Saturday, July 30, 2005

Cleveland Demo

Beautiful weather today for our family gathering. Mom and Dad arrive about 2, and after they get settled in, I begin my TKD demo, with Robbie as my helper. He just wants to break, but we begin with some explanations and warm ups.

Robbie wants to break with a hammer fist, but it won't work. He does a nice step side kick, though!

Then I do my jump reverse kick, a bit tricky on the grass. Of course, I carefully train my holders beforehand (thanks for the reminder, Kickerchick!) Bruce and Ken do an admirable job. I wish I had a photo, but I forgot.

I was just going to post some other photos, but apparently I can't on my brother's iBook. Apparently they don't have those options for Apple computers! What a shame. I'll post those pictures soon.

Friday, July 29, 2005


Master Hughes often gives a little talk at the end of class. I believe it's meant to be inspiring. Sometimes it is.

Imagine me giving one of those talks . . . here's one I would give

So tell me. What's the most important move we do in Tae Kwon Do?

No, not Kwanzu, though that's a cool move.

Nope, the first and last moves of our form are very important, but not the most important.

Here's a hint. It's the first move we do in TKD.

No, not horse-stance-middle-punch. Before that. I'll give you a hint. You do it before you even enter the room.

Yes! Bowing.

Let's all practice bowing. Think about it as you do it. What does this movement mean to you?

Cheryot! Kun Yeh!

When you bow, you bend over at the waist. You make yourself smaller. You make yourself vulnerable. That's one reason why bowing is important. It reminds us to show humility. That means we don't think too much of ourselves in TKD. We bow to Master Hughes and black belts, but we also bow to white belts and those of our rank. This reminds us that we should respect those around us, and always be ready to help them and put their needs before our own, no matter what the rank.

When you bow, you also have to stop what you're doing. I love watching you young kids run through the dojang at top speed, but then stop to bow at the door! You're reminding yourself of who you are right there at the doorway: you are a martial artist, practicing a new art. You have to stop in the middle of your busy activity to bow, just the way we all stop in the middle of our week to practice with one another. Someone once wrote that we bow to show respect for the moment. In TKD, we have to be "in the moment. We can't do our form right or do a break if we're worried about what's coming next or fretting about what we just did wrong. Bowing reminds us to slow down and be "in the moment"

I think the most important thing we learn from this move, though, was something Ms. Pryor said here a few months ago. She asked us why we bow, and some of us gave different answers: to show respect to you, our teacher. To show respect to the flag. But Ms. Pryor had a different answer in mind.

"It's to show respect for this place and what goes on here."

Every time we bow, we humble ourselves to the moments of learning and teaching that go on here in the dojang. When we bow, we show that we submit ourselves to the training we receive here. We stop in our daily lives to be here--even on hot nights in the summer, or during the year, when we could be busy with shopping, studying, or watching TV.

Next time you bow, try to remember how important this little move is. It's not a fighter's move. It's the move of a martial artist, one who is willing to be changed by what happens in these moments we have here, and maybe even let the study of Tae Kwon Do be a part of life.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Still kicking in Cleveland

We're in Cleveland for the next few days, hanging out with my brother and sister and their families, and visiting my parents. Needless to say, I didn't make it to all-belts yesterday!

Not taking a complete break from TKD, though. I promised everyone a demonstration, so I'll do that one of these days. Bill says he'll cut some boards for me, and also give Robbie a saw and let him cut, too. (apparently, it's one of my Grandpa's saws--kind of cool!) I have tattoos for the children to put on, and my kicking pad for them to kick. I think I'll do my tournament breaks: reverse kick, then flying side kick.

I even practiced Won Hyo on the beach at the Indiana Dunes, while white caps were rolling in. Very cool.

Wonder how everything's going at Hughes. I hope the dojang has finally cooled off. They probably need an enormous fan to get the hot air out and the cool in.

Monday, July 25, 2005

No Boards

I'd hoped to get some boards for my Cleveland TKD demonstration at all-belts this evening. But there weren't any.

I guess if I want to do any breaking, I'll have to hope my brother can cut me up some 10 inch pieces of 1 x12 . . . :-)

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Self Defense

At the end of class Saturday, we pair off to work on self-defense moves.

I'm always a bit skeptical about all but the simplest self-defense moves. I mean, when is this actually going to come in handy? I don't get into bar brawls. No one has ever thrown a punch at me (except for my kids in their younger days).

Actually, it could be a bit misleading. Most women are raped and attacked by someone they know. You're not going to be arms length when you know it's coming.

In class, we try two moves that I promise I will never use in real life. In one, you practically lie down to trip the other person, then kick them in the kneecap. . . another was a hip-throw.

The men who share a mat with me and my partner are really getting into it, though. It's Brian A. and Jim, so no surprise! Those two really enjoy fighting, and they rarely hold back. It's not "light to no contact" with them when they spar!

I point out the problem with the floor-tripping move.

"You can't run away! You can't get away from the bad guy!"

"The purpose isn't to run away, I think," says one of them. "It's to hurt and maim."

"You guys have been playing too many video games," I say.

During the hip throw, they take turns throwing each other with gusto. They're big guys, so they make a resounding SMACK as they hit the mat. Ouch.

Luckily, there's more to class than self-defense. Ms. Pryor has us pick out a trouble spot in our forms and we practiced it over and over, to her counts. Kind of like practicing piano or the flute, where you go over that tricky chord change or run ten times in a row to get it down.

It's very helpful. I finally get that last part of Won Hyo down with those tricky reverse inside-outside blocks!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Training schedule

I think I'm doing too much.

I'm referring to my exercise/training schedule. I'm doing ballet 2x a week, and TKD 2x a week. That shouldn't be too much, but the way my schedule is now, it's too much.

My schedule:
T: ballet
Th: ballet
Sat: TKD

Other days I swim, walk, or sometimes just sit on the couch!

Problem is Thursday. Yesterday I was too tired to do well in ballet. I kept yawning and spacing out during the combinations.

I guess it's not too much exercise, it's just too much, too close together. I'm thinking of changing things up a bit for fall: doing TKD on Monday evening instead of Wed. That way, I have just 2 days in a row of serious exercise.

Any thoughts about training schedules from you real atheletes out there?

Thursday, July 21, 2005


I finally broke down and decided to get a helmet. If people are going to be kicking me in the head, I better have one. I'm a bit worried about this investment in braces . . . and about the safety of my head.

Now don't I look just a bit scary in it?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


"Did I forget something? It's time for grand allegro, and we still have 20 minutes!"

It's Tuesday morning ballet class, and Suki is puzzled. Usually, we barely have time to do our last activity.

"I think I didn't talk enough today," says Suki, and we all laugh. Often class comes to a standstill as we chat about this and that, or hear stories of Suki's former eccentric teachers.

"OK. So what else shall we do today?" she asks.

"Since we have a boy today, can we do partnering?" I ask.

The "boy" in question is Mike, a large but graceful man who joins us when his busy working schedule allows it. I believe he owns a race car--that kind of guy. He is funny and kids Suki all the time.

So we do partnering, just like the real ballerinas!

We begin with an adagio, a slow combination, and Suki asks me to go first. Mike stands behind me and holds my hips steady as I do passes and an arabesque in releve.

When you watch real ballerinas doing a pas de deux with a partner, it looks like the boy is doing all the work, holding her up and lifting her. What you don't see is how hard she must work! Working on releve, even without pointe shoes, is tough, and of course slow movements are the hardest. It takes immense core strength--my abs ached after class! Still, it sure looked cool! I wish there'd been a camera. Mike and I decide to end with a small jump, and he lifts me high enough to do a few beats with my legs. Cool!

I don't have such success with the allegro movements. Suki has us do tour jetes, turning jumps with Mike lifting us as we move by him. I can do a passable tour jete, but I lose my nerve doign it close to Mike--I'm afraid I'll kick him! Of course, if I do it right, I won't kick him, but still.

Partnering in ballet is fun in the same way sparring is fun. You're not just doing movements perfectly, you're moving in response and along with someone else. You constantly have to adjust what you do, and be sensitive to your partner. I love it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Small warrior

During Passing of the Peace in church Sunday, I turned around to see 10-year-old Alosha and his Dad, Marty. I was glad to see them, as I'd heard Alosha had recently gone to some sort of martial arts tournament.

We greeted each other, and I told him I'd heard he'd been to a tournament and asked what kind of martial arts he practiced.

"Tae Kwon Do," said Alosha.

"Oh really!" I exclaimed. "I do Tae Kwon Do, too!"

"Are you still active, or did you do it in the past?" asked Marty.

"I just started in January,"I told them. "I'm a low green belt."

"I'm testing for my double tip black belt next week," said Alosha.

I'm not sure what that means. Must be a different belt system than the one we use.

"Alosha won a silver medal in sparring at the tournament," said his proud dad. "That means he's second best in the country!"

"Is sparring your favorite thing?" I asked.

"Yeah," said Alosha smiling.

"Mine, too," I told him.

Alosha said he takes class 5 times a week at the Y! Wow. No wonder he was able to win a silver medal.

"Well, I guess you better watch out for Jane," said Alosha's dad.

"I think I'm going to watch out for Alosha," I said, smiling at him. He smiled back.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Frank's story

On my way out of class on Saturday, I ran into Frank on the stairs. I actually almost literally ran into him--he was moving very slowly.

"I'm not sure I should have done that biking before class," he said.

"Did you bike to class?" I asked.

"No. I rode from here to Lisbon this morning," said Frank. "It took me a bit longer than I expected.

I was impressed. Lisbon is about 15 miles away.

"Wow. You must be a real biker!" I said.

"I've only had that bike for about two months," he said. "I turned 50 this year and I decided I wanted to be in the best shape I've ever been in. So I started Tae Kwon Do and got the bike. I've lost 30 pounds so far."

I liked the "in shape at 50" idea. Kind of like what I did when I turned 40: my youngest went off to kindergarten and I started ballet. Then TKD. I started both because I like to do it, but I'm getting in shape, too. I think I'm in the best shape I've been, too.

Frank looks like he's in pretty good shape. He's very tall, over 6 feet easily, and lean and muscular. Seems like his plan is working.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Good thing I got this tattoo. It says "Perseverence." I needed that on Saturday.

It wasn't crowded at All-Belts, and the big ACs were blasting out cool air. But Ms. Pryor told us to get stretched out before class.

"We're going to mostly work on sparring today."


I began with a round of ballet stretches, which feel good in this hot, humid weather. Then we got paired up to spar.

It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Sparring can be one of the most exhausting activities. But Ms. Pryor told us we should "play spar," not using all our energy, and not making contact. Instead of going all out, we worked on technique, first using only roundhouse kicks, then only roundhouse and reverse, etc. Then we helped each other look for where we were vulnerable when sparring: where our arms moved so an opponent could get in a kick or punch.

I learned a lot, but I'm afraid I'll forget it all!

Better write stuff down:

Sparring Advice for TaeKwonDoMom

1. Move arms to blocking position more quickly when doing a roundhouse kick. I was leaving my chest unprotected then, especially when I did high roundhouse kicks.

2. Keep body straight from shoulder to foot when doing side and roundhouse kicks. It's really easy to lean forward . . . right into a kick from my opponent!

3. Work on multiple roundhouse kicks. "Low, low, low, then HIGH!" as Ms. Pryor says. I practiced this with Chelsea and told her about the "balance muse." (the muse was smiling on me Saturday)

4. Use a reverse kick to counter a roundhouse.

5. Don't look at the scoring zone; look at your opponent's eyes.

Actually, I'm not sure I'll use this last piece of advice very soon. It was given to me by Justin, who is a black belt and excellent sparrer. He told me, "you're giving away your kicks. I can tell where you're going to kick by watching your eyes." And how many people of my rank will be able to do that? Still, I'll work toward that, trying to watch the scoring zone with my peripheral vision.

I must say that I would have scored an head kick on Justin--pretty amazing, as he is a tallish blackbelt. "You surprised me with that head kick because I didn't see you look that way. It was good," said Justin. I was pleased!

Jump Reverse
We also broke with our new breaking techniques. I did it almost by accident, but afterward joined Aimee and Ms. Pryor, who were working on that kick. I think I have the rhythm down now (Jump, land-kick, for any of you dancers out there), so I'm feeling more confident.

Did the tattoo help? Maybe. Unfortunately, it's coming off now. I think I may try a different one next time! I wonder if anyone else from the dojang will want one . . .

Friday, July 15, 2005

I didn't do it.

Contrary to popular belief (and rumors spread by Brian himself),I did not cause this bruise on his arm.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I love Sparring

Quite a different attitude than I had earlier! I was trying to find my earlier "I don't like sparring" entries, but couldn't. I know they're there!

Most of the practice at All-Belts is practice for sparring: combination kicking, kicking in pairs, and of course, sparring itself. I'm lined up with the blue belts and make my way down the line, sparring with each person. First Brian A., then Pam, then Jim, then the blue belt whose name I forgot.

Each person gives me some new ideas (counter a roundhouse kick with a reverse kick, try high kicks to the head, do those double roundhouse kicks). Each person says "good job," and I feel like I've held my own against some good partners.

I just hope I can remember all the good advice!

Picture to come later! :-)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

TKD outdoors

Kickerchick's comment reminded me of something. On Saturday, Master Hughes said he'd like to do a trip to a state park sometime this fall for an outdoor TKD class. Sounded fun to me!

I wonder how that would work. Would we work out in shoes? I hope not. I would also hope for shade as otherwise I'd have to work out in my sunglasses, which would look very weird.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


It's Saturday morning and I'm in my car and I'm driving to all-belts class and it must be 85 degrees already and I'm thinking "What the hell am I doing driving to a TKD class on a hot July morning?" I think I even say it out loud. But I pull into the parking lot and head on in.

The Voice
First thing I notice when I get inside is that it's cool! The big ACs must be on.

Second thing I notice is that things sound different from last week. I hear Master Hughes calling out instructions to the children's class.

Master Hughes has an amazing voice. He is beyond loud. His voice has this ringing quality to it--especially his "Cheryot" and "Kun Yeh" commands. They certainly make you take notice. I talked to him on the phone once when I called to find out about a make-up exam. I had to hold the receiver away from my ear.

But he's not just loud. There's something of his personality in his voice--a kind of generous joy that comes out in the way he speaks. There's just a different feel in the dojang now that he's back.

The Usual
It's the usual Saturday morning workout with Master Hughes, which means that there are some familiar exercises, some unfamiliar ones, and not always in the usual order. We begin with Chun Jee, move on to stretches, kicking practice, and combination kicking across the floor. We also work on punches and jabs, something I do a lot in sparring.

Cheering up
One of the children who comes in a bit late is looking grumpy while she stands in line for kicking practice.

Master Hughes notices right away and tries to cheer her up with a big hug. She starts to crack a smile.

"Hey Jane, come and hug her with me!" I turn around in our lineup and wrap my arms around Master Hughes and the girl, sandwiching her between us.

"We've made her into a sandwich!" I say. She giggles. Master Hughes goes back to teaching.

No Bruise
During the last part of class, we spar endlessly, in long lines, shifting partners after bouts of a few minutes. I begin facing Aimee, and we follow the instructions: "Just use one leg. Don't put your foot down." It's tricky. "I can't do a reverse kick!" says Aimee.

With each new partner, the instructions change. I make my way down the line until I'm facing Brian. By now, it's just "free sparring, light to no contact."

Sparring with Brian is like teasing a brother. Since we're both the same belt color and work together all the time, we are comfortable working out together, and sparring is fun. But Brian's a challenge. Unlike most men who are close to my belt level (and some who are above) who are strong but slow, he is fast and flexible.

"Go after him, Jane," encourages Master Hughes as he wanders by. "When he goes to kick you, that's your chance!" We all laugh and I keep in there. There's something about a six-foot tall police office fighting a 5'3" dancer that's hilarious.

Despite the difference in size, I think we're not too unevenly matched. But at one point, Brian's right foot makes contact with my left cheekbone. The blow makes me see stars ever so briefly. I yell, stop and bend over, hands on my knees, and breathe. Immediately Brian is at my side. "Are you OK? I'm really sorry."

The pain has already subsided after a few breaths, so I joke back to him: "Yeah, I'm OK, but if I get a black eye, you're in big trouble."

It must be tricky to be a man sparring with a woman, especially one smaller than you. You do have quite an advantage in some ways, and of course tradition says you don't hit women. Still, in sparring, you have to!

Anyway, I continue to tease Brian, telling him that he's going to be in trouble for kicking a poor defenseless ballerina in the face . . . until about his seventh apology, when I say "I'M FINE! Really. But if I get a black eye . . . !"

For the record, no black eye or even a bruise develops. (See Brian? I'm OK! Really!) I guess I have a hard head. Still, I'm thinking about a helmet for the future!

After class, I look for Master Hughes to pay him back for a bottle of water I got last week. He's talking with Justin. I give him the money.

"Hey guys, come on upstairs and see the table Mr. Carter built!"

Master Hughes, Justin and I go upstairs, through the children's classroom (a bright room with a padded floor for the Mini Ninjas, ages 4-6), and through a door at the side. We step into a dark attic area where rafters make the ceiling and heating ducts wind around us.

"Cool!" I say, walking around. Master Hughes punches on a board and it opens like a window, looking out over the dojang below.

We take a look at the saw table Mr. Carter has set up. The local building supply place won't cut our boards anymore, so someone will do it here.

Maybe I can get him to saw me some boards for my trip to Cleveland!

Not Bad
OK. I guess it's not a bad way to spend a hot Saturday.

Friday, July 08, 2005


Perhaps you're curious about TKD gear. There's not much, or at least I don't have much. Here's what I've got in terms of sparring gear.

These are my sparring mitts. They're made of a vinyl-covered foam with finger loops and a velcro strap to hold them on. You can see they're much lighter and more streamlined than boxing gloves.

This is how they go on. On, they remind me of my mom's arm splints! As you can see, I take off my watch and wedding ring when I spar--you should wear no jewelry during a sparring match, test, or tournament. It could hurt someone, break, or a ring could get stuck on a jammed and swollen finger. Taking off the ring was weird at first--I rarely remove it! Now I have a little ritual: take off watch, take off ring, put ring on watchband and fasten.

We also wear leg/foot protection. These are basic leg pads that pad the front of your shin and the top of your foot (which hits in a roundhouse kick). As you can see, they don't really protect ankles, which is why I got that bruise the other day. Usually you won't see these as they're underneath our baggy pajama pants.

Other sparring gear not pictured: booties that some people wear. Vinyl-covered foam things that go over feet. I don't own them--they're optional.

Helmet, also made of vinyl-covered foam. It's not optional during a tournament. I borrowed one from the gear closet for the tournament. I don't really want one--I'm ignoring the fact that I may get kicked in the head someday.

And mouthguard! I hate to wear it, but we must during tournaments.

I have been promised a picture of me sparring. I am hoping that Aimee will bring it to class soon :-) I'll post it when I get it.

Young teacher

The teacher at Wednesday night's all-belts class was a bit on the young side. It was 10-year old James.

It may seem odd to have a class of adults and children taught by a 10-year old. But James is a black belt, so he is expected to teach, especially when the head teachers are on vacation. He did OK, too.

The question is, can 10-year olds really teach? I suppose it depends on what you mean by teaching. As you can imagine, I have some opinions about teaching.

What a child can do: lead the class through the usual routine of stretches, kicks, basic moves, forms, and sparring practice. Children are great at memorizing, so James had the routine down.

He also could help a few people with a few basic problems with forms.

What a child (or anyone who doesn't think like a teacher) can do is address the needs of the class at that particular time.

For a child, TKD class is a routine of exercises that you go through. For many people I suppose it is the same. But for a teacher, each move, each exercise has a particular purpose and goal. A real teacher knows these goals, and the exercises are not mere busy work.

Ms. Pryor, for example, knows when we need to get moving with aerobic kicks across the floor. She sees and knows when we aren't chambering our legs right for side kicks, and she knows the exercises that will help us to do better. Master Hughes is especially good at knowing the purpose of exercises and switching up the order of activities in class to make sure we learn all we need to learn.

That's something an inexperienced teacher or a child just can't do. Yet.

This is not to say that a class with a child or inexperienced teacher is a waste of time. A good student can learn in any situation.

But a good teacher's job is to structure the class in a way that learning can take place with intensity, accuracy, and thought. I look forward to the return of our teachers so that we can have classes like this again!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Taped Toes

Thanks to Brian A., who provided me with some tape, my toes were fine last night.

Bad-ass ballerina

"I saw you doing those ballerina pirouettes," says Pam as we take off our sparring gear after all-belts.

"Yeah," I reply. "I call it ballerina sparring."

"I guess you're a bad-ass ballerina," says Pam.

Hmm. Not a bad name. Maybe I'll get it printed on the back of my TKD t-shirt.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Demo in Cleve?

Heard this from my sister, who will also be in Cleveland when we're there to visit:

We are looking forward to our trip! Will we get a TKD exhibition?

I think about a demo while cleaning up from supper. It might be fun to bring some boards along and show them my breaking techniques . . . I picture us in the backyard, me showing everyone how to hold boards. My sister and brother hold one, my husband and brother-in-law hold another. I do my tournament double break (reverse kick, then flying side kick) . . .

Then I remember that I haven't done TKD since last Wednesday! So I practice my form in the backyard while Robbie excavates tunnels in the sandbox.

And I figure out how to get some boards and bring them along on our trip.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Blister Avoidance

I wrote to a TKD colleague about blisters. This is what I said:
Hello Brian--
I have a quick question about taping one's toes for TKD--I notice you do it. What kind of tape do you use? Does it prevent blisters?

I left class Wednesday with two dime-sized blisters on my right foot! But I did not know if taping my toes would help--or even what to use.

Thanks for any advice.

And this was his reply:

Good morning. I think I am starting a fad , you would be supprised how many people have been asking? Yes it really saves my toes from blistering. ( But you may loose some traction...) I was really chewing up my feet, but it helps TREMENDOUSLY when it comes to avoiding blisters. I cycle every other practice to try to build up some calluses.

I will show you at next practice they type of tape, I got it at Wal-Mart or Walgreen's. It is not the plain old Bandage tape but more of a mesh. It breathes a little better and comes off easier. It is a kind of mess and the only one I think is worth a hoot.

Look me up at Wed's practice. You can borrow some and try it out. Tracy the new white belt did last week as well.

I think I saw some of that tape at the drugstore. I may just get some.

Here's Brian's daugher, Michelle with Master Hughes. She is 10, and always has a conversation with me in the women's changing room. Very cute!