Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Scene

Monday we all--Robbie, Eli, and I--go over to the kids' class at the dojang. They're not enthusiastic, but they are OK with it. We get there late, and Eli skitters through the dojang to have me tie his belt.

There doesn't seem to be a teacher around and some of the children are leading warm ups. It's tedious. We can barely hear the instructions, and during basic moves, we stand endlessly in our stances as the young black belts wander around looking for mistakes.

On this day, the anniversary of my 20th year as a teacher, I am once again reminded that not everyone who is competent in a field can teach. I wish the school would give some instruction in "how to lead a class" to the blackbelts, even the children.

Master Hughes finally arrives and makes it clear how different it is to be lead by an excellent teacher--to some of us, anyway . . .

During all of this, the boys are having trouble concentrating. Eli has gone back to his goofing around stage, just like he did when he began TKD last fall. He jumps around, makes faces, and chatters away. Robbie is not too much better.

I decide to stay out of it once Master Hughes is there.

We begin combination kicking, and Eli is teamed up with a boy he knows, a yellow belt. Eli jumps around making faces, and Master Hughes comes over.

"You're the senior student here, and you're acting like the yellow belt," says Master H. "Maybe you two should switch belts."

Of course, this is a friendly reminder to Eli to stop goofing off, but he doesn't get it.

"I don't care," he answers back. I cringe.

"Well, if you don't care, maybe you should just take that belt off," says Master H.

"I don't care," says Eli again.

Master Hughes takes off Eli's belt and puts it on the stage. I turn back to my combination kicking--Master H. pairs me up with the younger children so I can help them out.

Later, we line up for TKD tag, everyone's favorite. But I notice that Eli is crying. Robbie talks to him, and so does Master Hughes, but Eli shouts something unintelligible, flings out his arm at Master Hughes, and runs out.

For some kids, it would be easy just to say "OK. Cut it out. You need to straighten up and stop screwing around. Now get back to work." But making orders does not work with Eli. Never has. I am not sure why. Also: teasing, kidding around, and using physical contact to get him to cooperate do not work, either, and these are some of Master Hughes's teaching techniques (they work with most children!).

I wish there were something I could do to make this sort of situation work for Eli. I wish I could make him into a child who could take criticism, take instruction, snap out of it when ordered to.

I wait for a while, then go to find Eli, who is sniffling in a corner.

"You look mad," I say.

"I hate Master Hughes!" shouts Eli.

"He likes you, and he wants you to behave," I tell him.

Eli launches off into unintelligible shouting/crying. His arms fling about uncontrollably. It's an old-fashioned temper tantrum.

"I think you need to be here by yourself and calm down," I tell him during a quiet moment. "But I don't want to leave until you talk to Master Hughes. You can't leave like this. You need to apologize and talk to him."

More tantrum, but I can't do anything about that, I've learned from experience. I leave.

At the end of class, I apologize to Master Hughes, who is entirely gracious about the whole scene. Then I notice Eli behind me. The tantrum has stopped.

"I'm sorry," says Eli.

Master Hughes squats down to Eli's level.

"I know, buddy. It's just part of growing up. I don't hate you, I want to teach you. But you have to be willing."

Eli sniffles.

"I don't like Tae Kwon Do," he says.

When we return, I realize I am exhausted. It puts a Mom through a wringer to watch a child go through that. I tell Bruce the story while the children play on the computer after supper.

"I don't know what I should do. I would like him to keep going because it's such a great activity. You can see yourself improving very quickly, and it's great exercise. I just wish he knew how to take instruction."

Bruce reminds me that Eli's had trouble like this before.

"Remember swimming lessons this summer?"

I do. I'd finally gotten Eli enrolled in some swimming lessons, and he "hated" the first day. He clung to the wall, climbed up on it, and then crept out on the deck. Whenever the teacher asked him to do something, he'd shake his head, "No. No. No."

He cried and cried about going back the next day, but I insisted. "I just want you to do two things. Stay in the water and when the teacher asks you to try something, say 'I'll try.'"

Something about those "two things" worked for Eli. He stayed in the lessons, and learned how to float and swim underwater. "Tell me two things to do today," Eli would tell me before swim lessons.

Maybe that's what he needs at TKD. Two things. Say "yes, sir" to the teacher and do what he asks you to do.

But not tomorrow. I think I need to recover from Monday first.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Everyone's Mom?

I must have some child-attracting scent when I got to TKD.

"Hi Jane!" says Michelle when I go into the changing room. She likes to chatter about things her family is doing.

Raidon has told me a number of times that he'll help me with my form. I remember quite distinctly a time when he and Michelle practically kidnapped me after class to teach me a form.

Patrick likes to stop me and ask about my boys or tell me how far he's gotten.

Miriam comes up to me, even during class, and meows. My response? "Hi little kitty!" and I pet her a few times.

Even Miriam's older brother, Arik, a recent black belt, wanted to chat. He turned to me during breaking with some advice for breaking with my hands. "You have to strengthen your hands," he said. "I play piano. Is that enough?" I ask. "No. You need to exercise with those rubber balls," he advised.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A New Breaking Kick

For my next test, I'll need to do a jump front snap kick to break a board.

This came as a bit of a surprise to me. I don't like the idea of breaking a board with the ball of my foot.

However, you may remember that I do like front snap kicks!

Today, we do our breaking kicks, after a grueling class of going across the floor doing our warm up kicks, side kicks, and, finally, grapevines (I end my grapevines with a small brise from ballet!) We also do something that the athletic people around me called "windsprints," which were not fun--just running back and forth. This is why I am NOT an athlete.

At the end, we go up to do our breaks. Ms. Pryor even calls me up to help hold a board! I must be looking big and strong today.

When it's my turn to break, I go up to Jim and Christian, who are holding for the adults.

"I'm doing a jump front snap kick," I inform them. "So am I going to cripple myself?"

"No," says Jim.

"I don't know. Maybe," says Christian, with an evil grin.

"Shut up," I tell him.

I break the board after missing completely once. I am not crippled.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


I love doing flying side kicks. We practiced them at the end of class today, with a huge, long runway.

I knew from the first time I saw one being done that I would love to do it--if I could figure it out. It took me a while to do that. At first, my main problem was not knowing when to jump. I have to jump early, so I can fly into that pad (or board). Once I figured that out, I could really fly up and out, throwing myself at the pad and punching that side kick. Now I'm working on form--making it really beautiful.

Of course, the only time Master Hughes was watching me ("Go Jane!" he yelled from across the floor) I stuttered in the middle and my form was off. Oh well. My classmates saw me doing it!

Monday, August 22, 2005

A Favorite Teacher

The boys and I saw Mr. Houtz at the pool last week. He was also there with his children. I told him that the children were hoping he would teach again in the fall.

Eli went over and chatted with him for a while and told him that he would take Tae Kwon Do again once Mr. Houtz started teaching again.

I'm somewhat torn about this. I'm glad they have a favorite teacher, but both of them tend to misbehave more in Mr. Houtz's class, taking advantage of their favorite teacher's kindness and patience by goofing off more than they would in the other class. I told them that, and said that I wanted to see how they behave in the regular class, taught by Master Hughes (and sometimes Ms. Pryor) first.

Hey, and I'm glad they're thinking about TKD again.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

More pictures!

Just got these cool photos from Brian A. His Nikon digital camera sure beats my little one.

Here's me chambering for my front snap kick . . .

And kicking! Before I saw this picture, I had no idea I was kicking THAT high. I guess my ballet training has helped me.

Here's the same thing from the front.

And a nice one of the high greens and Heidi, who's now a low green.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Moving up in Rank

After the belt ceremony, I admire Pam's new brown belt. She says she has mixed feelings about it.

"It kinda scares me to be a brown belt," she says.

I can see that.

"You know, I said to someone that my white belt test was the hardest," I say. "But I think that's wrong. They seem to get scarier as I get higher in rank."

Dana agrees. "More is expected of us," she says.

"Now we don't just have to do forms, we have to do them well, and be an example to the lower belts," I say.

But what are ya gonna do?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Belt Ceremony

To me, the belt ceremonies have always been times of celebration and fellowship. This one felt especially celebratory--maybe because of the many black belts (about 6 or 7, I think, all children) or maybe because I'm beginning to feel like I'm really a part of this place.

We all begin with the usual bows, this time lined up according to rank.

We're called up in reverse order of rank. Here are the green belts up at the front.

Since we're going from low to high green, we get stripes of tape on our belts instead of new belts.

Here are the new blackbelts! They were so proud of themselves. It's a big accomplishment.

And the new high greens!

I love this picture of me and Master Hughes. It looks like a prom picture! I'm more of a dance girl than a fight girl.

There was blackbelt cake for celebration afterwards . . .

But I continued my celebration with dancing! I met friends from the college at an outdoor concert in the New Bohemia section of town (3rd St. and 9th Ave. SE) by an awesome latin/cumbia/dance band called Yerba Buena. They boast that their music will "make you dance." (Listen to the clip of "Bilingual Girl"--doesn't it make your feet start moving?)

It worked. We got up to dance when the music started at 7:30 and didn't stop until the concert was over at 9:15!

No pictures from that-- sorry!

Robbie returns

My photographer for the belt ceremony was Robbie. I think he was lured by the chance to use my digital camera.

When I entered the dojang, Robbie was there, his eyes wide.

"I think I'm going to start taking classes again," he told me.

He felt it too, the excitement, warmth, and fellowship of this place. I wonder if his enthusiasm will continue.

Monday, August 15, 2005

What the Test is Like

It's not too hot this morning (Saturday), but everyone still gripes a bit about having to wear our stiff jackets. We're used to wearing t-shirts in the summer, but test days mean we have to wear the whole uniform, including the jacket.

I put a little dragon tattoo on my ankle for luck. (After the test some of the women with tattoos try to convice me that I need a real tattoo. I point out my aversion to pain.)

Master Hughes gives a brief talk before the test begins.

"How many of you are ready for school to start?" he asks. I raise my hand wildly. He jokes that I must NOT be ready for school to start (since I teach) but I assure him otherwise!

He also reminds us not to worry about the test, but to think about what we're doing (as we should in school) and enjoy doing our work well. Inspiring words.

After some basic movements, we do our forms. This is always a difficult part of the test. We're lined up by height, not by belt level (I'm in the second row from the front, if you must know, right behind the children), so you're in there with people doing all sorts of different forms. Plus, there's a great crowd. I mess up once on Won Hyo, and step on Heidi, who's next to me, at least once while I do my Palgwe forms.

Next is sparring. I spar first with Heidi, a really tough opponent. Then with a yellow belt, Jamie, and then with Pam, one of my favorite sparring opponents. Pam is good. She has good stamina, and doesn't just strike out; she's thinking about her moves. I think I do OK at sparring.

Did I mention that I really LIKE to spar?

I'm ready to break with my jump reverse kick. I had practiced with the heavy bag at our last class, and I know I have it down. Nancy, a black belt, holds for me, along with someone's Dad. I focus, breathe, and break that board in one try. There's some applause. It's fun to watch the others break and cheer them on.

And After
I feel good about this test. I linger a few minutes with my bag before I go home. I wish I could stay and watch the black belt test, but I'm needed at home. I envy those who can just stay.

But I also have a new thought: that even though I can't be here as much as I'd like, even though I don't practice forms every day . . . I belong here at the dojang. I really am a student of the martial arts, not just someone dabbling in it to see what it's about. I feel comfortable here, and I feel like maybe I'll stay a while and see if I can get as far as a black belt. Even though it's not the only thing going on in my life by any means, it's an important thing, and it's becoming part of who I am.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Promotional Test Pictures!

Just a few pictures from the test on Saturday. There are a few that were taken with my little digital camera (Brian B's wife did the honors--Brian--send me an email and remind me of her name. I know I was officially introduced, but I forgot!). Some were taken by Brian A. --he sent out an email with about 2 dozen awesome photos, including that first one of Ms. Pryor doing a flying side kick.

Enjoy. I'll post my reflections later.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Right moves in forms and self-defense

It's Wednesday and I'm at All-Belts. I'm practicing my form in front of the mirrors to get my stances right. Master Hughes appears behind me (I can see him in the mirror), so I work extra hard . . . He stops me.

"You need to really twist your upper body for the reverse inside-outside block," he tells me, demonstrating. "Your shoulders need to be in a line with your arm."

I look up at the mirror as he adjusts my stance.

It's really helpful to do the form in front of a mirror. I guess I don't really know how I look doing the moves.

After I finish, Master Hughes and I chat about the college where I teach--I ask if he'd be interested in doing a demonstration there.

"Maybe you could get some students interested in joining here," I say.

He says that they used to run some classes over at the college, especially self-defense.

I think that might be a good thing for the college students to know.

I then get a quick lesson in a self-defense move. Master Hughes shows me how to break away when someone's got me in a choke hold from the front--swing one arm up and over, knocking the assailant off balance and trapping his arms under mine.

"Then you can just do this. " Master Hughes shows how I could elbow the assailant (him right now) in the jaw.

Self-defense moves still seem counter-intuitive to me. Even when we're practicing and it's Master Hughes doing the "assailant" role, my intuition is disbelief, panic, and wanting to run rather than going confidently through the moves.

One book I read--maybe Tae Kwon Do for Women--mentioned that the best thing self-defense classes can teach women is that it's OK to fight back. I think I need to learn that.

Anyway, it would be fun to do a demo--on TKD or self-defense--at the college. I hope if we do, that I can be part of it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Not the most conscientious

"Conscientious student." This was one of the recurrant themes on my report cards when I was growing up. (Ellen, Bill and I found old report cards and read them when I was in Cleveland.) I was a smart kid, but I think what the teachers really appreciated was that I worked hard and well.

I am not the most conscientious student in TKD, though, and I think I'm OK with that.

Aimee and Heidi say they practice ALL the forms every day. They know those Palgwe when they are asked to do them. I have to stop and think and watch someone else out of the corner of my eye. I have thought about practicing my forms every day . . . but I haven't done it. I've decided this is OK. Patrick learns his next form even before passing his test. I don't do this. I don't even look at the next one until I've finished my test.

As a former "conscientious student," I find this a bit hard to do, to not work my absolute hardest and best on something I love. (And I do love TKD.) In TKD, I've decided that I'm going to be "good enough" and for now that's good enough. Perhaps my mind will change. Until then, I'm just going to love doing it and not worry about being the best in the class.

I always say

when I'm leaving home for class:

"See ya. I'm going to go punch and kick people."

Bruce always responds:

"Better them than me, babe."

Monday, August 08, 2005

Workout schedule

Getting ready for the promotional exam, but no ballet classes for two weeks. I'll miss it, and I'll miss the great strengthening/stretching exercise I get from it.

Here's my no-ballet exercise schedule:

Sun (yesterday): walk
Mon: swim laps
Tues: take boys to the pool . . . ;-)
Wed: all-belts TKD class
Thurs: TKD forms class or walk
Fri: dance at Glengarry Bhoys outdoor concert :-)
Sat: promotional exam! Break a board! Do a form! Spar!

[And a big Hello! to any grads of my alma mater who've discovered my blog! Leave me a comment! Tell me what you're doing!]

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Stance troubles.

"You were leaning back in your back stance for the C-block."

I'm working on my form during All-belts, and a black belt, Jason, wanders by with that observation.

"Am I?" I had no idea. I was just feeling like I knew this form, but if my back stance isn't right, the form isn't right. (The guy in the picture above has his backstance right--he's doing it with a a double middle knife hands guarding block.)

I move into my C-block, trying hard not to lean back over my back leg.

Is this better?" I ask. "And can you watch me to see if I do it again?"

Jason watches me as I carefully execute my form, really concentrating on my back stance. He points out that I'm doing it fine to the left, but I'm leaning back when I do it to the right.

"Look at this foot," he says, pointing to the foot in front. "Your heel's supposed to be lined up with the back heel."

Later, Ms. Pryor corrects me on the same thing. Geez. You' d think I'd be doing this right by this time. I think I learned how to do a back stance on, what, my first day in Tae Kwon Do class?

She shows me and Aimee that we need to practice at the mirror, watching to see if our feet ar positioned properly. We get encouragement, too.

"Your forms look good, girls," Ms. Pryor says to me and Amy. OK. If she says it looks good, I must be doing OK.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Cool Website!

There are probably tons of cool TKD websites out there, but I found this one useful when looking for details about the meaning of my form, etc.

Have you visited Tae Kwon Do Tutor.com?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Test practice?

I've noticed that sometimes right before a test, we have a class that's run just about like a test. Tonight's that night.

There's a big crowd, despite the heat. There are some black belts I rarely see, and somekids I don't know, too. Patrick is there, and I chat with him for a while. He asks about Robbie and Eli.

"I don't know if they'll be back. Eli might be," I tell Patrick.

Patrick reminds me that he's up for his black belt test in February. "Cool," I say.

We warm up with the usual punches and a few kicks, but then go to Chun Jee before stretching. It's one form I always remember besides the one I'm working on! We do our ITF forms for Master Hughes, and our Palgwe forms, too. He's watching closely, and gives me, among others some pointers.

After everyone's done, Alec and his dad Bill do their forms again--they won't be there on the test day. They are the same level, and it's cool to watch them do the forms together. Alec is tiny and wiry; his forms are precise and quick. Bill is strong and muscular--he looks powerful doing his.

We end with combination kicking. Master Hughes has us practice making contact. I don't like doing this when we're not sparring--I don't know why. But I eventually see why he has us do this: to practice knowing how close you need to be. I'm often too far away when I kick; Ms. Pryor has pointed this out to me before.

"Kick him! Make contact!" says Master Hughes as I practice with Brian. OK, OK. I try out my kick-to-the-head with him--and I might have scored!

"Not bad!" he tells me. Yeah, especially with a 6-foot opponent!

So now I've learned this: I need to move in closer to make contact. Remember this!!! (I tell Pam that I wish I could remember all the things I learn in drills when I actually spar!)

After class, some of us discuss the Thursday forms class (might go to that before the test), a possible baseball game outing, and various other topics. Master Hughes has given me the URLs of a couple websites he's worked on--he's beginning to get one started for our dojang! Very exciting. I may do some writing for it.

Good or bad thing?

Is it a good or bad thing to have my teacher know about this blog?

Master Hughes told me he discovered my blog. I think word's been getting around that it's there. I'm glad to have the readership! Still, I wonder if I'm getting things right. I bet he had a different perspective on things than I do, that's for sure.

Hey, any of you from our dojang: if you feel like adding in your point of view on any of my topics, feel free! Just click on the word "COMMENT" and add your comment!

Looks like TKD to me!

You should read this article my brother sent me from the BBC. It's all about how physics is involved in board breaking. There are some really cool stop-action shots of breaking, too, including one of a physics grad student (who's not a martial artist) breaking a board. Shoot, I wish I'd had that much fun in grad school!

The physics connection's not news to me; Master Hughes is always talking about "action-reaction," and Ms. Pryor reminds us that to break, we don't need to be strong, we just need good technique.

Here's the article, Kung Fu? Meet Physics. (click to be sent to the website)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Here are the pictures of the Cleveland TKD demo. It was in Bill's backyard. Mom, Dad, Ellen, Ken, Bill, and my nieces were there, as well as Bruce and the guys.