Friday, September 30, 2005

The Tire Dummy

TKDMom: Tell me about this tire dummy. I hear it has a name.

KumDo Boys: "Bill!" "Bob!"

TKDMom: One of my blog readers was interested in finding out more about it. Did you make it, Master Hughes?

Master Hughes: No, I didn't. Mr. Carter did.

TKDMom: What's it made out of? Wood.

Master Hughes: No. It's made out of metal. Everything Mr. Carter makes is metal.

TKDMom: I guess it's pretty sturdy then.

TKDMom and boys

By the time I get to KumDo class with Jacob and Robbie, I've had about enough of loud voices, fart jokes, and talk about computer games. Jacob's been over at our house since after school, and both boys are wound up.

We pull into the parking lot about 6:30 and the boys pile out of the car, running and yelling. I sag out of the door and see Brian. He's there with his bag, ready to work on forms with me--I guess he managed to get off work a bit early. The boys bound past him, yelling.

"I've had about enough of testosterone-based life forms," I tell him. I'm feeling a bit tired of being a mom of boys.

When the boys run past the other Brian, Brian A., who's there with his kids, I again apologize.

"Yeah. Boys can be a handful," says Brian, glancing at his son.

"They're a pain," says Michelle, his daughter who's about 9. "But," she says with a smile, "they ARE amusing."

A girl after my own heart!

"Yes, they are," I agree. "And I'm easily amused, so I guess our set-up is OK."

There are only three boys at sword class, so there's plenty of room for Brian and me to go through forms.

"What do you want to do?" he asks.

"Let's go through all of them," I say.

We'd gone through all the forms at a class Monday with Justin. It wasn't particularly instructive to do that, though I did learn that I do forms much more slowly than most of the people who lead them. Most of the adults felt that way. "The kids just race through their forms," everyone was saying.

So tonight, Brian and I go backwards through the forms, starting with Palgwe 4. It's very helpful--we stop when we get stuck and look things up in his print outs, and then go through each one until we remember.

I think that if we were to work together at a test, between us, we could probably remember all of them!

Meanwhile, the boys are having a bit of trouble concentrating on sword class. I think part of it has to do with us being there. It doesn't distract the boys so much as it distracts Master Hughes, who comes over to chat with us while the boys take breaks! Still, he manages to get everyone concentrating somewhat, and he gives them encouraging words about focus.

Jacob seems to be having trouble taking instruction. It's probably just that he hasn't had any kind of class in a physical activity in a while. He wants to comment on the instructions that Master Hughes gives, and it sounds like backtalk. Sometimes I suppose it is. I hope he catches on soon!

I hope that I'll be able to use these Thursday nights for some forms practice. I may not be able to go through my forms every day like Heidi and Aimee do, but doing them one extra time a week has got to be good.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Partnering again!

Thursdays were supposed to be my swimming day, according to my new workout routine. But when I got up this morning, I knew I wanted to do ballet. So I went to the Thursday class.

It's not as serious as the Tuesday class. But still, it's ballet. And near the end, Mike appeared, the only man who takes adult ballet at our studio.

After reverance (some simple moves and curtsies at the end of class, kind of like bowing at the end of TKD class), most of the class made their way out. I stopped Mike.

"Would you like to stay for a bit to work on partnering?"

"Sure!" he said.

Suki agreed to stay for a few minutes to work with us.

We started with that simple adagio that we'd done before, and then Suki showed me how to do a pirouette with a partner. I kept worrying I'd knock him in the head with my elbows! But once I stopped thinking about that, I got in one or two that looked decent.

Then we worked on tour jetes, which are turning jumps. Last time, about a month ago, I'd had no luck doing them. I'd do the wind-up steps, then get stuck as I came around and saw Mike standing there!

But this time, they worked. The trick is getting lined up so that you'll be close enough to the guy when you leap and turn. I would stand sideways in front of Mike, then shuffle straight forward to my spot, which made Suki laugh. The next thing is just to do the move, and forget about the partner. Mike would just grab me as I went by and whoosh me up into the air. We did the tour jetes several times, until we were able to make it look smooth.

He's a big guy, too, so he had no trouble whatsoever lifting me way up! Still, I hope he doesn't get a backache from the workout!

I would be happy to be able to work on that again sometime. There's something extra cool about dancing WITH someone.


Wednesday, September 28, 2005


I always have mixed feelings about getting corrections from the teacher in class. On the one hand, I wish I didn't have to be corrected. I want to be doing it right! And I want the teacher to see me doing it right!

On the other hand, I know that I just have to just do it before I can do it right. And it's nice to know the teacher thinks that when I'm off, I'm worth correcting, if that makes sense.

In ballet on Tuesday, Suki had her eye on me. She corrected a few things: my left foot was not straight in pointed position ("sickling" inward) during rond de jamb, for one. Later, she noticed and pointed out that my grandes battements in 2nd position were too far backwards. (Grandes battements are kind of like "staight up stretch kicks," for you TKD people. But we do them to the front, side, and back, and we have to keep our backs and supporting legs straight.)

Though I didn't like the fact that I wasn't doing those right, I did like it that she was watching me.

Tonight, I was watching how Master Hughes gives corrections during forms. It seems he watches each person for a bit, and only gives each person one suggestion. I like this approach. He doesn't overwhelm you with suggestions. He gave me some suggestions on doing the 360 turn going up the "I" on Palgwe 4.

What I really find useful is when the teacher actually moves your arms/legs/whatever into the position you're supposed to be in. Somehow that is really helpful for me--it gets my body itself to learn the new position, rather than having to transfer what's been said through my brain and then down to my arms or legs. At my old ballet school, Donna would walk along the barre and gently nudge arms and legs and backs into correct position.

"I always love it when teachers do this to me," she said. "It makes me feel what's right."

I was glad she said this. It helped me to be less afraid of those inevitable mistakes, made me reconsider the usefulness of correction.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Now I'm curious

Bonnie drove Jacob and Robbie to Kum Do class tonight, which gave me a chance to do the grocery shopping. But when they came back, I kinda wish I'd gone.

Mr. Carter, who'd taught the class last year, came back to teach tonight. Apparently, he was a wonderful teacher, patient and firm and with great teaching ideas. Robbie loved it, and Bonnie was so amazed she talked to me about the class for quite a while.

So now I want to see Mr. Carter teach! I've seen him around the dojang, but I've never seen him teach. Apparently he has a black belt both in TKD (2nd dan, or maybe more) and Kum Do.

I'd asked about Kum Do on and have gotten all sorts of info. It's sometimes spelled kumdo or chumdo--that's why I've had trouble finding out much about it on the web. Also, some of the commenters said they make their own swords for children's classes:

For younger students instead of using pipe insulator I've used Pool noodles, and that works great. Can beat the tar out of each other and not get hurt. Same idea, stick a pvc pipe down the hole in the middle, but leave a handle on the end for them to hold on to.

Sounds cool to me! I'd like to try that!

Got my mojo back

And sparring went just fine last night at all-belts. Don't know what made me feel comfortable doing it again.

Of course, there was the usual drop-in-the-stomach feeling when Justin (the teacher last night) said "get your pads on." But once I had them on and was lined up, I felt OK.

I started against Brian, and maybe the good-natured teasing I get from him (and give back) helped a bit. He's fun to spar, but tough, too. He's strong, big, and has those long legs--hard to get close to him. Still, I managed to do OK--I think.

I also sparred one of those young, higher-belt teen-aged boys. I was a bit worried at first. Usually they don'thave much control, and I've been kicked by them before. But Matt (I think that's his name) was just gangly last night, all long arms and legs going this way and that. I managed to score on him quite a lot. Maybe that helped my self-confidence.

After class (Justin did that business with pushups and situps at the end again), I asked Brian and Brian if they'd be in some photos. I wanted to have photos of the Three-step sparring moves to put up on our dojang's photoblog. The Brians obliged. I hope they had as much fun doing it as I did!

No trip to the dojang tonight; Jacob's mom will take the boys!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Falling down

It's a gloomy Saturday, cool and rainy. Not much going on here. Perfect day to spend an hour or so at the dojang.

But apparently, not everyone feels the same way. Only a small group of people is there for all-belts: a handful of adults and some children.

Ms Pryor is there to lead class, and she says to Justin, "Let's get these mats out."

They pull out the mats, and the rest of us help.

"Oh no, we're going to work on throws," says Pam.

"I don't like this falling down business," I reply. She says she doesn't either.

But we don't start with throws.

"I want everyone to do somersaults," says Ms. Pryor. She demonstrates.

Somersaults? It's been a while. But we do them.

It's actually fun. My inner child is having a good time, and I remember doing rolls in modern dance with Carol. "Floorwork," we call it in dance, and it's fun. Not something we do in ballet, though.

We move on to a few simple takedowns. Pam and I pair up and work on them somewhat hesitantly.

Then Ms. Pryor shows us a pretty dramatic throw. The attacker (Paul in this case) , facing her, grabs her by both arms. She pulls him down with her as she squats, then she rolls backward, pushing him up and over her head with her feet.

Yeah, right!

"That move is completely counterintuitive," I mutter to Pam. The last thing I would want if an aggressive man was attacking me is to pull him down on top of me! That's crazy. I watch as a few people do it, but I'm not about to even try that. What's the point of learning something so crazy.

"There is no way I would do that on an attacker," I say to Ms. Pryor, who wants me to try it..

"But what if someone has you like this?" she grabs both of my arms.

"Um. Run away?" I say.

"You can't. He's got you."

I think about this for a while and watch the others. The only thing that makes sense about this move is that I'd get to use my legs, which are pretty strong.

"You should try this," says Brian A.

I look at him.

"Really. You could throw me," he says.

"Right," I say.

"You could. Here. Try it."

OK. I will.

I stand on the mat with Brian facing me. He grabs my arms. Ms. Pryor coaches me and I grab his shirt, squat, roll backwards, and push him over me.

"And NOW you can run," says Ms. Pryor.

Everyone applauds. I didn't realize they were watching my inner drama!

Then we move on to 3-step sparring, which is good. I need plenty of practice with those moves. Pam and I are partners, and she knows them pretty well, so if I can't do it, I do the "attacking" and watch her. It's a good workout, both mental and physical.

After class, I thank Brian for letting me throw him. "See, you CAN do it," says Brian. Still not sure if I want to, but yes, I can.

Self-defense and changing behaviors

Remember back a while ago--Sept. 5th to be exact--I described "My Problem with Self-Defense" here on this blog? I wrote about how it seemed wrong that we have self-defense classes for women, but no conflict resolution classes for men (and women).

Well, this week our local paper ran an editorial entitled "Rape Education for Men" that described a group of men going around to colleges to challenge men to think about their role in violence against women and train them in conflict resolution.

I was glad to see that editorial.

I wish I could link it here, but the editorial is now in the archives and can't be accessed without a subscription. It ended this way:

. . . these groups represent a significant shift from a focus on victims and potential victims to a focus on perpetrators. Training for women--on how to stay out of dangerous situations, in self-defense--is critical and must continue. But the increasing emphasis on changing men's perceptions about rape and changing their behaviors is also essential.

I was glad to read this, and was glad to hear about the group of young men willing to go out and talk about this in order to help stop violence against women. I like the idea that we must do both: learn to defend ourselves, and educate men about their role.

Any thoughts about this, anyone?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Master Hughes teaching Kum Do

I promised a movie, and I have one here.

Let me tell you a bit about it first.

It's a movie I took last night of Master Hughes sparring with a student in Tiger Kum Do class. Sparring, or practice fighting, is part of Kum Do as it is with TKD. In this class, the children use foam swords during sparring, and they wear helmets with face guards, mitts, and chest protectors (hogu, I think).

Master Hughes sometimes spars with the boys. In this movie, he's sparring with Larson, a boy who seems to have had some Kum Do classes already.

You'll notice a few things about this movie. One is that Master Hughes is not wearing a hogu. Seems like it might be painful, as some of the sword strikes are to the body! But, as Eli pointed out once, "When you kick Master Hughes in the tummy, it's like kicking a board!"

Also, you'll notice that Larson scores a few points on his teacher. Master Hughes talked about this after class. Another teacher he knows says he never lets students score on him because they'll get too cocky.

Master Hughes doesn't have this approach. "How is he going to learn if I don't let him score?" he said. I like this more humble approach, and I think it helps build the boys' self-confidence while retaining their respect for their teacher.

To play this movie, you need a QuickTime player and a good connection (probably won't work well with dial-up). If you don't have QuickTime, when you click on the link below, you'll be prompted to install it. It doesn't take long.

Justin said he'd rather have movies in a form that Windows Media Player can play. If anyone knows how to convert a quicktime movie to media player, please let me know! I'm going to investigate it.

So--enjoy! And don't forget to look at the regular photos in the post below.

Kum Do movie

Watching the sword fights

It's funny to watch Robbie in his sword class. He just loves to swing that weapon! And I'm glad Jacob is doing it, too. They've been best friends since kindergarten (maybe the first day of kindergarten!) so it's extra incentive to go to class to be with each other.

Here they are practicing their strikes and blocks.

They really love it when they get to practice strikes on the dummy.

I don't know if you can see the fierce look on Robbie's face.

Both boys had a bit of trouble with etiquette Thursday night. If Robbie learns anything at the dojang, I hope he learns how to submit to instruction with grace and good manners. Both Robbie and Jacob are smart boys, and they tend to be critical about being told what to do. This gets them in trouble. Eli's much the same.

In fact, in the car, Robbie told me that he didn't like school because "the teachers control you too much."

I thought about it and later said to him, "you can get along best in school if you just find out what the teacher wants you do to--and just do it. Then you won't use your energy fighting against the teacher, and you won't feel like you're being controlled. And you can go a lot further and get a lot better, too."

With Robbie, I'm never sure if those kinds of comments get through. I think he just gets turned on by the excitement of resisting someone. Still, if he would just align himself with the intentions of the teacher--align himself with "the force," to use Star Wars terms--he'd be able to go much further, in Kum Do and elsewhere.

We all would.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

More on blogs

Once again I'd like to introduce you to a couple blogs I've been enjoying recently.

You might enjoy visiting another TKD blog, Rockin' out to Tae Kwon Do. The author, known on her blog as TKDRocker (you've seen her comments here) has a pretty substantial web presence, with at least one other blog and a website! She writes vivid, lively entries and has a good sense of humor. Plus, I understand that she's also a LOTR geek like I am so that's got to be good.

Totally off the subject of TKD, Jase's Journal is also a relatively new blog by a student at my college. Jase--a senior at the college, serious athlete, class president, guitar player and all around great guy--is doing an independent study with me this term, and one of his projects is a blog. His topic: fighting cancer. Jase is going through some pretty tough times this fall in a fight against testicular cancer (yep, the same kind Lance Armstrong has), but he faces it with grace and humor. This blog is anything but a downer! A recent post is called "1000 golf balls"

And for inspiration, you bloggers might want to check out a new book about blogs whose title alone will inspire you (or make you crazy), Who Let the Blogs Out by a guy named, believe it or not, Biz Stone. I skimmed through a lot of it, but some of the chapters about how to get readers and how to make your writing more exciting, were worth the read.

And yes, I am going to be at all-belts on Saturday.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Two classrooms

I noticed something today while leaving class (I teach at the college on MWF). I was walking behind one of my students and I thought to myself: "He's really tall!"

Funny I didn't notice this before. Now that I think about it, though, I would guess that most of my students are bigger than I am. There is a football player, a basketball player, etc., and plenty of women athletes, softball players and such. Big midwestern 20-somethings!

Of course size doesn't matter in this classroom like it does in my other classroom, the dojang. But the fact that I really was unaware was interesting.

I think that lots of times in the classroom, I experience "flow" (see my recent post about the on-line article, The Ability to Flow in Combat).

I experience it because of the things that article lists: it's easy for me to focus (#1 on his list) on the topics we discuss--I LOVE talking about language, rhetoric, writing. I assume my students will like it as well (# 4 maintain a positive outlook.)

Also, I've had lots of practice (#6 on his list). I've been a studying this stuff for a LONG time, I've been teaching for 20 years, and besides, being a teacher means you're always learning new stuff, which gives you more practice.

Having that experience of fear and self-consciousness in TKD gave me a chance to once again think about students who experience fear in a college classroom: those quiet students who pull their baseball caps way down on their faces, never speak during discussion, and look totally lost. It's good for me to remember that feeling as it's been a long time since I've felt that way in a classroom.

Maybe there's some way I can help those students focus, keep positive outlooks, and practice. I certainly believe that those of us who do feel comfortable--wherever we are--should always remember those of us who do not.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Teaching and Learning

So I come home from all-belts this evening and I say to Bruce, "I got to lead the class in stretching tonight."

"Oh really?" he says. "Were you the senior belt?"

"Nope. Not at all. I think it was Justin's idea."

Am I right, Justin?

Justin wrote me a note recently asking me if I'd like to lead stretching sometime when he was teaching class. He thought it might help me with my self-confidence, focus, and plus he thought it would make a nice story for my blog. But he wasn't teaching today . . .

So here's the story.

First, though . . .

What Happened Before Class Started
Master Hughes was there at the beginning of class. He said hi to me on his way through the dojang, so I stopped him and asked if he had a moment. I asked if it would be OK with him if I posted photos illustrating the 3-step sparring sequences on the photoblog. He thought that would be a good idea. I'd had that idea earlier today, and thought it might be a fun and useful project.

So any of you blog-readers from my school, if you want to help with this, I'll be around on Tues and Thurs during the Kum Do classes (6:45-7:30), and we can set up and take those photos.

Master Hughes led the class today until we got to stretching.

"Jane. Would you like to lead stretching today?"

Caught me off guard, that's for sure.

"Uh, sure," I said, bowing.

Teaching's not a big deal for me. If I'd known I was going to lead stretching that evening, I might have worried a bit, being the first time in front of that class. But when I'm just asked to go up there, no biggie.

I did the usual stretches we always do, but I added a few ballet stretches (foot stretch, making sure to stretch the neck during splits stretch). I have to say that it did feel a bit odd teaching someone else's class, knowing that there are exercises Master Hughes expected me to do . . . but I am quite sure he knew I'd also add my own twist to those exercises.

After working on power roundhouse kicks for a while (and just about having the pad kicked out of my hand by Brian!), we worked on forms. Brian and I worked on Palgwe 4 with Stacy, who gave us both encouragement and tips for doing that form better.

When we (greens and blues) did our forms for Ms Pryor, she let us stand in our last stance while whe went around correcting them. We greens were in a backstance, a stance that has been giving me trouble (I've written about this before). Ms. Pryor corrected me in the usual ways: feet further apart, in an "L" shape with heels on the same parallel line, not in a wide 4th ballet position, and back straight, not leaning back.

Geez, I've been using the back stance since my first days in TKD. I KNOW what I'm supposed to do and I know what I usually do wrong. You'd think I would be able to do it.

Actually, my brain knows what to do. My body hasn't gotten the message yet.

I am glad that Stacy is back. She's a black belt whose advice and thoughts I like to hear. She is a good tutor for me because she remembers doing things wrong, and how she learned to do them right.

While we stood at the side of the dojang and watched a game of TKD tag, I told her I was relieved that I was not the only one having trouble with my back stance.

"That's a hard stance," she said. "I had to work on that one."

I asked her how she finally got it down.

"I put tape on the floor so I could feel where my feet needed to be." She demonstrated doing a series of back stances. "It's easier for me when I can feel it."

Cool idea. I am going to try the tape thing.

Sorry. No Pictures Today
I was thinking that this blog was needing some pictures. I meant to take some, but it didn'thappen this evening. I promise I'll post some soon.

And don't forget
to send me your comments about . . . actually about anything. I'm particularly curious about workouts. (See the post below.)

Do you train?

I'm just curious. How many of you martial artists do physical training other than your martial arts classes?

As you know, besides doing TKD, I take ballet, but I also swim laps. For a while I was skipping the lap-swimming in favor of an extra ballet class per week, but I found that was a bad idea. I was losing some strength and cardio-vascular fitness. It turns out I needed that swimming workout to be in decent shape to do ballet and TKD! So am I just naturally wimpy?

I guess anyone who does physical activities can answer this: do you work out so you're in shape for your favorite workout? Write me a comment!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Go with the Flow

I don't know how many of you looked up the article that KickerChick cited in her post, The Ability to Flow in Combat. I just did today, and I feel like the author was speaking directly to me!

One quote:
Tony Blauer, a pioneer in performance enhancement research as it relates to combat, teaches the word ‘fear’ as an acronym – “False Expectations Appearing Real” or “Failure Expected, Action Required”. In essence, what this means is that we are usually not scared of anything when we are certain of the outcome, but when the outcome is unknown, we automatically project onto the situation the worst possible thing that can happen to us. This creates instant anxiety and disallows us from acting without reserve due to expectation of impending failure.

Oh yeah. "Disallows us from acting without reserve . . ." I believe that means that one stops breathing and feels like running.

The author even gave an example of facing an aggressor "an agressor that outweighs you by 100 pounds' making you feel like "a five-year old child" . . . I've BEEN there!

This is cool, though; he has some good advice to follow, including 1) learn how to focus your attention and 6) practice, practice, practice.

I was headed that direction; this article gives me more to go with. What it aims for is "flow," which means a period in time in which one becomes so completely involved in an activity that all other thoughts and emotions – what some consider the "self"are excluded from consciousness.

Yes! That reminds me of that other quote by Sensei Webster-Doyle about giving oneself to the movement. Hey, that's the experience I love best about movement--about ballet and swimming and hiking and TKD.

Some people think of "flow" as a nice side-effect of exercise/fitness. I actually see it as an end in itself. I don't want to JUST do forms, to spar. I want to achieve flow while I do those things.

At our school, we don't talk about or practice these inner aspects of TKD: achieving flow, practicing focus. As I said before, those are probably not as interesting to most people at our school who are more athletically gifted (and experienced) than I am. They don't need to think about it.

But that's OK. I'll find that spiritual direction for TKD elsewhere. It's something that interests me anyway. I'm finding it all the time.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Taking a break

I'm taking a mental health break from TKD until Monday. Well, at least a break from DOING it. I may still write about it . . .

I was at the dojang last night for Robbie's Kum Do class. He started to learn a Kum Do form. Very cool. If anyone knows where I could get instructions, pictures, or video of Kum Do forms, let me know!

Justin was there last night, and I took some photos and a movie of him breaking a board. I just sent them to him. Check out Justin's blog because I think he's going to post them!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Should I stay or should I go . . . .

Can't decide whether to attend all-belts class tonight.

On the one hand, maybe I need a big break from TKD to get my focus back. Maybe I need NOT to spar for a while.

On the other hand, I feel in need of some exercise after my relatively sedentary day at the college. And I do want to work on my form. And plus, it's just nice to be there with everyone.

"Are you going tonight?" asks Bruce.

I finally decide. "Yeah. But if they spar, I think I'll just slip out."

At the dojang, I decide to work on focus. That will be my project for the evening. I start with something I always used to do: Sun Salutation, a set of yoga moves. I do it right in the middle of everything, and manage to keep my concentration. I am breathing. (You have to with Sun Salutation!)

One advantage of having people from my school read this blog is that they know what's going on. I think they're looking out for me.

"Doin' OK?" asks Brian. "Yeah." I say. "I need to stop thinking and just do this stuff."

"If you're feeling scared, you just need to do those moves even stronger," he says. "Just do the moves."

"Yeah," I say. He's right. As usual.

Aimee, Brian, and I do our forms (no pauses; I'm focused) and then Brian and I practice our 3-step sparring.

"I'm going to punch straight at you," warns Brian. "OK. I'm ready," I say. I appreciate the warning. I let the movements fill my mind; I perform them strongly; the fear doesn't surface.

The class is a good workout. Master Hughes is back, and he leads us in basic movements, using the Korean terms. It's a mental and physical workout. It's easy for me to focus here: I watch the back of the person in front of me, spotting as I turn, kick, punch, block. No distractions, not even Master Hughes wandering by fazes me.

After we do our forms, we line up for combination kicking. Kind of practice sparring.

Here's my chance. I can split now.

I decide to stay.

Brian A. is my partner. He's been reading this blog so maybe he's watching out for me, too. At any rate, he is precise and controlled in his kicks, so they don't make me flinch. (Later I wonder if I've been sparring with strong, tall, yet uncontrolled teenage boys too much. I've gotten hit by at least one . . . )

"Get your sparring gear on." Another chance to run. I stand in place while the others dash off around me. I breathe. I get my gear.

While I put it on, I sit by Stacy, a black belt who's also small-boned, though taller than I am. "I'm having some fear of sparring these days," I admit to hear as we put on our gear. "Oh, I've never liked sparring," says Stacy. It's nice to have someone who understands!

But it's not too bad. I spar with a teenaged girl (Brittany--she's shy and overweight, but sweet) and a boy, Curt's son. I also spar with Curt, who's helped me before. He's slow and not flexible, but knows his kicks and has good ideas for me. "Use that double roundhouse," he reminds me. Oh yeah!

I survive it all. Was my focus better? I think so. Am I over the fear? I think it will be a constant challenge for me to keep my focus and not think too much.

On Focus

Last night while I was watching Robbie's Kum Do class, Master Hughes talked about taking Kum Do from Master Jun in Davenport.

"We spent weeks just doing this," he said, showing me the basic strike movement with the sword. "Master Jun was really into the meditation aspect of Kum Do. I don't really have time for that, being a Christian."

I don't doubt Master Hughes is a Christian, and perhaps he really thinks that meditation in martial arts is at odds with Christianity (I don't . . . ). But I would guess that's not the real reason he doesn't have time for meditation. I'd guess it's because he doesn't have problems with focus the way I do.

Master Hughes, like many people at our school, is a natural athlete. I would guess that when he does TKD, he loses himself in it. When he's doing a form, he's just doing the form, not getting distracted by others. When he spars, he just spars; he's not afraid of the person in front of him.

My focus has not been good these days, especially at sparring. I'm being distracted by my fear of a big person overpowering me.

I think I need to make time for meditation in martial arts to help me with focus. KickerChick suggested this in her post, and I would agree. I'm also going to take some time off and skip class Saturday--thanks for that suggestion, KickerChick! And thanks to all of you for the suggestions and encouragement you have given me both on this blog and in person!

There are times when I do "give myself to the movement," like Sensei Webster-Doyle's quote below says. I definitely do that when I break a board, and often when I do forms, though during tests, my focus is often broken by the chaos of doing forms in a group.

Just yesterday, I gave myself to the movement in ballet class, during the petit allegro. It helped that I LOVE petit allegro (no petite jokes, Bill) and the music was good! All that helped me focus.

I need more focus so I can give myself to the movement in sparring and lose my fear!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Words of a Master

When one gives oneself totally to the movement, energy is full, undivided. In that totality, there is no doubt, no nagging restlessness created by the fragmentary self. In that moment, "I" do not exist and so fear is absent.
--Terrence Webster-Doyle

Monday, September 12, 2005

I hope it's just a phase . . .

. . . that I'm once again afraid of being hit, and more specifically, afraid of being hit by someone way bigger than I am during sparring.

When I started TKD, this was a major hurdle for me, getting used to facing bigger people, OK, let's just say it--facing men--in a fighting situation and not just turning around and walking away. You might remember earlier blog entries about this--about how I'd really prefer to walk away than to spar (January's entry called "Small Class" for example--scroll down on this link to find it)

I thought I'd gotten over that. I can specifically remember a time when I got paired up with lots of the bigger men in the class--Brian, Brian, Jim, Justin--and was conscious that I wasn't afraid to fight them.

So what's happened that the fear has now returned? Maybe I've gotten hit a few times; maybe we aren't practicing sparring as much.

It's logical in a way to have some fear of fighting someone who's taller and larger (and stronger) than yourself. On the other hand it's not logical--this is TKD: light to no contact, and I trust these guys.

Still, even though I'm thinking with my brain "This is Brian. I trust him," or whatever, my gut instinct is saying "get outta here!" So it's hard to spar; I can tell the adreneline is flowing where I need to be calm. Tonight as we practiced 3-step sparring, Brian said to me "Breathe! You're not breathing." I wasn't.

Hey you women martial artists--KickerChick and Myst and anyone else--do you ever experience this instinctual fear? What helps you overcome it?

And you martial arts guys out there, it might be a good mental exercise to imagine sparring with someone 6 inches taller and 75 pounds heavier . . . that's what we small women go through when we face you in sparring!

Blogs, bloggers, and blogging, part 1

In the past week, I've heard of several new blogs that I've bookmarked. Seems like lots of people out there are finding the satisfaction in writing and being read!

Today I'd like to tell you about Justin's blog.

Yes, that's THE Justin I've written about on my site--the Justin at my TKD school. He's a young black belt whose ability and maturity have always impressed me. Plus my boys think he's cool, especially the way he can stand on his hands and break a board! I hope Justin will post a picture of that soon. I have volunteered my digital camera for the task.

You might enjoy reading Justin's blog as it will give you a view of life at our TKD school--from a different perspective--his view of Saturday's class was certainly different from mine!

Blogging is a very satisfying art--at least I find it to be. When I started, I thought of this blog as a kind of place to take notes for a future book, a memoir about learning martial arts.

But now, I'm not so sure about the book. I think that the blog is much more satisfying, more immediate, and more multi-genre (I love taking pictures and including links) than a book, and probably much less hassle than writing and revising a book manuscript!

Maybe there are others of you out there thinking of starting a blog. When I was starting, I got inspiration from a few articles I found about blogs. I love Writing the Living Web especially. OK, part of why I love it is that metaphor: the living web--cool! Makes me feel like I'm part of an ecosystem, not some writing/computer nerd!

Anyway, it has some inspiring advice and simple tips for writing. If you're writing or thinking of writing a blog, you might enjoy it.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


It's one of those "I"m not sure I'm cut out for this" days.

When I get out of TKD all belts class today, I'm exhausted, sweaty, and discouraged. I'm thinking: Why am I spending a hot day kicking imaginary and real opponents, doing push ups, and getting kicked until the sweat is running down my back?

Today I'm having a hard time answering that question.

We had 3-step sparring practice today. It was extremely frustrating. Three-steps are simple combinations of blocks and strikes that you practice with an opponent. They're kind of like sparring forms that you memorize.

I learned some of the 3-steps, at least #1-5, from Mr. Houtz last spring. I was getting pretty good at them under his patient teaching. But I haven't done them since then--we never practice them in all-belts. Until today, when we were informed that it will later become part of our tests.

I found I didn't remember them at all.

Some looked familiar after Justin (our teacher today) demonstrated them, but there were a couple I just couldn't do, even with coaching from Justin. I felt like a total klutz.

Then regular sparring. I did OK, scoring-wise, but once again got totally winded--by the last match-up, I could barely get my kicks up. Justin, forgetting that not everyone's a 17 year old boy with that kind of strength and energy, ended the class with push-ups and sit-ups. Usually I breeze through those, but after that class, I was toast.

I don't know. I thought I was in pretty good shape. Maybe not. But I don't have time (or energy or desire) to get in another workout per week . . .

And plus, my wrist got hurt at some point. I have ice on it now.

I guess everyone has days like this.

You know, before I started TKD, my Saturday exercise was lap-swimming at the Y. In nice cool water. With no one kicking me. And no sweat. In an hour and a half, I'd have exercised, showered, dried my hair and been ready to go. . . today that sounds inviting.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Kum Do Site

If you liked that picture of the boys with the swords and are intrigued by Kum Do, here's a really cool website that has awesome pictures and text, the U.S. Kum Do website! Enjoy!

Boys with Swords

Only one of the pictures I took last night turned out. It's a good one, though! You can hardly recognize Robbie and Jacob under all their gear!

Bonnie came with us this time; I think she enjoyed seeing the place and watching Jacob work out. I worked on forms with Mindy at the back of the dojang while sword-fighting was going on--there were others working on forms as well--it's a Thursday evening thing.

At the end of the Kum Do class, I demonstrated some ballet--the petit allegro from class, and then I had Robbie partner me for that simple adagio. He did very well! Wish I had a picture of that!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Your comments are welcome!

I have received some "comment spam" posted on my blog, so I slightly changed the way comments are posted. You'll be asked to identify a word before you post your comment--that's so spammers can't post junk on my blog.

I realize that those of you who know me tend to send emails instead of posting comments--so it won't affect you! But anyone should feel free to post a comment, anonymously if you like, or leave your name. I appreciate hearing what you think.

More RenFaire photos

Here I am doing the martial art of archery. I did OK with it, despite the fact my wrist is bent in this picture.

Here's the two of us.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Boys with sticks

Today is the first day of Tiger Kum Do class for Robbie and his best friend Jacob. It's a special Korean sword fighting class that Master Hughes has created with some of the latest sword fighting practice equipment--swords made of flexible foam--and it's just for boys.

So in the dojang are 5 ten-year-old boys, or maybe 4 ten-year-olds and one older boy. They are given plastic practice swords, and they practice swinging them the Kum Do way, way back over thieir head, then STRIKE! Way back over their heads, then STRIKE!

Robbie has a happy look on his face.

Then practice hitting a dummy made of tires. Whack! Whack! Boys are swinging. Boys are smiling. They run and whack the heck out of that dummy. Then they put on chest pads and helments and mitts and foam swords and they whack the heck out of each other.

What is it with boys and sticks?

I remember a young mom (of a daughter) telling me she hoped her next child would not be a boy. "They're so violent when they get mad!" she said. She then goes on to tell me an example, a time when she saw a boy in his front yard with a stick. "He was just whacking the tree and whacking the tree! He must have been so angry!" I assured her that boys whack when they are not angry, too. In fact, give a boy a stick, and he'll whack.

Robbie and Jacob are both smiling and sweaty after the class.

"That was cool!" says Jacob. "I have to practice those swings at home!"

"I want to get some of those pads!" says Robbie. "It would be fun to fight with Eli."

So is this post somehow tied with the one on self-defense from yesterday?

I'll get some pictures on Thursday!

Monday, September 05, 2005

My problem with self-defence classes

There are going to be a couple of self-defense classes offered at our dojang. Brian asks me if I'm going.

"No--self-defense classes really creep me out," I say. How articulate.

So I spend the evening thinking about what bothers me about self-defense classes. I'm still not exactly sure, but I think one problem I have with it has to do with how you envision your attacker. In a self-defense class you learn how to quickly hurt and run away from an attacker--like knock him over or break his arm, kneecap, or leg.

Well, sure. I'd love to be able to do that to a nameless, faceless bad guy who attacks me in a parking ramp. But I really don't think that's who is going to hurt me if someone does hurt me. So who hurts and rapes women anyway?

Once the kids are in bed, I ask Bruce if he knows anything about exactly WHO is hurting and raping women when they get hurt or raped. Is it bad guys in parking garages or dark alleys? (Bruce teaches political science at the college and knows where all the statistics are.)

"Funny you should ask that," he says. He'd just heard a public service announcement during the Cubs game about how women aren't being hurt and raped in parking ramps, but in domestic abuse situations, by men they know. Ik. Just what I'd feared.

(Does this match up with your experience in police work, Brian?)

I guess my thought is that it's one thing to break the kneecap of some nasty bad guy who grabs you in a dark alley. It's another to do it to your husband or boyfriend. So maybe if we have a self-defense class, we need to teach emotional detatchment. If someone seems threatening to you, even if it's someone you love, you're allowed to hit them. I don't know. That seems like it will lead to a lot of hitting.

Not that it's very likely that I or most of the other women who take TKD at Hughes are going to be raped. According to the statistics Bruce had (in the Almanac), it's poor, single, young women (younger than 34, income less than 15,000) who are hurt and raped. Of course some domestic abuse isn't reported . . .

So does it make sense to spend hours teaching middle-class, middle-aged women how to defend themselves against a rapist/attacker? Well, I suppose it can't hurt. But another thing that bugs me about self-defense class is the mentality: we're helpless to change a culture of violence against women, so let's fight back.

Now, I realize that we can't completely change our culture, but a TKD school seems to be one place where we should begin trying ("I shall be a champion of freedom and justice and build a more peaceful world," part of the tenets of TKD)

Here's my bottom line on self-defense classes: I will take them ONLY when the school starts also offering (and encouraging) non-violent conflict resolution classes, and especially encourages men and boys to take them! They could focus on how do you deal with your angry feelings when things don't go your way? That would be a good class for us all to take, but especially men, who have more physical power to hurt.

Like the women in our school, the men in our school probably don't need it, but I think it can't hurt. And the mindset--that violence and physical fighting don't need to be the solution to conflict--certainly needs to be spread around.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Martial Arts from the Past

Saturday Robbie and I went to the Renaissance Faire that's held every Labor Day in a nearby town park. It's a pretty big one, with a joust, archery pavillion, several camps, shows, and battles. We'd made plans to go before Eli's accident, and since he was recovering nicely by that time (and didn't want to go anyway), we decided to stick with our plans.

I'm glad we had plans with Bonnie and Jacob. Bonnie was with me during the scariest part of the accident on Thursday, so we had a special bond through that experience. Plus, I knew she loves Renaissance Faires like I do!

Anyway, we had a great time, and a lot of what we did was watch people fighting! So here are a whole bunch of pictures of medieval European "martial arts" (and some from Japan, as you'll see).

This first picture is of all four of us. Of COURSE we went in costume!

Here is Robbie, early on, having a sword fight with his friend Eric, whom we saw there. Can you tell he's ready for Kum Do class?

There were several demonstrations of medieval fighting. Here is a swordfighting demonstration.

And this is Robbie's favorite part this year, something called a "siege." The leader, pictured here, explained that their fighting was "not choreographed."

"In other words, people in the movies, who choreograph their fights, send their friends to the hospital when they do something wrong. We send our friends to the hospital when we do something right."

Here's one group lined up, ready to charge on the other group. It was basically a free-for-all, with people hacking at each other, and occasionally using "treachery" (like when one guy ran at his opponent and did a two-footed side kick to the shield to knock the opponent down!

Robbie loved it. "Yeah! More blood" Whose child is that, anyway?

After we watched their show a second time, we stopped to chat with them. They make their "swords" out of PVC pipe, which they cover in foam padding and duct tape.
"What are some of the injuries your group has gotten?" I asked.
"Oh, well, there was a broken knee, and some cracked ribs, and at one Faire there were three broken noses," said one of the fighters, who'd earlier suffered a split lip.

There was also a trebuchet like ones that would have been used in sieges. I could have watched this thing for hours!

We made sure to watch a group from a dojo in a nearby town. They're called Jade Tiger Dojo, and they teach "Samurai arts."

I saw them both times I went to the RenFaire in the past, and I think watching them do Aikido forms planted the seed of interest in martial arts. It's quite different from TKD, with circular, avoidance moves, and I am sure I would not want to have to fall down all the time like they do, but it is really cool.

Here they are doing work with "sticks"

And here's the sensei doing what's known as a "test cut." He uses a VERY sharp sword to cut a bamboo roll very quickly and carefully at precise angles.

Jason S. from the dojang was there with his family, and was watching the samurai people when I was.

I really had hoped to talk with the sensei after the show. I wanted to tell him about how his show inspired me. I also wanted to ask him about how his height affected the way he did martial arts--he said he was 6'7"! I'm sure that must be both an advantage and a disadvantage

Robbie and I also enjoyed doing some archery--here's Robbie.

I'll be getting a photo of myself sometime from Bonnie.

Robbie loved it so much, he bought a cute bow and arrow set there. The bow's made of PVC pipe, and the arrows are sponge-tipped, which was good, as he spent the rest of the Faire shooting me with it!

We were at the Faire for about 6 hours! There was plenty to do, and good food. Robbie and I love to go talk to the people at the encampments. Robbie tried on chain mail, as he did in years past. The chain main guy said "Didn't I make a sample piece for you last year?"

I don't know why I love the Renaissance Faire so much. Bonnie and I were talking about it, because she's crazy about it too. I think it's indulging my inner child--getting to dress up and pretend, and live in ancient times. You can tell that the other people there enjoy that, too!

And here's something cool. We got home, and Eli was outside with Bruce. He wasn't running around, but he was up and dressed and feeling better. At that moment, just returning from a great day out, and seeing Eli mostly recovered from such trauma, I thought life is good.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


I had planned to spend Thursday afternoon writing up a post about Wednesday night's class, about showing Master Hughes the photoblog I set up, about doing my form without much difficulty, about our grueling sparring practice.

But I spent Thursday afternoon at the emergency room with Eli.

Before I go on, I need to say that Eli is home now, recovering and will be fine. I say that because what happened was truly scary.

Thursday afternoon, when we were near the school to pick up Robbie, Eli was hit by a car.

It all happened quickly, as these things must. I was standing outside our car, chatting with Suzie (another mom) when suddenly she screamed "Oh my god, no!" I heard car brakes, and turned to see Eli lying on the road.

In one moment, I was screaming and running toward him and flinging myself on my knees at his side. I wrapped my arms around him as he lay on the street. He started to shake and then to cry. There was blood on his head and arms.

In a moment of crisis like that, your perceptions change. I could feel all of my focus, all of my energy, going towards my son. Around me, the rest of the world blurred. I knew that people around me were yelling, someone was calling 911, Suzie had run up and was standing there with her hand on her shoulder. But all I could do was to kneel there over Eli, my arms wrapped around him, my cheek pressed against his.

"Suzie, could you stay here until they get here?" I asked.

She stayed. I could feel her hand on my shoulder, a reassurance.

Emergency vehicles arrived and the officers began asking me questions, which I answered, never taking my eyes off of Eli. They knelt down around us, and moved Eli, who was still crying, onto a board and strapped him down.

Sometime after he was strapped onto the board, I remember getting up. I went to find Robbie, who was at that time, standing wide-eyed and teary with fear next to Suzie and her son. I hugged him and told him the paramedics would take care of Eli and that we'd go to the hospital. Mrs. R., the children's 2nd grade teacher, sat on the grass next to Robbie dialing number after number on her cell phone, trying to find Bruce over at the college.

There was also a woman sitting on the curb and weeping; I knew she'd been the driver of the car. I went to her, asked her name, hugged her, and told her Eli would go to the hospital and would be all right. Then Bonnie appeared and held me silently while I briefly broke down in tears. But not for long--I had to be with Eli. I remember saying "I need to get my act together." Bonnie took Robbie home with her and Jacob, her son and Robbie's best friend.

In the ER, people buzzed around Eli, trying to examine him and move him off the board. Eli was crying, but also able to answer some questions. Every move the paramedics made frightened and hurt him. I stood by, stroking his arm or holding his hand.

Every time someone walked past the curtained area in ER, I thought it would be Bruce, but he hadn't gotten the word yet. Finally, a police officer appeared. She gave me information about the driver (suspended license, no insurance), and asked if I had any questions. I looked at her and thought I wish it were Brian here instead. She repeated, "Do you have any other questions?"
I asked if Brian were on duty that day.

"He is," she said. "Is he a friend of yours?"
"Yes. Can you . . . just tell him what happened?
"Of course. Would you like him to stop and see you?"
" . . . Yes, please."

Eli and I were taken into the CT scanner room, Eli on a gurney, me alongside, hand on his arm. Blessedly, he fell asleep while having the scan done. I stood around. Things started to catch up with me. I tried not to think.

At some point on our way back to ER, Brian materialized next to me. I can't say how much it meant to have someone with me then. He put his arm around me and I could feel the Kevlar vest beneath his shirt. I think he talked with me, but I don't remember. He stayed with Eli and me, a strong, familiar presence, until Bruce and Robbie arrived, followed by Suzie and Mr. N., the children's principal.

Bruce went right to Eli's side. Robbie stayed at the foot of the gurney, shaken.

After that, things seemed to be under control; things started to make sense. Maybe I felt that way because Bruce had arrived; I didn't have to make decisions alone. The ER doctor determined there might be some bruising to Eli's brain and though that injury rarely was harmful, he arranged for Eli to go to University Hospital where a neurosurgeon could look after him (turns out there was no bruising).

After another ambulence ride down there and being looked at by swarms of doctors (it's a teaching hospital, after all), we spent a night being observed and reassured that Eli would be fine. He's home now, his appitite is back, and he's sleeping in his own bed.

Looking back now, I realize that during those moments of crisis there were so many friends whostepped in when I needed them. Suzie, Bonnie, Mrs. R, Mr. N, and Brian--they surrounded me and held me up at that time when my entire being was focused on being with Eli and when I couldn't manage anything else.

I love that quote "Leap, and the net will appear." But it seems like today I learned "When you're pushed off and falling, the net will appear." And that net was made of friends.