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.