Saturday, April 30, 2005

Two of Eli's teachers

Master Hughes

Last night we saw Master Hughes in an unexpected venue: the St. Paul's Preschool carnival. He was in the carnival room, doing a TKD demonstration with a young boy--maybe a SPPS graduate?

It wasn't really a demonstration. It was hands-on (feet-on) practice. Master Hughes was showing children how to do a simple TKD kick. What was really being demonstrated was his patience and skills working with children. He's good. He gets down to the child's height to talk, and uses a soft voice. He shows the child the move, and helps the child do it.

We were all glad to see him; Eli and Robbie showed off their kicks and broke some thin boards. Master Hughes once again told me that he was impressed with how far Eli has come since he started classes. I agreed.

When Eli started in October, he'd last about half the class. Then he'd come over and sit with me. It was about all the instruction he could take at that point. He wasn't very respectful and tended to run around or act goofy when he was supposed to be learning. He didn't get along with Master Hughes at all. Master Hughes's cheerful, sometimes boistrous approach just did not work for Eli.

To be honest, I was concerned about this at first. I knew that Eli would not warm to Master Hughes's extroverted demeanor--that drawing attention to Eli, masculine roughhousing, and kidding around with him to make him work harder just were not going to be effective.

But Master Hughes seemed to be aware of this, because he backed off a bit and poured on the praise. He talked to Eli as an equal (even when Eli was acting like a 3-year old!) and challenged him gently. It's working.

This--the flexibility to meet a child where he is--more than anything has won my respect for Master Hughes.

Saturday's Blackbelt

(Back in January, I was introduced to the blackbelt who taught today's class. I don't remember his name! I think of him as the class "big bull," a term I got from The Idiot's Guide to TKD for large, strong, male students who make a lot of being big and strong.)

I was worried when I saw that this blackbelt was going to be teaching. He's loud, he's picky, he seems to like to demonstrate his strength. He lead us through an agonizing 30 minutes of basic moves, having us stand in joint-tiring fighting stances until our legs ached while he corrected minute problems. The BB would focus on some poor student and give him/her the eye while doing the move, then correct the person, loudly, in front of class.

OK, OK, this was good for all of us. But Eli got tired. He raised his hand and quietly asked the teacher if he could take a break.

"Why?" asked the BB
"My legs hurt," said Eli, looking up with comple innocence.

The BB's face softened.

"I don't think they really hurt. I think they're just a little bit tired. But that's all right. You can work through it. Here. Let me take that rubber band." He took a rubber band that Eli was fiddling with. "Or do you want it on your wrist? Here. OK. Now you can have it to play with after class."

Eli calmed down and finished up the exercises, letting the BB gently move his feet into correct position without complaint.

I was amazed. I had been worried about another run-in with an overly masculine teacher, but this BB was OK. He could adjust, be flexible to the needs of his student. Throughout the rest of the class, the BB encouraged Eli and challenged him the right amount. Eli responded by working hard.

I'm glad my boys have male role-models in TKD who can be strong yet flexible. If the teacher (especially a male teacher) can engage my little sensitive Eli, then he's OK in my books.

Friday, April 29, 2005

NPR story about martial arts!

Thanks to my friend Steve for alerting me to an NPR story about martial arts. It was a commentary (a spoken-word column) on Monday, April 25. You can find it on the All Things Considered archives at

It was just a 4-minute commentary, but it did cover some aspects of martial arts that I've also written about: what it's like to learn new protocols (she mentions washing the floor! we don't do that), the excitement of getting ready for a test, the desire to please your new teachers. I like the way she wrote about working so hard she got blisters on her toes and had to tape them "just like the blackbelts."

Her focus was mostly on how testing, an aspect of education she does not enjoy (she is a public school teacher), can be an important motivator for students.

I agree, but I'd also point out that she was an ideal student: she really wanted to learn, was willing to submit to instruction, and she chose her topic. I wonder how it is for her public school students who do none of those.

The ideal test, to me (also a teacher) is one that is a learning experience, not just an evaluative one. My TKD tests have been that way.

Hair Ritual

In Jennifer Lawler's book, TKD for women, there is a short section on what to wear in class--how women can make TKD uniforms work for them, etc. She also discusses what to do with your hair: if you have long hair, she says, it needs to be out of your way. Pull it back into a ponytail, or "get a shorter haircut."

I have long hair.

I'm not getting it cut for TKD. No way.

I have a hair ritual that I do for TKD--and ballet, for that matter (my hair's too wavy and thick to put into a ballet bun). I pull my hair into a half-ponytail, which I secure with a flat barette. Then I put the rest into a regular ponytail. Sensible, not bad-looking, and easy! And, hey, I like the way it swings behind me when I do my high roundhouse in your face! :-)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Another teacher

As we come around from the top of the stairs, we see Ms. Pryor warming up in the dojang.

"Oh no. Ms. Pryor!" says Eli.

Ms. Pryor is the other head teacher at our dojang. She has a reputation of making students work very hard. But I find her an excellent teacher as well--she's very good instructing one-on-one.

She has a 3rd degree blackbelt (at least) and is a sparring champion. This is obvious when you work out with her--she's fast and bold. I'm encouraged by the fact that she's so good at sparring--she's not much taller than I am and slender with smooth, shoulder-length blonde hair. She's all muscle, though! I remember the time she demonstrated her flying side kick and broke a stack of three boards. Ms. Pryor is a real athlete and won a "woman sportsman" trophy of some sort at the last tournament. She is intense and serious, a no-nonsense teacher.

Ms. Pryor keeps good order in class, too. Perhaps it's the intimidation factor--everyone knows her rep. More likely her no-nonsense, intense approach is contagious. The children trot into place with "yes Ma'ams" and mostly keep from chattering during class. My boys bow and say "yes Ma'am" which makes me proud. Robbie listens to her advice and Eli doesn't fuss when she fixes his stances during each move of Chun Ji.

We also work on proper form during kicks ("turn that back foot" could be a tape recording in every lower-level TKD class, I think!) and power roundhouse kicks. In a power roundhouse kick, you turn and kick with the top of your foot, following all the way through instead of snapping your leg back to the chambered position. She stops the boys to make sure they're doing it right.

"Robbie, your leg's going straight up. The roundhouse needs to come around in a big arc. If you go straight up, you'll glance off the side of your opponent's head. You want to knock him back like this."

She demonstrates, slowing and pulling up short of Robbie's head. He smiles. "Yes, Ma'am."

After class, I thank her for filling in today.

"You had to put up with all these little boys," I note.

"Oh, I don't mind boys. I have two myself, you know."

We talk briefly about parenting boys before she heads out. It's the first time I've had a non TKD conversation with her--different from my easier-going relationships with Mr. Houtz and Master Hughes.

Each teacher here has slightly different approaches. I like them all--and I like the different ways I can learn from them.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Field Trip

At the end of class, Master Hughes took us all on a little field trip.

Across the street is the Saigon Market where he bought us some treats!

Fighting ballerinas?

During the stretching part of ballet today (after barre), I did a bit of stretching for my side kick. Lisa and Lehrin came over.

"Is that your Tae Kwon Do kicking?" Lisa asked. I said yes, and showed them how a side kick would work.

"Show me again!" said Lisa, and I did. I also showed her a roundhouse and a front snap kick. She tried them out; so did Lehrin. Finally, our chattering and playing around had to stop as Suki called us back to the barre for grandes battements.

"You and your boys should join Tae Kwon Do!" I whispered to Lisa. Now wouldn't that be fun!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

No movies yet

No movies from my digital camera yet. I'm still working on it. Regular description will have to do for now!

Tuesday the class is small, just 8, and my boys are behaving better. Ellen says I should just drop them off so I don't have to watch them in class! Not a bad idea. I've thought of just going W at 6 for all-belts along with Saturday's all-belts, and take the kids on TTh.

Brian is there and he tells me he saw the end of the sparring match Saturday. I had completely lost track of who was there and who was not by that point. "I better be careful sparring with you," he says. Yeah, right.

It's a good workout with Brian there. When we practice combination kicking, I have a partner who will just work out and not chatter to me about various things as the children do. I practice moving fast and watching for openings in Brian's defense. It's a challenge working out with someone so tall.

Brian and I also work on wheel kicks, our orange belt kick. The wheel kick is another turning kick, like the reverse kick. In this one, you strike with a straight leg that wheels out from behind. Getting that leg around--straight and aimed true--is tricky. I feel like a total klutz doing it. Over and over, I say to Mr. Houtz "show me again" as if I'll eventually see the key to doing it right.

Maybe it'll be like the flying side kick: suddenly someone will say the right word and it'll make sense. I hope so.

While we are working and working on our kicks, Amy, Pam and Justin Wasson come in. They talk to Mr. Houtz and begin to work on sparring at the back of the dojang. I gather that Amy is getting up her nerve to enter the sparring events in the tournament. I bet Pam is a good one for her to work with. Pam is aggressive and strong, a fearless sparrer. She has already won a first in sparring at her very first tournament (as a green belt).

Out of the corner of my eye, I watch Amy. She was hesitant during our match on Saturday--she later told me that she just does not like the idea of hitting someone. "I'm just not a confrontational person," she explained. I can see that. Though she's bold and intense, she is kind and friendly. Hard to imagine her fighting. Maybe I should tell her my "sparring's not fighting" approach.

But Pam and Amy are really going at it. At one point, I see Amy moving in with bold kicks and punches. I bet she'll find her groove, a way to spar that works with who she is. I think that's what we all need to do in sparring. So far for me, it's light feet and the game--not fight--mentality.

Later, the class works on flying side kicks. I try making a movie, but the part I wanted to record doesn't get recorded. Oh well. Next time. I hope I can post movies just like I do photos! Maybe I'll record some sparring matches, too.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

In the sparring ring

At the end of All-Belts class today, after Ms. Pryor has led us through a workout consisting of basic movements, forms practice, and sparring practice, she tells us all to sit down at the back of the dojang. I am grateful for this; sparring with Chelsea (a teen blackbelt) has worn me out, though I have learned a few new ideas from her.

"OK. I want Amy up here. Amy? Keep your sparring gear on," says Ms. Pryor. Amy goes up.

"And who else? I don't remember your name, I'm sorry."

Ms. Pryor is walking up to me.

"Jane," I say, with trepidation.

"Come on up, Jane. Keep your gear on."

I go up next to Amy.

"We're going to have a sparring match here," says Ms. Pryor. "Whoever wins the first two points. You are all the extra judges."

I strap on my mitts, trying to focus and breathe. The crowd of students fades away--now all I can see is Ms. Pryor and Amy.

"Fighting stance: Chun bee!" shouts Ms. Pryor. We snap into fighting stance, letting out our fierce Ki-haps. "Stronger Ki-haps!" Ms. Pryor urges us. "Like you mean business!"

While we stand there, she tells us how the match will work. I think she's just giving us a sense of how it will go if we ever enter a tournament. I can't imagine I will ever do that, but this morning, working out with Chelsea, I'd been starting to see how sparring works. It's not really fighting. It's a little game, where you jump around and try to touch your partner's torso or the back of her head with your foot or hand. OK. I can do that.

"Si-Jah!" shouts Ms. Pryor.

I go into sparring mode. My latest thing is to try to get in the very first kick. Kind of takes the edge off. I do this, then go into some combinations that I think will work: roundhouse, reverse kick, front snap kick. I focus very tightly--only on Amy's torso. You're supposed to look at your opponent's eyes, but this is what I can manage. I get in and tap her.

"Point!" Yells Ms. Pryor. We stop and she shows us how the judge will score the point--asking for confirmation from the other judges (the rest of the crowd) then awarding the point to ME!

We spar again, as before. Amy touches me, which I call out, but Ms. Pryor says to keep moving.
"It only counts if the judge sees it."

I score again on her. I can't believe this is working! I'm not fighting, I'm doing this tag-business. It's less scary this way, because I know if I were to actually fight Amy, she would beat me.

The match goes on. Ms. Pryor keeps saying "One more point" until I win, 4-1.

"The winner is Jane." She holds up my arm, like a boxer's. I guess the class applauds--all I am aware of is our small group of three, Amy and I panting and sweating, Ms. Pryor calling out for us to bow to each other.

When I get home, all I can think is "I have to call my sister to tell her about this." She will not believe that her formerly wimpy sister just bested someone in a sparring match. I call over to London, where it's evening, but she's not home. She'll have to read this along with the rest of you.

Praise that matters

I got two notes from two of my favorite people yesterday.

This from my sister, who also told me about how busy softball practice has been (she is a high school softball coach and math teacher):

Jane, I am enjoying your blog and check it daily for updates. What a JOCK you are!

and this from my brother, who is a fly fisherman, outdoorsman, and serious biker thinking about getting a new bike:

I gotta keep up with my jock sisters.

Referring to me--their unathletic, small big sister--as a "jock" is a way-cool compliment! That they both referred to me as a jock on the same day made my day!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Striped or Solid?

My brother just wrote to ask why my boys' belts are striped while my own is solid.

It all has to do with the individual element of martial arts: the goal of performing tasks commensurate with your ability. This is a cool element of Tae Kwon Do (and I think most martial arts). As Andy's Ultimate Tae Kwon Do Information Source says:

There's a lot of differences between an 8-year-old, an 18-year-old, and an 80-year-old black belt. To achieve black belt, you have to perform techniques commensurate with your ability. To say an 8-year-old is too young to achieve black belt is to also say that an 80-year-old 9th degree black belt should be stripped of his belt simply because each may not be able to perform the same feats as an 18-year-old.

There must also be a balance: you can place a 4 year old in a class, but if you expect them to attain black belt traditional-style, then the child will have to wait until they become 16 - a full twelve years, with about 8 of them just waiting to get to black belt.

At Hughes, most children under 16 test for junior belts. They just learn the ITF (International Taekwondo Federation) forms, one set of forms, (as well as sparring, breaking, and Tae Kwon Do etiquette) while adults learn ITF forms and Palgwe forms. That means that at each test, adults usually must do two forms, while children do one.

My guess is that adults are also held to higher expectations in terms of technique as well. It's easier for adults to make the transfer from knowing how to do something to doing it, while this is sometimes hard for kids. They need to look down at their feet to see if they're doing a front stance right, while adults can just be aware that the rear foot needs to be straightened, for example.

Of course, kids surpass us adults in many ways--they can become more flexible faster, they do turns and jumps with spontaneous energy, and they have a life of martial arts ahead of them.

Some kids decide they want to earn a regular black belt after coming up in the junior belt system. One boy did this recently. He had to learn ALL the Palgwe forms for his BB test! He did it.

Although there are rare problems with junior black belts--see the March 30 entry about Johanna at our school--most junior black-belts are a great addition to our school. Going through the belt system teaches a child humility, respect, and self-control, so the higher-ranked children serve as good examples--and even sometimes helpful instructors--to lower ranked people of all ages.

New Belts

Monday, April 11, 2005

Small Ensemble Test

By about 2 in the afternoon, my back is no longer bothering me. Before I head off to teach, I call and leave a message at Hughes Institute.

"My back's feeling better. Call me at home if you're doing a make-up test today."

When I get home, I find a message from Master Hughes. He's doing a make-up test for "a couple other people." I get supper ready to serve and head out the door for a 6 p.m. test.

The other people at the make-up test are June and her son Raidon. They are both high green belts. I'm glad to see people I know--I'm glad I'm not alone today.

When it comes to just about anything, I prefer performing in a group--I always have. I played piano for many years, but never really enjoyed performances. I played flute, too, and disliked solos. Playing in band, or better, in a small ensemble was much more satisfying. I like to sing, but I do not have a solo voice--I love singing in choirs. And of course in dance, solos are very rare; we dance ensemble: together.

Even practicing in a group is wonderful. I really love getting together with Steve Strong to jam: me on guitar or flute; him on guitar or banjo. I love the way two can make patterns and sounds that are impossible for one. I love hashing out trouble spots in a group, figuring out how to arrange, or tempi, or where things are going wrong--and then listening to the relationships between us all as we run through the music.

I think even in teaching, I rarely "solo." I prefer to conduct discussions, set up activities, work together. I don't think I ever really "lecture;" the closest I manage is in Professional Writing when I have a few powerpoint-based classes. But even those depend on student participation--in discussion or activities.

So testing today with two others is just fine. Testing with the whole class would have been fine, too, but this seems more like a small ensemble rather than a band. The interactions are more finely honed, my "voice" is heard.

My focus is good this evening, better than it was last Thursday. During basic movements, Master Hughes corrects my high block and my side kick, making slight adjustments to what I had been doing. He also corrects my back stance, too. "See where your foot is? It should be here," he said, showing me. "Oh, I think I'm standing in fourth position," I say.

I do my forms without hesitation. I survive sparring (I don't think I did particularly well at it, but I did it), and I break the board with my reverse kick on the first try. I even get to hold boards for June. "It's cool to see it from this perspective," I tell her.

"Did you pass?" my brother asks when I chat with him on the phone this evening.

"We don't find out until Wednesday," I explain to him. "We go for the belt ceremony, and lists of names are up on the wall with our belt level. If I pass it will say 'orange.' We won't know until then."

Still, I feel good about this test, better than I did about my first one. Perhaps the extra time gave me motivation--or a chance for everything to settle in my mind. Or maybe that small-ensemble approach is best for me.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Promotional test

Saturday arrives warm and humid. Promotional test for some . . . my pulled muscle still makes it difficult for me to even tie my shoes. I'm going to have to skip it. Dang.

After we arrive (hard to find a parking place), I stop in to tell Master Hughes about my injury. He'd also had a similar one--he works in a factory as his "day job."

"Here, let me show you a stretch you can try," he says. "Lie down."

OK. I lie down on the floor of the office, and Master Hughes takes my left leg and raises it up, 90 degrees to my body. He stands there and props my ankle on his shoulder.

"Now press into my shoulder," he says, and I do.

"Hey--we do this in ballet," I exclaim.

The stretch does make my pulled muscle feel better, but I decide I'll wait and do it more when I'm sure the pull has healed.

In the dojang, my boys await me. I tie belts, soothe nerves and watch them do their forms. Then they're called up--we line up by height during tests. There's a big crowd even though brown belts are testing in the afternoon with blackbelts.

Master Hughes calls Chelsea, a teen blackbelt to lead stretches and begin basic moves. There's a special order to them all--I wonder if it's the same in dojangs around the world, like barre in ballet that always begins with plies, tendus, etc. etc.

Then we do basic moves. I'm please that Eli is following direction without goofing off.

Robbie, two rows behind him, still has a shallow stance (Master Hughes wanders by and corrects it at one point), but he pops back up. Still, he looks pretty good.

It's strange to be sitting on the sidelines today, over by the weight machines with the other moms, the supportive moms, the ones who aren't taking classes. I have to move carefully so my back doesn't twinge. I look over at Pam and Amy who are doing well. I wish I were testing. I really don't mind it because we do it together, not alone.

After basic moves, Master Hughes divides this group up. The children, at the front of the room, do their forms. Eli doesn't make a mistake. Robbie's moves are a bit more precise than usual.

During this, some of the children have trouble. Master Hughes helps Brian's son, Matthew do his form. As a recent transfer from the "Little Ninja" class where children aren't expected to do forms, Matthew is having trouble learning Chun ji. Master Hughes stands right next to him and does the form along with him, while the other children watch patiently. I think tests are a learning opportunity here as well as a chance to prove one's proficiency. That's certainly how I look at tests in my own classes.

Finally, they get sparring gear.

"OK sweetie," I say to Eli. "This is your chance to show Master Hughes how good you are at sparring. It's one of your best skills." Eli straps on some mitts.

Robbie also puts on his sparring gear, with trepidation, as he's been paired with a blue belt boy, two ranks above him.

They both do amazingly well, though. Robbie gets in the match and attacks, rather than hanging back. He scores on the first blue belt.

Eli spins and hops, getting in lots of good kicks and punches, too.

Master Hughes walks by as they are sparring. I hope he noticed them!

During breaking, no one is having any luck, or at least none of the children are. The boards just do not seem willing to break. Children try again and again--some patiently, some with a hint of tears. Eli throws a brief temper tantrum, stomping his feet at a black belt, but then he comes to sit with me for a while.

Robbie has trouble, too. He is just not comfortable with the wheel kick. He tries again and again, falling down occasionally (dramatic boy that he is). His face shows frustration, and his moves become half-hearted. Master Hughes comes over to hold the board. I pray that Robbie does not start to cry.

Finally, both boys are given the light weight boards to break, and they manage to do it. Master Hughes has Robbie do push-ups. Robbie sits down by me, defeated and discourages. He does not cry.

"The important thing is you kept trying," I whisper. He's not sure.

"I'm not going to pass. I know it."

Master Hughes ends with an inspirational speech, then everyone lines up to shake hands with the black belts.

To my relief, several adults mention to Robbie that he did very well with his break, keeping up even though he doesn't want to. Robbie stands listening while I talk to Pam about it.

"I think he's really learned perseverence from Tae Kwon Do," I tell her. "Before he took this class, it was hard for him to keep going when things got rough, but now he's getting better at it."

I am proud of them, both of them.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Bad Luck

First my post from Thursday disappears as I try to post it. The vaunted "recover post" key does not work. I give up and stomp angrily upstairs.

Then, Friday, I pull a muscle in my back while digging in the garden. I ice it, take ibuprofen and rest, hoping it'll be OK this morning, the morning of the promotional test. It is not. I can barely bend over to tie my shoe, though I can walk and sit without too much pain.

I'm not going to be able to test today. I can't tell you how disappointed I am.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

ADHD day

I know they say that martial arts are good for people with ADHD. But today, everyone seemed to be very hyper and/or distractable.

Robbie's been having a tough spring in terms of getting out of control. He gets too loud too fast. He pushes too hard, teases too much, and is way too rough with Eli and just about everyone else. I blame it on testosterone poisoning--I read somewhere that about age 10, boys get their first does of adolescent hormones.

Or it could be that even-numbered-age thing. My sister-in-law once told me that, oh yeah, my kids were going through a difficult phase because they were 2 and 4, even-numbered ages. "So it's not just terrible 2's?" I asked. "Which even-numbered ages are bad?"

"All of them," she replied.

Anyway, Robbie's not the only one today. Before class starts, the other boys are hyper and not focused, running after each other with pads, flailing nun-chucks, and playing hockey with a broken piece of free-weight. Eli cavorts among them.

Even Mr. Houtz seems a bit ADD--or perhaps it's the opposite. At any rate, his focus is not completely on TKD. We greet each other and chat for a while about his car situation (no new car yet) and somehow our conversation wanders over various topics while the hockey game goes on, unnoticed, around us. Well, unnoticed by Mr. Houtz. His calmness and ability to ignore bad behavior is amazing. I'm feeling a bit antsy myself, ready to start.

We do get to our workout, eventually. We do the usual moves and stretches, then switch to sparring. I spar with Eli, and then with Patrick, who chatters the entire time.

Luckily the kids get to practice their break techniques, but not with a real board--with that strange slate-like practice board. I hope the breaking goes OK at the test.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

a larger community

This is so cool. I was surfing around on the internet and I found a discussion board where people can discuss martial arts online.

After reading through the posts that were already there, I thought it might be nice to hear from people studying martial arts elsewhere. I posted the following question:

I am new to sparring (I'm a yellow belt), and it is completely counterintuitve to me! I am not a warrior, but a 5'3" mom who takes ballet and TKD.

When it's time to spar, I want to run away instead of fighting someone (especially the taller men), but I am really loving TKD--the forms, the basic moves, the self-confidence I'm building--so I don't want to quit.

Any advice for me? What can help me feel more comfortable when I face someone in a fighting stance? Or should I follow the advice someone gave me on my blog--quit TKD and take Tai Chi instead?

I got a lot of really good answers, really thoughtful answers to my question. You can see them in their entirity if you check out the link above.

A couple I really liked a lot:

Despite what your sensei may be telling you, you are not training to be "a warrior". You are training to be a martial artist...BIG difference there. The arts aren't so much about being a fighter, as they are about being a better person. Being able to defend yourself is a part of this, and a path to this. Posted by "Shorinyu Sensei" from Montana.

Yes, I think this is how I see it. I want to be a martial artist with the emphasis on the artist part. And I think that's how Hughes Institute sees this process. I was looking at a handout from there the other night, and in a section called "Why take martial arts," it never said "to be a better fighter." There were other reasons: physical conditioning, increase in self-confidence, meet friends. (That last one is fun!)

Here's another:
You have alot of time to develop more aggresion. Work with what you got now, what you feel comfortable with and expand it as time passes... posted by "Slydermv"

Now this is something I hadn't thought of: that one can develop aggression. I had been thinking either you had it or you didn't. And of course that's not true. You develop aggressive techniques as you develop technique and self-confidence, I guess.

And one more thought:
In Tang Soo Do (one of TaeKwonDo's ancestors), we strive to achieve Pyung Ahn, or Peaceful Self-confidence... When you train to achieve that, you use your martial art every day... When you train just to fight, you use it a few times in a lifetime... posted by Master Jason Powlette in Pennsylvania

Now that I like. I think I would like to achieve Pyung Ahn. We need that everyday, don't we? In teaching, dealing with people, being a mom, dancing. I need Peaceful Self-confidence all the time, and I think that is what I'm striving for in Tae Kwon Do, and in other aspects of my life: the social, the parental, the spiritual.

There were many other wonderful comments, too, some of them with very specific advice about sparring. Last night, my head was echoing with them when I went to bed. I dreamt I was sparring, and that I was following "ninjanurse"'s advice: counter straight with round, round with straight. She threw a roundhouse kick; I countered with a front kick. She punched; I threw a roundhouse.

Maybe this will help. If you dream your goals, it seems you might come closer to achieving them!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Spar wid me

Saturday all-belts class, and I manage to get the boys to go with me with bribes of extra Easter candy. I have told them both that I'm not signing them up for the test unless they work extra hard this week.

Master Hughes is out of town; Justin Wasson takes the class. Robbie really looks up to him. He is a teen black belt--he's got good presence--he's calm and responsible.

Class is small, but goes smoothly until Robbie falls while doing combination kicking. He falls often, I think because he doesn' t yet have much control. This fall makes a good deal of noise--both the noise of Robbie falling and the noise of him crying! He yells with hurt and frustration. Mr. Wasson checks him out and Robbie goes back to sit on the chairs for a while--it turns out for the rest of class.

After some working out, Mr. Wasson yells out "get your sparring gear."

I put on Robbie's mitts and leg pads after trying to pry him out onto the floor. No go. I think his ego is as bruised as his hip. Neither of my children has much in the way of perseverence or indomitable spirit yet.

Eli borrows sparring gear from the cabinet, and we all get in a circle. What's next? I wonder.

"This is Round Robin sparring," explains Mr. Wasson. Two people will spar; the rest will act as judges, watching to see if anyone gets a hit. We can hit on the front of the torso and the back of the head only.

June is called up first. She is a tall, strong green belt.

"Who would you like to spar with?" asks Mr. Wasson.

June looks at me. "You," she says.

I feel honored and scared. June towers over me. But I decide I'll let it be a good practice: my first real sparring match.

I try moving in close and trying back-of-the-head roundhouse kicks. I can't really remember what else to do! She scores on me twice, and the match is over.

I survive.

Later on, Eli is called up. He chooses a green belt about his size, June's son. I'm not sure what to expect from him. But he is fierce! When Mr. Wasson calls "Si-Jah" Eli moves in fast with a great combination of kicks! He scores, and they begin again. Before Mr. Wasson calls them to Chun-Bee, Eli does a little dance, each time. Then he moves in quickly and fearlessly.

This delights me! My little serious, sensitive guy, fighting like a bee! Everyone else notices his adeptness, too, including Robbie, whose interest has been piqued.

Last exercise: flying side kicks against the heavy bag. I hit each one, fair and square. Eric, a junior brown belt, gives me a thumbs up. "Great kick!" I have good form, but even with all my body weight thrown into it, I can't make the back slam and shudder against the frame like some of the bigger students can.

Robbie joins us for this last part. He loves yelling and flying at that bag. When we shake the teachers' hand at the end, Robbie goes around again and tells Justin and Jason (the other black belt there) "you guys did great kicks!"

I fill out the test forms. Eli has proven his mettle. I'm hoping that Robbie will work hard this week and focus. It's been hard for him to do that. While I fill out forms, the boys talk to Mr. Wasson. "Show us your form!" they ask. He does--it's impressive. I only recognize a few of the movements.

We leave, Eli elated, and Robbie more hopeful.

Friday, April 01, 2005

A different art

I got an interesting post yesterday from "pictureworthy" who suggested that I might try a different martial art, like Kung Fu or Tai Chi. Both of these are so-called "soft" styles as opposed to the agressive "hard" style of Tae Kwon Do.

This has occurred to me before. In fact, I've often thought that once I feel comfortable with TKD, I may switch to a "softer" style. I know that once I get to the higher belt-levels, strength and aggressiveness are going to be more important.

I must admit, I am drawn to doing something that makes me somewhat uncomfortable (the aggressive sparring, kicking, and punching of TKD). It makes me think more about why I'm uncomfortable with it, and think about whether TKD can be used to promote peace. I'm reading a book by Karate black-belt Terrence Webster-Doyle right now about this issue--I'd recommend his books to any martial artist.

I'm actually interested in finding out more about Wu Shu (Kung Fu) and Aikido. Problem is, it may be difficult for me to find a school around here. It's so easy to study at Hughes--lots of classes to choose from, etc. Plus, I like the place and the teachers!

Any thoughts from any readers about different types of martial arts? What have you done? What is it like? Can any martial arts be used to promote peace?