Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Warrior Withdrawl...

Okay, you know by now that I have Karate on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Have you ever noticed that events always seem to fall on Tuesdays and Thursdays? I read somewhere that there is some kind of unwritten (wait - if I read it, is it really unwritten????) But anyway, read that when planning events for schools, churches, community, etc. that more people will attend if you hold them on Tuesdays or Thursdays. And I'm starting to think there truly is some validity to that.
PTA meetings at my son's school are on Tuesdays at 6:30 pm. (Karate is Tuesday from 6pm - 7pm) Every single book fair, parent/teacher conference, play, etc. is on a Thursday night...EVERY SINGLE ONE.
My ladies' group meeting at church is on Tuesday nights at 7pm.
Okay, my point is this - not only did I recently miss one karate class, I missed two within 7 days of each other...last Thursday because I was late getting out of a meeting at work that was at a remote location, and last night, Tuesday, because I had a doctor appointment at 4:30pm and by the time they were late taking me in, done taking blood for labs, I didn't get home until well past 5pm and by the time I would have changed and got to "stick class", it would have been half over, so I did not go.
So, you see, I'm suffering from karate withdrawl.
To help with this dilemma, I have been practicing on my own. It's more difficult now because it is cold here in St. Louis - especially at night when I have time to practice. And where do I have room to really practice? Our yard, our garage - all chilly places to practice - especially if I want to go the purist route and do it barefoot. So, when I first get to work in the morning, before anyone else arrives, I tend to do a little bit of kata practice. It only takes a moment and I have a large area in which to perform it correctly. Sometimes the dress clothes hold me back from full out kicks, etc. but sometimes the stretchiness of the dress clothes is an advantage.
Anyway, kind of a boring post, but I miss the other students and hate to have this much time inbetween formal training. I'm looking forward to next Tuesday. But I'll be practicing Thanksgiving night - I am thankful for finding martial arts and being able to find a way to practice them wherever I may be physically.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Side-by-Side Learning (or Smoke and Mirrors)...

I have come to realize that not only am I a visual learner, I'm a conditional visual learner!
I would get very frustrated when I learned something in class, for instance a kata, and then went home with the illustrated instructions and couldn't figure it out alone. Now, I can read those diagrams very well when I already know the kata and just have a "brain fart" and need to reference a forgetten piece of the kata. But if I'm still in process of learning, the drawn diagram is useless to me.
In the year-plus I've been practicing martial arts, I have just now come to the conclusion that I cannot learn something from someone who is standing directly in front of me, facing me! Just recently, I have started asking Sensei and other instructors if they would let me stand next to them - at their side - and let them show the new technique to me from that angle. I have found this to be very beneficial. Things that did not "gel" with me before in "mirror image" are actually clicking in my mind now.
For instance, in our eskrima class on Tuesday nights, many times, the instructor will show a drill to us from "the other side of the fence" other words, he stands directly across from me, facing me and makes the attack, telling me what to do to counteract it. Not working very well for me. Seems to be just fine for others in class, but not me. I ask if he'll let me stand side-by-side with him and show me the move I should be doing in that manner and - drum roll please - I can follow!
I have never noticed anyone else in class who needs their instruction to be done in this manner. (Although I will be paying more attention in the future now that I've wrapped my head around the problem I've been having.) But I'm just curious if any of you have this problem as well? And if so, do you have any tips for dealing with it other than the obvious of asking the instructor to show it to you standing side-by-side?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Want to Be Like Mr. Miyagi...

I talk too much. Always have. Always will.
I also tend to speak before I think. I have gotten better about that as I've gotten older, but not much.
I have not really stuck my foot in my mouth causing major embarassment to me or others. I have not given away top secrets of my job. It's nothing like that.
I just want to talk about martial arts all the time. I just can't help myself. I started this blog to help with this obsession, but you know what? It has not worked so far! I STILL end up segueing martial arts into almost every conversation in which I'm involved. And you know what? That's fine on Tuesday nights when I'm in weapons class, or Thursday nights when I'm at regular class. It's fine on the phone with my friend from karate and it's fine here in our martial arts blogging community.
But it's not fine in line at the grocery store. It's not okay to just mention that I have my bo staff in my car from last week during our "roles and responsibilities" meeting at work. It's not okay when I bring up how I'm missing karate class for the PTA meeting I attended tonight - to my son's gym teacher. (And then because he mentioned that he hurt his knee in basketball, I had to launch into how my chest and arms were so sore a couple of days ago from two days of escrima & bo staff rather than the usual one day of weapons per week.)
It's actually embarrassing. I bring it up and then I realize I sound like I'm flaunting it and try to wrap up the subject. I remind myself of the painfully nerdy kid in school who tells how their dad is a famous movie star and he gets them all the other movie stars' autographs and has dinner with famous people. Everyone knows the kid is full of...vinegar...but they let them ramble on and embarrass themselves.
Stereotype are not usually something one strives for, but I want to be like the stereotypes we see of wise know- I want to be like Mr. Miyagi...the strong, silent, wise type.
My question is - Is this something you can learn in your journey - a trait you can assume over the course of your martial arts journey? Or did Mr. Miyagi and those like him already have that calm demeanor? That wise character trait that enables them to know that being silent is the better route to take?
And I'm very serious about this. I have learned to keep my mouth shut in some cases - just since I've started my martial arts journey, but is there a way for me to cultivate this to make it more natural for me as a lifelong "motor mouth"?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Secret Ingredient is...

Just finished watching "Kung Fu Panda" with my son. I was really expecting alot from this movie because there have been 2 - count 'em - two write-ups in "Black
Belt" magazine about it. Both of them glowing reports.

The first article went more or less behind the scenes and the interviewer spoke with all the actors, directors, martial arts choreographers, etc. I love Jack Black. I can take or leave Angeline Jolie (homewrecker!) and Dustin Hoffman - always a treat. The second article was just a short write-up extoling the finished movie's virtues, while acknowledging, without shame, that their magazine gave this movie space in two of their recent issues because it was such a great martial arts movie despite the fact it's a cartoon.
So, I set out to get it today to watch tonight as my huband is in a pool tournament tonight. (Pool is his martial arts.) I watched and it was a good movie. But I was ready for a Karate Kid Part 1 type of movie after all the hype. I would recommend it, certainly, but I wouldn't have raved the way Black Belt magazine did.
I did not think the art was all that wonderful. It was good, yes, but not "all that" as they say. I remembered in the behind the scenes type article telling how the martial arts action was so realistic and that it was not drawn like a human would do it, but how an animal of the type portrayed would execute it. Okay...
But the one thing that I did take from this movie is that "you" are the factor that makes or breaks your martial arts journey.
Kung Fu Panda (Po) loves martial arts but is overweight, gets winded easily, and loves his food. (No, I was not the model for the character, contrary to the coincidence.)
His father also has a special noodle soup that everyone raves over and all assume it is becuase of his father's "secret ingredient". Po's father wants him to carry on as the family noodle business in a bad way. But Po loves, loves, loves martial arts and has no desire to be a "noodle man" like his dad.
When Po is chosen to be the "Dragon Warrior", no one is more surprised than he and he is given the coveted Dragon Scroll which allegedly contains the "secret ingredient" to transforming oneself into the Dragon Warrior.
When the scroll is presented to Po, he looks at it and is dumbfounded. There is nothing written on it! He can't believe it and thinks it is all a bunch of bunk. So he goes home to his dad to be a "noodle man" afterall. His father sees his dejection and finally tells him the secret of his famously good noodle soup's secret ingredient...NOTHING. That's right...people think it's special because of the assumed secret ingredient so it is. There is no secret ingredient. Po has an "Aha! moment", realizing what the empty scroll meant. The secret to becoming the Dragon Warrior was...yourself! You make or break yourself in your martial arts journey.
It's something I've known for a long time, but it's so nice to have the reaffirmation of a Disney movie!
Remember...the secret ingredient is YOU! (And that goes for any station in life - not just noodle soup and martial arts!) So, take a pinch of that!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I ♥ Weapons

Last night (Tuesday) we had our second Escrima class. I really enjoy it. I also enjoy working with the bo staff (and Thursday night is Bo Night in class…Yay!)

I don’t’ know what it is about sticks that captivates me. Maybe it’s the fact that a 28” stick in each hand extends your reach. And a bo staff extends your reach by almost 6 feet! Don’t you find this comforting? As a 5’4” woman, I know I do.

I also enjoyed the class we had on using knives. Of course, we used rubber or wooden training knives, but I found learning the basic movements very interesting. I remember feeling like Jack Sparrow doing the swashbuckling like fluid movements. It was exhilarating.

We don’t train in guns, as we shouldn’t, but we do practice self defense techniques using rubber and wooden training guns in the attacker role.

But escrima and bo staffs are a sticking point with me. (Pun intended.) As I said earlier in this post, the extended reach these weapons provide holds some of the allure, but I am quite sure that is not my main reason of attraction to this form of weaponry.

When I learned the first bo kata, I didn’t even realize it was a kata. I just assumed that was the way you handled the 6 foot stick. But as I learned it, and went through the rhythmic movements, I realized it was actually kata – my favorite part of martial arts – and I started trying to practice it as such. One of our senseis showed Rose and I how to do the second bo kata about 3 months ago or so and she caught on pretty easily. She attributed that to her having been a baton twirler (Is”baton twirler” a PC term? J) But I just was not ready to learn it yet. I know that sounds like a cop-out, and maybe it is, but I’d like to think it’s not and that I truly was not ready or not in the right frame of mind to learn the 2nd bo kata last time because I’m telling you - I just couldn’t get it for some reason.

In our escrima training, I am finding a common denominator in working with bo staffs…that almost choreographed-like patterns of movement. Again, very similar to kata. A woman in my class with whom I was working last Tuesday and this Tuesday said she wishes we were trained in the bo staff in the same way we are being trained in the basic escrima movements. Starting with the first section of the bo kata, practicing it until we have that down, then adding in the next section, and just building until we have learned the bo kata in full. I told her to suggest this. It was a valid point. However, we only do one bo class per session – so usually maybe 3 per year total, whereas we are working with escrima every week for about half of our session – probably about 6 – 8 weeks or something like that. The frequency does make quite a bit of difference in how well you “take” to learning something new. I know that’s true with me and I think it’s safe to say that is probably a pretty universally true statement.

Whatever the case, kata is still my favorite part of martial arts, but I have to say, in finding how much I enjoy the elegance and kata-like qualities of escrima and bo staff, I would have to say the practice of these weapons are a close second in my book.

Since I have been in class, we have not explored stars or other forms of weaponry, but I think it would be a study I would enjoy. This is another one of those things that I love about martial arts – learning unexpected things about yourself through studying them. I would have never in a million years pegged myself as someone who would enjoy working with weapons.

And an added bonus - I still love to see the looks on people’s faces when, on Tuesday afternoon, I say I need to get going because I don’t want to be late for my weapons class.