Friday, October 24, 2008


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


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.