Friday, December 30, 2005

Winning and losing advice for a mom?

We just returned from taking all the kids to a bowling alley, an activity that seemed to cause my older son (Robbie, age 11) to melt down.

He didn't win. Not only that, he got no strikes or spares (each of the other children did), and his brother beat him by 6 points in the end. This caused Robbie to whine during the last half of the game (he came right over to me with his complaints--I couldn't use the ignoring tactic), and have an absolute melt down when it was over.

Perhaps I didn't handle it well. Maybe some of you moms or kids can give me an idea of how I might handle this kind of situation better.

My reactions were
--first, I asked him if he wanted to try a different ball. He continued to fuss and complain.
--then I said, well maybe the others are just having a good day. He stopped fussing briefly, but began fussing, more loudly, after the next frame.
--then I pointed out that I was doing worse than he was (which was true). He hit my arm and said I didn't understand.
--then I said, "Listen, when you play a game, someone wins and someone loses. If you are going to fuss if you lose, then I think you should just quit right now." He kept complaining. "But I got worse than Eli! It's so embarassing!" At this point, he was getting louder. "Buddy," I said. "I think it's more embarassing--for you and for me--for you to be making a fuss and crying about losing in front of all our relatives. I think it's better to be a good sport."

Eventually, Bruce had to take him out of the bowling alley while the rest of us finished up.

So. Do I not understand? Is there a better way of handling a very vocal bad sport who is eleven? If any moms or dads--or any kids who have siblings or cousins--have any ideas, post them to this page! Maybe you have some ideas based on your experience with children at tournaments . . . Let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Here I am, staying in my childhood home for the holidays, and I have a test anxiety nightmare . . . about Tae Kwon Do!

In the dream, the test is on a weekday, and it begins 10 minutes after I finish teaching a class. I have to stop home first, then my car has a flat tire, I decide to drive a convertible (?) and it starts raining, then I can't find the testing site, then once I find it, I can't find Aimee and Brian. Yeesh.

Maybe it's a sign that I should practice my form . . .

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Learning how to fight

One of the recurring themes in my writing this year has been what it's been like to learn a MARTIAL art. I guess the aspects that drew me to TKD were its grace, beauty, the discipline, the focus you learn . . . not really learning how to fight.

Yet, sparring's become my favorite aspect of Tae Kwon Do.

It wasn't always that way. I remember early entries about my usual gut reaction to standing in a fighting stance, ready to start sparring. I demonstrated to Mr. Houtz one day: my initial gut reaction was to turn around and walk away. Not even run--just walk!

One major breakthrough for me was learning that in ITF Tae Kwon Do, sparring isn't so much fighting as it is playing tag. You don't have to hit (or be hit) hard. You just need to touch your opponent with your glove or foot. When I realized this, it became much easier.

Watching my younger son, Eli, spar last spring also gave me an insight abour sparring: move fast! I then began to notice similarities between sparring and petite allegro in ballet, where you move quickly on light feet. I'm pretty good at petite allegro, so I use quickness in sparring.

I've also gotten better at another part of ballet which has helped me in sparring: adagio. It's the opposite of allegro--slow movements which require balance and control. Realizing that I can use my good balance in sparring was also a breakthrough.

This all sounds like I've got it figured out. But I can't forget that occasionally I've gone through phases of sparring angst, where I'm just afraid to get out there and spar. I'm not sure what causes this. My guess is that sparring with teenage boys (no control, too much strength) might have done it. Or maybe overthinking what I'm doing (me?! overthink something?!)

I love sparring and right now I'm doing OK. But I want to learn more. I'm ready to be challenged by my classmates--I feel like I've learned a lot recently from sparring both Brians and Stephanie, from helping the little kids, and from talking to and working out with Justin. I'm hoping that this will help me be ready for sparring angst, new competition, and, heck, maybe tournaments.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

What's in a name

I thought that while I'm out of town this week and not doing TKD I would spend some time musing on some of the themes that have woven themselves into this blog over the past year. Because, yes, I've been keeping the blog for almost a year now--on January 3 it will be exactly one year.

(I may be out of town and far from my dojang, but I'm visiting a high-tech home where blogging is actually easier than it is at my home!)

Today I've been thinking about the name of this blog, Tae Kwon Do Mom. I guess in a way it's my name, too.

Back when I started TKD, I did so because my children were taking and I was tired of sitting in the back crocheting and watching. I was a Tae Kwon Do Mom in the way that some moms were soccer moms. But I was tired of watching; I wanted to be DOING! I became a different kind of Tae Kwon Do Mom, a Mom who does Tae Kwon Do.

In a way Tae Kwon Do Mom is an odd name because as my children began elementary school, it seemed like my role as a mom changed, maybe even diminished from those days when they were mostly home with me. I didn't think of myself primarily as "a mom" anymore. Sometime before we started Tae Kwon Do, I began thinking of myself as "a writer," or "a professor" just about as often as I thought of myself as "a mom." Still, it's become a comfortable role for me, kind of one step up from "a big sister," a role in which I find myself most comfortable (I've been doing that one for 40-some years, and I believe my momming is modeled somewhat on my big sistering).

Still, I was the TKD mom, lining up with my children in the dojang, working out with them, trying to keep them in line, etc. etc. through that winter and early spring. But then my children lost interest.

I'm not going to go into that issue of my kids losing interest. You can read about it in last March and April's and May's (I think) posts. The thing is, when my kids quit, I was still TKD Mom.

With my kids not there--no one from my family there--my mom role kind of morphed. I was free to be aware of more people at the dojang. I could be The TKD Mom, not just Robbie and Eli's TKD mom. I think kids at the dojang seem to KNOW that I'm a mom, that I'm a free-agent mom. It's actually kind of nice not to have to deal with my own kids so that I can get to know others--the little ones, the middle-sized ones, the teens.

The name also seems to suggest that relationships with others are an important part of TKD to me. I really hadn't expected this at first. I expected to learn a new discipline, a new way of moving. But it seems to me that being part of a family has begun to be an important part of TKD to me. I'm just one of the TKD moms at the dojang, and there are TKD dads, too. Cool thing is that maybe in a way we're all TKD brothers and sisters together, and as I mentioned, that's my favorite role of all.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas mood Rx

There are some people who get in a good mood about Christmas the day after Thanksgiving (or earlier) and remain cheery all season, either because they love shopping, decorating, and baking, or because they are spiritual people who can retain their equilibrium through a season of consumption.

I'm not one.

Advent (or the pre-Christmas shopping season) also happens to be one of the busiest times of the semester for me. So while many people are shopping sales, setting up Christmas trees, or lighting Advent candles, I'm teaching, meeting with students, and grading, grading, grading.

As my Dad (a retired professor) and I commiserated, we can't even think about Christmas until the grades are in. And then my mood improves immensely! I can bake, plan, shop, and stop to smell the Christmas tree with equanimity.

My children, on the other hand, are squirrelly from before Thanksgiving until Christmas day afternoon. They're excited, and round about the 20th, that excitement turns to bad behaviour. Usually, Christmas Eve (today) is the worst day.

I think last year was the first year we took them swimming at the Y on Christmas eve. We did it again this year and it did help their moods. And I got in a few laps!

After we left the Y, I had Bruce drive back by the dojang. Justin had talked about opening up on Christmas eve for anyone who wanted to work out. He was there just as we arrived, and I went in with him.

I don't know who else he contacted about today, but we were the only ones there. Makes sense. Most people spend the day with family. My extended family is 600 miles away, and Justin seems to want to remain staunchly independent from his mom and his dad except when expected to be there, so we were in the same boat today.

TKD was also excellent remedy for Christmas overload. Justin and I worked on my new form, Palgwe 5. He gave me some good tips for remembering how to do the scissors blocks. We also went over 3 and 1 step sparring. All that was so useful, not to mention enjoyable to work on.

Most enjoyable, though, was just being there. It's such a wonderful space, with its amber hardwood floors, high ceilings, mirrors along the wall. I've gushed about it here before! Today the space made my feet feel like dancing, so I worked out a petite allegro while Justin changed.

Now I'm ready to enjoy Christmas Eve--church at 5, drive around to see the lights afterwards, and a light supper at home. If the kids are still grouchy, I think I'll be able to handle it. And maybe I'll even be able to soak in what it might mean to celebrate the incarnation of mercy, peace, and love. A peaceful day and a bit of exercise can prepare the spirit.

Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Not Instant

So maybe some of you younger, hipper readers are noticing that in my last post I mentioned AIM, the instant messaging service, and you're thinking "hey, now I can talk to the taekwondomom on AIM!"

Well, I hate to disappoint, but I probably won't use it too much!

Justin and I have talked about instant messaging before. The conversations go something like this:

Justin: You should get instant messaging. It's easier than email.

Jane: I wouldn't use it. I hate to be interrupted. And sometimes it's good to be unavailable.

Well, Justin finally prevailed and came over last evening to download the program to my computer.

(Oops. I just noticed that I did not turn it on . . . you can see this is going to be an issue!)

However, the only time I'm on-line is at brief times when I check my email, sometimes during the day, but usually in the evening (9:30ish CST). I sometimes post a blog entry then.

I'll try it out a bit, so if you AIMers want to add me to your "buddy" list, you can. I'm tkdmom2006. But if you really want to get a hold of me, drop me a line right here on my blog!

Thursday, December 22, 2005


At the last TKD class before Christmas, things were festive.

I gave presents to the teachers, Justin and Master Hughes. I also gave consultation to Justin about how to get a good night's sleep. Melatonin and lavender, not to mention turn off the cell phone and computer a good half hour before bedtime--for anyone who wants to know! Having had occasional insomnia myself, I know what it's like not to be able to sleep well. I know the tricks, too, or at least what works for me.

Stephanie and Matthew's grandmother was there. Master Hughes had Stephanie lead warm ups (she did a great job) and Matthew used a jump reverse kick to break two boards like a graham cracker.

We worked on our forms; it seemed to be my job to help Aimee and Brian get the beginning of the form. That scissors block is tricky. Master Hughes showed us how to put our shoulders into it so it looks really powerful. I liked that.

Sparring began with me matched up with Gage, who's about 7. I showed him some moves for small people; then I sparred his dad, Christian and jammed the middle toes on my left foot. ouch. It ended up with a quick match between me and Brian, always fun, and always exhausting. Still, I don't think either of us scored, so that means we're evenly matched, I think.

"So are we evenly matched, do you think," I asked Brian as we stood in line for hand shaking at the end. "You're not going easy on me, are you?"

He looked at me funny. "Well, no!"


Everyone enjoyed the Swedish gingerbread I brought. The night ended with me forgetting Justin's AIM name (he thinks I need to get instant messaging; what he doesn't know is that I have a dial-up connection and rarely have it connected!)

I walked out with Brian, Matthew, and Brian's new cell phone. We wished each other a Merry Christmas--it'll be about 10 days before I'm back at the dojang. I'm sure I'll have things to write, meantime, though!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


"So what I want to know is how a guy who races motercycles and fixes computers got started in ballet."

I'm sitting in the new downtown bistro with my ballet class. We've come here for lunch after our last class and are sipping the Champagne that Susan bought while we wait for our lunches. I'm sitting by Mike, my sometime pas de deux partner. He's probably a bit younger than I am, he's married, has a couple of kids, a house in a small town, and his own business.

"Well," says Mike. "I started out doing martial arts and got into ballet after that."

"Martial arts?" I ask, amazed. "What kind? Tell me!"

Apparently Mike used to do Shaolin martial arts--I think he called it Kung Fu, but I know there is another name for them.

"I started so I could be in tournaments and win trophies. I got really good and started winning every time. I'm very flexible and I guess we Irish guys can take a punch. After a while, I got tired of it. But then I saw a picture of this dancer in the paper who'd been an awesome Sugar Plum Fairy. I cut it out and kept it."

At this point, we all start laughing.

"You did! That was a few years ago" says Suki. For it was Suki, our teacher, of course, who was renowned for dancing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in productions of the Nutcracker in our town years ago.

Mike says he loves ballet now because it always gives him new challenges. "I can keep learning it and I know there's always more to learn."

I am grooving on finding another ballet-martial arts connection! I really feel like there are so many similarities and connections between the two besides the fact that I like them both!

Actually, I think with both, there's probably always something new to learn. Anytime you're working with another person--sparring, dancing--there's more to learn. After talking with Mike some more, I gather he feels that way, too, if you look at martial arts in a certain way. But I'm glad he decided to try ballet. I wonder how many other men and women have crossed between those two arts.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Minor medical

This martial artist-in-training had a bit of a scare last month at the doctor's. It happened at the weigh-in and measuring.

"So, five-two and a half?" asked the nurse, jotting a note on my chart.

"Five-two and a half? No! I'm five-three!"

I stayed right there and had her measure me again. I stood up very straight.

"Well, I can get five two and three-quarters."

I was not satisfied, but the nurse moved me on to the examining room. "You can ask the doctor about it. Maybe you're shrinking," she said.


The doctor thought that due to some risk factors (my small bones, my mom having osteoporosis) I should consider having a test to check the density of my bones. Apparently, some people (mostly women, lose bone density as they get older. Those with small frames are at higher risk.

I had the test today. The news was not too bad. My bone density is borderline OK. I mean right on the border.

"Just keep doing what you're doing," said the nurse. "Take extra calcium and keep getting weight-bearing exercise." I thought about asking her for a scrip so I could consider my ballet and TKD classes prescription . . . maybe I could get Blue Cross to pay for them!

I had been a bit worried about this bone thing for a bit. When I get to be a brown belt, I'll have to do arm and hand techniques to break boards. I thought that if my bones were getting brittle, I might have to quit. But now I'm reassured . . . sort of. I do wish my bones were better than "borderline." I'll have to be sure to do every single break with the best technique.

High Blue

This is what a high blue belt looks like.

Yep. Just like a low blue belt but with a bit of black tape near the end.

Still, it seems somewhat significant as it's the last belt before the brown belt. The brown belt seems like a serious belt to me. Sometimes I can't believe I've gotten this far.

I've begun to learn what I need to know to be a high blue belt:

Our new form is Palgwe 5. I went through the entire form on Saturday with Shawn helping me, but found I didn't remember much last night except the first few moves, and those were tricky. They include a "scissors block" where one hand blocks clockwise from the top and the other blocks clockwise from the bottom as you step back with one foot. Or both counterclockwise if you step back with the other foot. Yikes.

"This one's hard," said Master Hughes. He came over twice to work with me and Brian on the first part. Since I'd worked on it Saturday, I was the one to help Brian this time. Still, I think it'll take a while for both of us to get that one down.

After class, Justin showed me the new kick, a hooking kick. "It's my favorite kick for sparring," he said. I practiced a few times and it seems like it will be useful for sparring. You kick out sideways and then quickly bend your knee, hooking your foot around to hit your sparring partner's head (usually). I'm not sure how I'll get enough power to break a board with it.

Class wasn't too strenuous, so I looked for an after-class sparring partner. I was feeling the need to move! Justin said he'd stay. That's when he showed me the hooking kick. We sparred a bit and showed each other our favorite sparring combinations, but mostly stood there in our gear, talking. But that was OK, too.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Gift of Fear

I am reading an interesting book called The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker. It was recommended to me by Garth, whose posts on Karateforums have really impressed me with their knowledge of intuition, adrenaline, and the workings of fear. As I've written about fear on this blog (I usually call it angst), I decided to check out Garth's recommendation.

DeBecker seems to be some sort of consultant who analyzes and predicts violent behavior. His book was written to teach ordinary people how to become more aware of possible physical threats to them.

The only problem I have with the book so far is that it seems to exaggerate the potential for anyone to be in a truly threatening situation. Statistics show that by and large, it is poorer, younger people who are at most risk for physical danger from strangers and others. Still, the book is impressing me--so far (I'm about 1/3 of the way through)--in several ways. One of which is that it's really well-written! I don't usually like self-help-ish books, but this one's full of stories, and is a great read!

Themes that stand out to me:

DeBecker believes that intuition is our best defense against physical threats. Not martial arts or guns or huge locks on doors. Intuition. I think that's cool. And he believes that we ALL have intuition. It's just that some people have learned to ignore it, and others have strengthened it.

Basically, he seems to suggest that intuition is unconsciously noticing things. Being aware of details that are significant. I had to stop and think about this as I read. Because the more he talked about this, the more it sounds like what a writer has to do (especially a non-fiction writer like myself): look for the unstated story, be aware of important details, be curious, but stay a bit detached.

I've noticed that my intuition has gotten stronger recently. In some places, at some times, I feel incredibly aware of what's going on--who needs what, relationships between people, what people want from me. TKD class is one of those places. Sometimes after I get home, I am exhausted from processing all that information. I

believe that being a writer--and also being older, and being a mom--has helped me to strengthen my intuition, and I must realize, somehow, that it is very important to the practice of TKD, so I am very aware of my intuition working when I'm in the dojang.

Politeness can be dangerous
DeBecker also said something that gave me a chill: sometimes women do not heed intuition about danger from men because they don't want to be impolite.

Yikes. I think I may be prey to this mistake. I don't want to hurt other people. I don't want to be impolite. Would this tendency cause me to allow someone I intuitively don't trust to get close to me? I would hope not.

I do have a tendency that balances this one. I am proficient at the withering stare and the cold shoulder. My sister and brother used to call this "the Beena look" (that was the nickname they gave me). I hope that reading DeBecker's book will help me learn when to use it. I also have a bit of the nerd's unawareness of others' critical views of oneself . . . :-)

We don't talk about this first level of analyzing threat in TKD. I've talked to Brian about it--as the only one of us who daily faces physical threats (or at least has to be ready for them), he has some good insights. Of course, things are different for police officers than for the rest of us, but we've talked about responding to threats at different levels--calling for help, confident talking with the person, etc.

I've noticed that Brian has good intuition in the dojang--he's right there when someone gets hurt, and is aware of my flashes of angst or forgetfulness. I would guess that certain jobs like ours allow us to strengthen intuition. Jobs where you have to notice things.

I'll keep reading this book and see where it takes me.If any of you out there has read it, let me know what you think of it. Or if this mini-review inspires you to read it, let me know your thoughts!

Saturday, December 17, 2005


"I gained 10 pounds this week," says Justin.

It's been a slow week for TKD with the test last Saturday. No class Monday or Wednesday (even the belt ceremony was cancelled because of bad weather. I feel out of it, TKD-wise, and I guess Justin's been taking a break to eat.

"Ten pounds?" I look at him, incredulously. "That's a lot of pounds. Where'd you put it?"

"Yeah, where'd you gain ten pounds?" adds Brian A. "In your ears?"

We go around and share our weights. "I'm NOT a 98 pound weakling," I tell them (Shawn, Justin, Brian A.) "I weigh much more than that."

Brian tells me that in high school, he used to wrestle at 105 pounds (my actual weight, wringing wet). Shawn is over 200 pounds (he is probably over 6' tall and carries it well) and Brian and Justin are in the mid 100s.

That's the cool thing about TKD--people of all sizes can do it, and do it well. Today, we had sparring matches, most of which were well-matched, but a few pitted smaller folks with larger. Jason's long legs were almost too much for John, but John got in some good points, too. Dylan sparred with Matt, who also has long legs. Both did very well.

In the uniforms, we all look pretty much the same--blocky.

In the women's changing room afterwards, uniforms came off and talk came around to bodies again. There was the usual womens' changing room talk about "I'm too fat," etc. etc. Let me tell you: I was there and there was no one in there who was too fat!

As a veteran of many many changing rooms over the years, one thing I've noticed is that there are lots of different shapes and sizes of fit bodies. And they are ALL beautiful. Those of us who are skinny sometimes wish for luscious padding. Those who are tall sometimes wish to be petite. Those with strong, bulky legs want thinner ones. Etc., etc. But it seems to me that all this unchangeable diversity we've been given should be telling us something: there are many many ways to be beautiful.

Strong is beautiful! Fit is beautiful! No matter what shape or size, all you women out there. And that's just talking about outer beauty. If you want to get into inner beauty, that's a whole 'nother story!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Balletmom, TKDmom

I had fun on Tuesday at ballet, as usual, and this time I have actual documentation.

There were just a few shots left on my film camera, so I decided to carry it around with me that day. I got some photos of the boys sledding before school, and I brought the camera to ballet.

To my delight, Mike arrived, and before he left, we took some pas de deux photos. Very fun! Here we are dancing.

As you can see, Mike's a pretty big guy, so he has absolutely no trouble doing a lift! I love doing this, though it's hard to hold the position for a picture. Still, you can get the idea.

Ah, how wonderful to know a guy who dances! (Keep this in mind, all you young guys!)

And just for a contrast, here are MORE test photos. I like this one of me sparring.

I'm sparring Aimee here. She's a good challenge.

And here I am with Brian, doing Yul-Gok.

As you can see, I've been having fun with photos today. It's a good break from grading, which is my main occupation of the day. I resolved to wear my reading glasses while grading exams today and take several breaks. Yesterday, I did neither, and I developed a splitting headache!

Blogging: Rx for grading ailments!

Practice Makes Perfect

I have only been able to get to ballet once a week these days. I can tell the difference; it takes me a while to get the combinations, and my balance isn't as good as it was earlier this fall when I went 2x a week.

Leihrin, on the other hand, has been going quite a lot! And one can tell. She gets those combinations quickly, and she looks good dancing. Amazing how that works.

Maybe that's what has happened recently with TKD. I'm just feeling more comfortable with the moves. It's not a frequency-related issue; I'm still going 2x a week as usual. But it's been just about a year since I began TKD (unofficially, as Robbie's workout "buddy")! So maybe my muscles are finally starting to learn the moves.

Carol, another ballet teacher, talks about how your muscles learn to do things. You first have to picture yourself doing something, and eventually the message from your brain will get to your muscles, and they'll do it, like a frappe or a pirouette. The next--and in my opinion the best--step is when you don't even have to think about it with your brain. Your body thinks for you. I love when that happens. Maybe it's beginning to happen with TKD.

This is not to count out any future experiences of sparring angst or forgetfulness. I would guess that these might happen again. But if martial arts are becoming more comfortable for me, more second-nature, I would hope that any setbacks I have will be brief.

Still, what I most need to do--in both ballet and TKD--is practice.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Some photos!

Here are some photos from the test on Saturday.

This is Heidi breaking with a jump front snap kick.

And Christian with a wheel kick.

Brian held the board for Matthew's break.

Tanner was going for his junior black belt. He broke with hand and foot techniques.

More Test Photos

Here is Paul doing one of his forms. You can see the concentration on his face. His forms were accurate and powerful.

This might have been when Paul did some 3-step sparring with Brian A. At one point, Paul's kick kind of surprised Brian!

Here is a funny stunt that Master Hughes had each black belt candidate try: kick the pop can off Master Hughes's head. That takes a lot of concentration and trust for both teacher and student!

More Test Pictures

Taekwondomom did appear in some photos!
Here's me doing my form, Yuk-Gok.

And me sparring someone!

Brian and I are lining up here. Brian seems to take great joy in pointing out that I have seniority because I am older.

A Lovely Evening

Master Hughes talked about the TKD family at our test; Monday, our "family" got together for a bit of sledding. There was no all-belts class, and Robbie had pointed out that "you haven't gone sledding with us yet this winter, Mom." So I proposed a sledding outing and invited people from TKD, too. It seemed perfect: good exercise, being with friends, and a chance for adults to indulge the inner sledding-loving child!

I was glad when we got to the hill and saw lots of our TKD friends. It was a beautiful evening, and we all enjoyed each others' company.

Of course I forgot my camera--this is beginning to be a theme! Instead I wrote up a little description to post on our dojang's blog. I considered whether I should post it here--and decided to do it, even though it's only loosely connected with TKD in general. It certainly gives a picture of how we enjoy each others' company even outside class.

No TKD class last night, so I (Jane) proposed a sledding party at a local park. It was a great example of the wider TKD family having fun together. If I'd had a camera (I forgot it!), I'd have taken pictures of:

Matthew and Brian going down the hill together, fast, as we came up. We dive out of the way.

Kevin giving his kids, Ashley and Tommy, a mighty push in their sled.

Justin, pusued by Alissa and Stephanie, diving onto a sled and careening down the hill.

The girls, in hot pursuit, jumping into another sled and heading down after him. (I'd have to have sound with that picture, as they screamed loudly each time they went down!)

Eli asking me "can we go home?" each time he went up the hill, but then turning around and gleefully going back down (lying on his tummy on the little inner tube sled) each time he got to the top.

Robbie flying down on the big inner tube time after time.

Derek trying to go down the hill standing up on a plastic toboggan.

Matt helping me pull Eli up the hill in the plastic toboggan.

The adults lounging in the snow at the top of the hill, chatting aimiably.

A big snowball fight among the teenagers, with Robbie, Derek, and Eli joining in.

Everyone shouting "bye!"

Maybe we can do this again sometime!

Monday, December 12, 2005

A few photos

I'm taking a break from my usual early Advent activities (grading, grading, and grading) to post a few pictures from Saturday's test.

These are just a few images from my digital camera. I also have some from my film camera (still in the camera) and a TON of wonderful photos taken by Brian A. (and others who used Brian's camera). Those will come later!

I got my camera around board-breaking time, so got these photos of people watching and people breaking.

I caught Brian A. just after he broke with an amazing tornado kick. He's about to do a speed break with his hand. (He nailed that one, too!)

This photo of Pam breaking turned out really dark, and fixing it digitally made it grainy. Still, she was awesome!

And here's the result of my break!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A good test

Recently, TKD promotional tests have been grueling for me, not only because they're long and demanding, but also because I haven't done my best at them, making mistakes on my forms, having trouble breaking, etc. etc. They've been a test of endurance, mostly.

Saturday, though, I actually had a good test. I feel like I did my best, for a change.

Christmas at the dojang
Lights, a Christmas tree, wrapping paper on the women's changing room door. Ribbons hanging from the ceiling. Nice Christmas decorations, put up by "the girls," I guess the middle school girls. They did a nice job.

Master Hughes also hung up some plaques and other items. One plaque celebrates his induction into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame. The place looks nice!

Mostly good
Most of the test went really well for me. I felt focused, perhaps especially because I was at the end of a line with only Aimee next to me. That was nice, not to have people on both sides. I felt strong during basic moves, and was very relieved that I was not called on to say what goes next. (Our school has a set order for doing the "ten basic moves" and I do not know it)

We lined up to do our kicks, and I was having a good run of it; even my wheel kicks were good.


The floors seem slipperier during winter, maybe because my feet aren't as sweaty. So when I went around on one of my wheel kicks, my foot just slipped right out from under me and I went down, and I mean DOWN! It didn't hurt, luckily; I must have been relaxed enough not to jar anything.

Still: how embarassing! For about one second I thought, "I hope no one saw that." The next second I heard, echoing across the dojang, lot of voices: "Are you OK, Jane?" "Are you OK, Jane?" "Are you OK, Jane?"

Black Belts
One cool thing about this test is that the black belt candidates tested with us instead of testing later in the afternoon.

I've never been able to stay for a BB test, so it was really cool to see what they did. Noah and Tanner were testing for junior black belt, and Paul was testing for his temporary black belt (which is the adult level.)

They were all up in front of the rest of us, and they were watched closely as they did their basic moves and forms. Noah and Tanner had to do their forms a couple of times for Master Hughes; they're expected to do their forms with perfection!

Paul, though, didn't just have to do one form: black belts testing for the regular, adult belt have to do ALL the forms. That would be . . . 14? anyway, a lot! We all stood and watched while Master Hughes told him which forms to perform. "Won Hyo and Palgwe 4." "OK. Turn to your left. Now Yul Gok and Palgwe 2." (As far as I could tell, the forms were done in a random order."

He did an excellent job, performing the forms with precision, power, and wonderful memory. There were a couple of times when he got stuck, but he just stopped and restarted and finished the forms. We all erupted into spontaneous cheers and applause at various times.

I did well at sparring, too! I sparred a boy named Jacob, who clearly does not want to do TKD. But then I sparred Aimee and Curt, both good challenges in different ways. I was glad to notice that judges were wandering by and noticing. I want to be good at sparring, good enough to notice. I will work at it until I am, or until I have another phase of sparring angst.

When it doesn't go well . . .
After the test, Brian said that he hadn't done well on his form.

"So, OK, let's do it now, so you can feel good about it before you leave," I suggested. I gave my camera to Kevin, and ran through the form with Brian. We both did just fine, and Kevin got photos.

One Family
Master Hughes gave a nice inspirational speech at the end of the test about how we are all one family at our school. He wanted even people who come sporadically to feel part of the group.

As usual, he told everyone to "go hug your mom and dad and tell them thanks. They're the most important people in the room." There were lots of moms and dads there with cameras, grandmas and grandpas, like always at a test!

It made me aware of how much TKD at our school (and elsewhere) is centered on children--on educating them in TKD, in teaching them discipline, respect, how to deal with conflict. It's cool.

It also made me aware of how different my situation is than most other adults there. Adults who are moms and dads are almost all there with their children. I am not. My kids quit, but I stayed on! Odd. So whenever I go to TKD, I'm leaving my family behind, which is always a bit awkward.

Still, I do feel that there's something about TKD that brings us as students close together, like family. Maybe it's the trust we need to have in each other, the way we see each other fail and succeed. The way we sweat together.

My family wasn't there watching. But my TKD family was all around me!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Sparring Practice Before the Test

Wednesday is usually sparring day at all-belts class. Because I don't usually go on Wednesday, I usually only practice sparring on Saturday. But this week, because of the exam, I went to class on Wednesday and got in some great sparring practice!

I sparred with three people: Brian A., Cavio, and Ms. Pryor.

I always like sparring with Brian A. He's good, yet has good control, too. This time, he was using the ballerina kicking technique (balancing on one leg and kicking without putting it down) on me. I found out that you can't counter the ballerina kicking technique with the ballerina kicking technique. Brian seemed to think that was funny! (Actually, he is a joyful sparrer, which also makes it a delight to spar him.) So I had to think of other ways to (try to) score!

Cavio, a senior in high school, is a blackbelt and is new to our school. She's funny and smart, and her kicks and forms are excellent. But for some reason, she was a bit slow on Wednesday and I was able to score on her left and right. Sometimes bigger, stronger people like her are easier to spar than one might think.

My favorite sparring experience, though was with Ms. Pryor. I love her sparring style--fast and aggressive--and I think I could learn a thing or two from her. She's about my size, and I also like to work fast, so I've always thought I'd try to get some one-on-one tutoring from her.

It was great to spar her. I don't think I scored any, but it was a great workout. Her reflexes are amazing and her kicks are high and powerful. I got some advice from her:

1. The best defense from a roundhouse kick is a reverse kick. I knew this--I use this defense when my wits are about me--but she reminded me that I should also expect a reverse kick when I am doing a roundhouse. (I believe she reminded me by doing it to me!) Oooh. Good point.
2. When your opponent starts advancing straight toward you (maybe to do a front kick or an axe kick or to punch), counter with a quick side kick.
3. To catch your breath, breathe in, hold it for a few seconds, and breathe out. "That gives the air sacs in your lungs a chance to take in the air." I was very glad for that advice. Fighting fast really makes me winded, and since I've also been struggling a bit with anemia this fall, I know my body's working harder than ever.

After class, I worked with Brian on our form. We have it down! In fact, during class I was the one who remembered when Brian blanked out! Now how often does that happen? But I pointed out that our form, Yul-Gok, is yet another form named for a Korean scholar, probably a college professor of some sort, I would guess. I know our last form was named after a scholar who was a writer, for heaven sakes. Certainly not some warrior, businessman, or even policeman!

I think I'm ready for the test. As long as I can remember how to count to ten in Korean.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Calesthenics for the uninspired

When I tell people I do calesthenics just about every day, the inevitable response is: "I would never have the discipline to do that."

Hey, I don't really, either!

But I have found that there are two ways to be disciplined even when you're not feeling disciplined.

1. Make the activity part of an already-established routine
2. Set the bar low. Real low.

How do I do this?

1. I make calesthenics part of my daily routine. Here it is (it's a morning routine): put on anti-perspirant. While it dries, do calesthenics. I get a tiny workout, and I avoid those white streaks on my clothing.

2. The bar is really low for me. Do I do 50 sit ups a day? 50 push ups? No, I do not. I do:
--10 push ups, girl style (I'm a girl. Duh.)
--10 crunches, looking at the ceiling.
--10 "lateral" crunches, legs to one side, then legs to the other side
--10 crunches, looking at knees
--stretch it out!

That's it. Takes less than 5 minutes.

Maybe I'd be in better shape if I did 50 of each. But probably not. Because if I knew I had to do 50, I probably wouldn't do them at all.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Didn't take any photos . . .

. . . so I'm just going to have to give you virtual photos. You need to use your imagination for these!

(I know how much photos add to a blog, but when I'm doing TKD, I'm really not thinking about photographing TKD! Sorry. I'll have to rely on my writing.)

Note: I had trouble posting this last night! Hope you enjoy it now!

Photo #1: That's me skidding into class, almost late. Bruce got back from work about 30 mintues later than usual, so I got a late start from home. I'm putting my stuff in its usual spot before lining up.

Photo #2: No, the class is not facing the front of the dojang in this photo. As you can see, we're facing the mirrors. Ms. Pryor wants us to look at our horse stance as we do our middle punches. She's trying to get us into a nice low horse stance. This is quite tiring on the thighs.

Photo #3: Me doing Chun Jee with eyes closed, my least favorite thing to do. I can see from the photo that I'm off a bit already, standing and punching ever-so-slightly at an angle. Oh well, I end up OK, and I don't punch Brian, who's standing next to me, so that's OK.

Photo #4: Me doing a slow motion side-kick. As you can see, I like working on balance! Ms. Pryor is having us do slow kicks across the floor. I'm behind Justin, challenging myself to do my kicks as slowly and precisely as he does. He's got good balance!

Photo #5: We're working on our forms. Someone took a photo exactly when Brian and I get off our counts. I really prefer to do forms in unison, so I'm waiting for him to catch up, but he actually has to move out of someone's way first!

Photo #6: I'm working on 3-step sparring with Jessica, an 8-year-old junior BB. The kids don't know the 3-steps, so I'm having to teach her--in this photo, I'm reminding her that the first block is with the left hand.

Photo #7: Ms. Pryor likes the end-of-class calesthenics deal, too, and she has us do a battery of sit ups, push-ups, etc. etc. Ugh.

Photo #8: Brian and I excel at our form, Yul-Gok, after class! Look at how we're exactly in sync with our front kicks.

Photo #9: Brian A. is helping me with white belt 3-step sparring #4. I think I finally get that one, which has a throw. Here, you can see Brian showing me how the left hand grabs the attacker's wrist overhand, the right grabs the attackers' elbow and twists down and toward your waist.. Down he goes.

Photo #10: Brian A., Justin, and I chatting in the middle of the empty dojang. It's a comfortable and rambling conversation, going from bands to hair to crazy jobs to instant messaging to divorce to TKD. I enjoy their company and am surprised when I realize that it's getting late and we're the only ones there!

Monday, December 05, 2005

A great reply

I don't know how many of you read the comments posted to my blog. I love to get your comments (whether they're posted on my blog, emailed to me, or just given to me at all-belts class). There are so many things I'm trying to figure out about TKD. It really helps to have your input!

A comment I found expecially helpful recently was the one by TKDRocker, who left a long and very thoughtful comment after that long and very anguished post I made about self-defense.

She had this to say about visualizing attacks by men one trusts:

To answer your question, "how do I know for sure who I can and can't trust", you really can't know for certain until its to the point where using self-defense is vital. For example, what if someone's husband, who is usually as meek as a kitten, comes home drunk and mad one night and decides to take it out on his wife? She would never have expected him to act this way, but she has enough common sense to "disable" him and get out of there.

I liked this because it was a thought I've had, but never really been able to articulate. Apparently, they talk about this in their class.

Master Hughes says they talk about "date rape" situations in the Women's Self-Defense class, but he doesn't like to include it when children are in class. Why not, though? Most children who are abducted also know their abductor.

TKD Rocker also said that her TKD teacher talks about how you need to trust your intuition (he calls it "spider sense"!) because that can often help you predict when things aren't going to be friendly. I'm glad to hear someone talk about intuition. I think it's key to my sparring style. Thinking about intuition could also help me be more comfortable with self-defense.

Finally, she had this insight about pain.

I think its important as a Taekwondo student to experience a little pain and know how to deal with it. My school uses pressure points for this purpose. They hurt when they are applied, but the pain immediately goes away once the pressure is lifted. They also work in real-life situations . . . My philosophy is that if we are somewhat used to and comfortable with a little bit of pain, then it won't come as so much of a surprise if/when we are actually attacked.

I'd never thought about this before, but it makes sense to me!

(If any of you haven't visited TKDRocker's Blog, you might want to! She's not blogging very much recently, but her posts are fun, thoughtful, and articulate.)

I'm glad to be part of a wider nework of martial artists--those of you who read and post to my blog and those who write on I learn lots from my classmates and teachers at the dojang, and then I learn more (and different things) through e-conversations with those I'll never spar!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

One week before the test

It was with a bit of trepidation that I climbed the stairs to the dojang and all-belts class today. I was still thinking a bit about the questions that arose during self-defense practice. But when I got up there, the lively voices of the children in the junior belts class cheered me up. Brian A. was teaching, and he had them playing duck, duck, goose.

Tae Kwon Do MOM
Sometimes I wonder if the embroidered name on my lapel really says "Mom" instead of Jane.

After the kids were done, Michelle and Miriam came over to shake my hand. Miriam announced that next week was her birthday. "And how old will you be?" I asked. "Nine," she said.

Not wanting to be left out, Miriam's brother Arik joined in. "My birthday is February 19th," he said. "Really?" I asked. "That's the exact same day as my birthday! We must be twins!" I shook his hand. He looked at me funny, the way kids do when they sense a weird adult is nearby.

But he proceeded to bend my ear about some kind of on-line game,, that he thought I should try. "If you or your son gets on," he told me (I'd informed him that my 10-year-old son was the computer gamer in our house), "be sure to find me and I'll give you some armor. "

Patrick and Savaun were there, too, and they stopped by to say hi to me. I asked Patrick if he was going to test on Saturday. "No. My dad's got a Santa festival he has to do."

Now that's an unusual excuse! (But not if you know Patrick's dad.)

Something different
After we'd warmed up and worked on our forms, Justin, who was teaching, gave us something new to try.

(I noted to Justin, when I shook his hand, that he sounded like he had a cold. "I do," he told me. "I'm coughing up all kinds of stuff. It's gross." I informed him that, yes, it was gross, and he needs to take some medicine, but I don't think he was really listening. Maybe he'll take my advice if he reads it here. What you need, Justin, is Sudafed. You get it from the pharmacist--it's behind the counter. And you need Dristan at night, as Sudafed will keep you awake. )

(Same advice to all you other blog-readers out there who may be suffering this nasty sinus cold.)

(This is the taekwondomom speaking. I know what I'm talking about.)

We got into groups of 6, and each group got three pads. We were to design a combination of kicks that would use all the pads, and then practice it.

It was fun, despite the fact that I hate choreography. My group--me, Aimee, June, Brittany, Brian A., and Cavio--worked out some combinations that flowed from one kick to the next very nicely. Aimee and Brian A. were the best choreographers.

Love to Spar
Luckily, we also got to practice sparring. I've really been in the mood to spar recently. So when we got our pads on, I was ready! I wanted to try some new things.

We started out with combination kicking and I helped the new white belt, Shane. Then, once sparring started, I got in a nice little match with junior black belt Dylan (or was it John? I get those brothers confused), who complimented me on my ability to stay on one leg for a while. "I take dance," I explained.

I call that "ballerina kicking", and I worked on it some more today, hopping in while kicking several times without putting my foot down. It was effective, though tiring.

I also got to spar with Christian. He's one of those big, strong guys who actually likes to do
calesthenics. I bet he lifts weights. But he's an orange belt, and, hey, sometimes it's not that great to be big and strong in sparring. Sometimes small and fast is better.

We lined up and Christian said "OK. Now I really get some sparring practice!"

It was a good match, though I was too tired from the first match to do too much of my ballerina kicks. Still, I scored on him, which is quite encourging to me. It's weird that I can be better at someone like that in a sport. I bet he did football in high school and didn't look twice at bookish nerds like me.

The last match, I worked out with Shane again. He, like most men, has good fighting instincts. "Go easy on me," I told him. "I'm tired."

"Yeah, she's tired from whooping my ass," said Christian.

What's this macho thing about doing killer calesthenics at the end of a class? Well, I do like to get some sit ups and push ups in each day, and I didn't do them in the morning, so it was OK.

I got home and realized I'd left my uniform and sweaty t-shirt in the changing room. Good thing we'll be there tomorrow for the movie!

Encouragement from the Master

"I don't want to do sword anymore. I think that martial arts are just not interesting. I want to quit."

I've heard this complaint from Robbie before, and I'm not sure exactly what it means. Usually once he gets to his Kumdo class, he's into it, swinging that sword with enthusiasm. But I've been hearing this complaint from him more and more, and now he says he wants to quit.

I've already decided, though, that I've had enough of him quitting things.

"Sweetie, I'd really like you to continue for a while. You've just started getting good and I'm sure you don't really want to quit now."

"I do! It's just not interesting anymore."

"I think what's happened is that it's getting a bit harder, and you're thinking too much about all the repetition. I think you need to start thinking about a goal you have with Kumdo, like getting to a certain belt level, or learning certain things. That will help you get through the times when practice seems dull. That's what I do. In the past you have had a tendency to lose interest in activities once the initial newness has worn off. Like soccer, and keyboard, and Tae Kwon Do. You need to learn how to get past that and keep working at something."

I don't really get the kind of reply I like, but I know from momming experience that lots of times when children act like they don't agree what they've said, they're really just saving face, and that they've really heard you.

Still, I decide to talk with Master Hughes about this.

When we get to the dojang, he's in the storage room, so we have a chance to chat.

"I wanted to let you know that Robbie's getting a bit discouraged. He doesn't really have a goal or a sense of why he's doing these exercises. Do you think you'll have a test or promotion sometime, or if there's anything else you can do to encourage him?"

Master Hughes says he's thought of taking a short break and then starting up in January with a real push to enroll new students. "I want to get an ad in the paper," he says. "I really want to continue these classes."

During class, I see that he's really thought about encouraging the boys (Jacob and Robbie are the only two there).

When Robbie talks about slicing a dummy with his jukdo, his bamboo sword, Master Hughes stops them and says "Well, you know that if you keep with this, eventually, you'll be working with a live blade. You know what that is, don't you?" The boys' eyes widen.

Later, he proposes a Kumdo party.

"On Sunday, instead of class, let's watch "The Last Samurai."

"Yeah!" Both boys have wanted to see this film for a long time.

Master Hughes says he'll set up his projection TV here and we'll all watch and eat popcorn.

Later, we chat.

"Maybe seeing this film will get them thinking about what you can really do with martial arts--and especially with the sword."

I think it's great prescription.

Later, when we're at home Robbie confides in me: "I'm going to keep studying sword," he says. "It's because Master Hughes said two words to me. Do you know what they were? Live blade.

He swings an imaginary sword over his head.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Bulky Ballerinas

It's cold here in my hometown. It snowed the other day, enough to delay school 2 hours, and then the wind shifted so it's coming out of the northwest, bringing air straight down from the tundra of northern Saskatchawan, I think. Walking across campus brings tears to one's eyes and makes one's nose red. I got out my down jacket and my wool hat with the fur brim. I imagine they'll be in constant use until March or so.

My guess is that I'll be using my leg-warmers in Tae Kwon Do a lot in the upcoming months. We do have heat in our dojang, but it's not always reliable. And we don't talk a whole lot about getting muscles warmed up, stretching slowly, counterstretching after strength training, cooling down. The children don't need it--I guess that's one reason. But we adults do! So I do it on my own. And I wear my leg warmers!

In ballet on Thursday, we were all bundled up. We have no hesitation about piling on the layers to stay warm: in fact the teachers recommend it to avoid pulled muscles. Protect those muscles is the name of the game in our ballet class. No one at ballet teases me about my leg warmers! Everyone was all bundled up and had various things over their leotard and tights:

Suki (our teacher) was wearing a heavy vest with a fuzzy lining,
Leihren was wearing sweats, leg warmers, and a short sweater,
Sandy wore socks under her ballet slippers and a hooded sweatshirt,
I wore my shrug (a very short sweater, mostly sleeves) and black flared jazz pants. I also wore my ballet skirt over those pants, and I felt like a child again--girls had to wear dresses to school when I was very young, and we would pull snow pants on under the dresses when it got cold!

By the time we were doing center floor (the actual dancing), we were finally warmed up, and our various outer layers were in heaps at the edge of the floor or tied to the barre!