I can get! This kohai is really good and he's a san kyu which means he's been around for a while. We'll see. Once the weather is tolerable we'll go outside to train, which I absolutely love. Soon enough.

Friday, March 21, 2008

It never really ends, does it...

Yesterday I was challenged on a few diffierent levels with a new student. Apparently this man had previous experience with judo and aikido but had not practiced in some time. First thing, used to those styles and not karate, which is a bit "harder". Sensei sent me over to him to go through eight point blocking. So, we commenced. Went into horse with him facing me and began the blocks. He then sat in a horse stance that was too low (down on my level, which is low since I was much shorter than he was) and leaned too far forward. I said, "you don't have to sit that low" and he shrugged his shoulders and stayed there. So I stopped with the blocks and corrected the stance. All this time I'm getting a very defensive feeling from him, and was not sure if it was me or really him. Moving on. I faced him again and this time he was standing upright. I asked him to get back into horse stance and he said, "Why." Hmm. My response was, "this is how we train. We stand in horse stance when we do blocks to train the legs and to train our bodies to get used to a different way of moving." No comment, another shrug of the shoulders. Then I stood in front of him and we both faced the mirror. I tried to move off to the side so that he could see himself in the mirror, but every time I moved he just moved back behind me. I noticed that he was watching me while we went through the blocks, if only to see the blocks. When I mentioned that he should watch himself in the mirror his blocking became much smoother. He also had asked me some other question that I cannot remember right now, but I gave him an answer that surprised me. I remember feeling surprised at how easily I had answered his question. This was an incredible learning experience for me because I've been having difficulty speaking clearly when I'm instructing. It is far easier for me to show the movement than to explain the movement. When I get into explaining I often say too much, add too many things into the equation. This time I did not do that and I was definitely put on the defense with how he was taking my instruction. I'm glad for this experience because I'm sure it will not be the last time I will feel this way. Lessons come when you need them. I'm not sure what the defensive feeling was. Maybe because his reactions seemed a little lackadaisical and it bothered me. Or that could just be who he is. I was only with him for five minutes tops, but first impressions are made within the first seven seconds (or something like that) of meeting someone. With new students sensei will send over his upper belts one at a time to teach different things.

I'm going to cut into this post with something else. I just got off the phone with a client of mine who's husband (also a client of mine. Both of them very close to me) had a massive stroke three weeks ago. He passed last night at home with his family around him. This man was in his early 70's and still working carpentry (he had his own business), going at it like a madman. This man never stopped. Every time he came in for his massage I would get the biggest hug and kiss from him, a bear hug! Full of life and love. He would do anything for those close to him. Never a hateful word from his mouth. He was very true with who he was and how he lived his life. I'm filled with a profound sadness right now. Yet another lesson to learn is about death. This may not be the appropriate blog to put this in, but I think it just may be right. My path right now is all about being okay with who I am and where I am going. Death is a major player and I'm afraid of it. Who isn't? It's also about being honest with my feelings, sadness being one of them right now. I think that when you are in the moment in karate it's your truest self performing the moves because if it's not the moves just don't work. It's so obvious, at least to me, when someone is distracted and they are in class. I will miss this man very much, but this is also life. It's a big circle.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why do I stay?

I've been reading chapters in "In the Dojo" by Dave Lowry as I get the chance. It's a wonderful book and I'm sure many of you have read it. I just finished the chapter on students and the last paragraph was a good one. If you ask any karateka why they started you will get many different answers that come easily. However, ask that same karateka why they stay and they may not be able to give an answer right away. It seems to get a little more complicated the longer you are "in it". At least that's the way it's been for me. Why do I stay? There are a few typical reasons: I love it, it makes me feel great, it's always a learning experience. If you ask me to look a little deeper I have to do a little more thinking about why I stay. At this point in my journey I have more frustration with my training, mostly due to being too hard on myself, asking to much. There is only so much I can do right now, and that's not an excuse. I train at least four days a week. I would train seven, but there are other factors in my life right now that also need my attention and I need to recognize that and respect that. There's work and there's my family. Training around my three year old is never a good idea. He gets upset, wants my attention, which he should have. There will be a time when he will be right at my side doing kata and kihones (at least I hope he will be there) and it will be easier to train with him. My husband also needs my attention. While he understands how important karate is in my life that understanding only goes so far. He is not a karateka and will never be one, and I also need to understand that.

Karate is always on my mind: how my positioning could be better, how my hara could be stronger, how do I get those two to co-exist? I stay because it makes me think about how I hold my body and how I hold my mind. There is also the ritual behind it all. I am a habitual person and karate is very habit-oriented. I stay because of the people I train with. Each person possesses a different way of training, and some people are more challenging than others. I try to train with each and every one of my kohai and sempai. It provides a more rounded experience and I learn so much from them. What it comes down to is the learning. I am always a beginner because there is always something new to learn about the same move you have been doing over and over for 9 years. It is important that I always remember that because it will keep me humble in my practice.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

An extremely entertaining clip

So I just finished watching the movie "Equilibrium" starring everyone's favorite Batman, Christian Bale. The end fight scene was fantastic and I found it on youtube (what can't you find there these days!). It's a great movie, with a "gun kata" included. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

How karate changed the way I feel about my body.


As I was paying for lunch today and chatting with a friend, the woman taking our money said, "Oh yeah, I recognize you, you're that karate chick." I was taken aback, mostly because being recognized as someone who does karate doesn't happen to me very often. It made me feel proud. The next words out of her mouth were, "You've lost a lot of weight." That made me feel a bit funny on the inside and is the reason I chose to write about this very topic today. Ever since my body became "womanly" I've harbored resentment towards it: too short in both stature and torso, my belly was always a bit poochy and sometimes more than a bit, my legs were too stocky. Those awful feelings of sadness and embarassment are still around to this day and I often find myself staring at my middle and thinking, "Man, will I EVER have a flat tummy", and "should I really care about having a flat tummy?!" Images of Buddha show him with a full tummy, laughing, not a care in the world. This is how I want to be, how I try to be. It is how I feel when I do karate. Those body image issues virtually melt away in the dojo. Yes I catch myself staring at how I look in my gi, how my belly doesn't really show, but then I let it go. Karate gave me a boost in how I look at my body and more importantly how I perceive the way I look. I look strong, my stances are low, I can do push-ups with little difficulty (okay, most of the time and depending on my energy level), I look STRONG. Karate has given me an outlet for those resentful feelings, which are not at all productive. The remark about me having lost weight really got to me. I never try to lose weight because I don't believe in dieting. Diets get you no where unless you change the way you eat for good. Most of the time I eat a fantastic diet of mostly organic foods. There are a few days during the week when I indulge a bit too much (hey, I'm from Vermont, home of Ben and Jerry's...) so the next day I eat better and lay off the crap. There has never been a time in my life when I felt the need to starve myself. There was a friend in junior high school who used to throw up. She got me to try it, and it was disgusting. How anyone can do that on a regular basis is beyond my realm of understanding. All in all I worship my body, I push it to higher and higher limits. There's just this middle of me that I wish looked differently. Perhaps I'll never get over that, and perhaps one day it will just vanish completely. What is comes down to is this: love your body for where it takes you, love your body for what it gives you, love your body for how far you can push it, just love you body. It's our locomotion, our vessel. Treat it with respect and kindness and it will last you a lifetime.




There are times in class when I just want to drop. The sweat is dripping into my eyes and I can barely breathe. So I breathe more deeply into my belly, expanding it instead of sucking it in. Once I do that I can breathe easier. I absolutely love those moments. I've always pushed myself, it makes me feel good on the inside. My goal for this month is to do one handstand push-up. Just one. Yesterday I tried to do just that and what happened was I pushed awfully hard into the floor and nothing happened. Today I tried it again and I felt lighter, but still only pushed into the floor. Tomorrow I'll try it again. I will do one handstand push-up by March 31. It's not about how you look, it's about what you can do with the body you've got.