Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Tae Kwon Do
"So this is the kick I'm supposed to break with this time." I'm in my living room talking to my husband. I demonstrate the hooking kick.

"Wow," he says. He seems impressed, but I'm still worried.

"Yeah, it looks cool, but I'm not sure I'll be able to break a board with it. Maybe a toothpick."

After class, while Master Hughes signs my board, I tell him that I'm worried about breaking. He puts my board on the floor and has me hold my hand out.

"When you do the hooking kick, you need to chamber out to the front, then move your whole leg back while you hook." He demonstrates. I am sure that his kick would probably break a few boards.

When I try, it looks pitiful, not powerful. If you're small, you really need to get the technique just right to break a board. You can't rely on brute force. Or I can't; I don't have any.

"You're just bending your leg at the knee. You're not bringing the whole leg into it," he tells me. I try again, unsuccessfully, but he catches my leg and moves it through the correct positions. OK. Now I get it.

"That feels better," I say. "Do you think I'll be able to break a board?"

Master Hughes goes over to the pile of boards near the wall and picks one out. He comes back and holds it out for me. I take a deep breath, concentrate and do my best hook kick.

The board breaks.

I stand there in amazement for a minute. Then I notice Master Hughes standing at attention. I bow and smile. That was more than a toothpick.

Some days in class I feel fuzzy-headed: strong but unfocused. Today's one of those days. My pirouettes are unstable and tippy. I'm having trouble remembering the combination for the petit allegro. A couple times I feel tears of frustration at the back of my eyelids, but then I remember: I love ballet. I love the challenge.

Suki has us doing inward and outward pique turns across the floor. I can do outward, but the inward ones are giving me trouble.

"Jane, you need to trust yourself to fall into that lunge at the end of each turn. You're holding yourself back. Go ahead and fall into it." I try a couple of times and finally get it. I complete the short sequence--3 outward turns, then switch, 3 inward turns. Finally! I got something.

"You learned something today!" says Suki.

And after class, more encouragement.

Leihrin is tying on her pointe shoes for a short private class.

"When are you going to try pointe shoes, Jane?" asks Suki.

"Me? I think I'm too old," I say.

"Age has nothing to do with it. You need to have strength and good technique."

"Well, I guess I have those," I say.

"Yes, you do," she tells me.

Suki tells me that if I want to try pointe shoes, she'll let me borrow hers. I can have a little practice with Leihrin after our class.

Now that's something to think about . . . !

Monday, January 30, 2006

Rallying 'round one another

Brian and I leave class together on this chilly Monday night, along with Matthew, who bounces down the stairs. Outside, I notice that Justin's truck is still there--and Kevin's truck is pulled up to it, front bumper to front bumper.

Uh oh. Not a good sign.

I'd hoped Justin was home by now; he's not feeling well and I'd urged him to go home and go to bed.

I wander over to see what's going on. I'm greeted by a sweet image I tried to capture on my camera but it was too dark: four men peering into the engine of the truck, all with concerned looks on their faces.

Apparently the battery's completely dead.

Justin looks glum. Still, he's surrounded by supportive, competent TKD friends.

"Can I give you a ride home?" I ask Justin. No. His dad expects the truck home. Can't just leave it.

"We'll have to go out and get another battery," says Brian A. "Do you have tools in there?" Brian rattles off the tools they need; Justin doesn't have them. "OK. AFter we get the battery, we can just go back to my house and get my tools," says Brian. There's no question at all about this even thought it's late, it's cold, and Brian lives about 10 miles away.

Once this is settled, the rest of us head off after a word of encouragement, confident that Justin's well taken care of.

Is there something about that in the Student Oath? "I will watch out for my TKD colleagues, comforting them in sickness and helping them in times of need" ? Maybe it's just implied.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Teaching and Learning

Stephanie Learns to Ski
When I arrive at the dojang, Stephanie is there. She's complaining about a sore arm, but is not unhappy. She hurt her arm learning to ski on a class trip.

"Have you skied before?" I ask.

"Once. We had a two-hour lesson before we started. I wouldn't ski without a lesson first."

Lots of people love skiing; however, I think I've passed the age when it's good to start. I am no longer fearless about speed and hills!

The Tae Kwon Do Mom teaches Step Sparring
"Do you know the orange belt step sparring?" Patrick comes up to me with this question as I enter the dojang.

"I think I do. Are you working on them?" I ask.

"Um hmm."

So Patrick and I work on Orange Belt step sparring before class. It's a good exercise for me, and I'm surprised how much I remember.

"It's only because of Brian that I remember all this," I say to Brian A. who walks by. (He claims to only know White and Yellow.) "He makes me do the Orange and Green belt sparring. I just want to work on White and Yellow. I'm not sure why he's so ambitious to learn all of them."

"It's because Kevin knows them all," says Brian A.

Well of course! Guys are much more aware of friendly competition. Must be one of those Y-chromosome things.

Teaching a new Tae Kwon Do mom
Last time I was at class, some new people joined. They're there again this Saturday: Amy, Gabe, and their two young boys. Brian A. helps them with basic moves at the beginning of class. At the end, I work with them on Chun-Jee. "It's the hardest form you'll learn," says Stacey. I remember how hard it was to learn that very first form!

I show Amy and Gabe the first two movements and have them do them over and over. We do "just feet," then work on the low block that goes with it. I like working with people one-on-one.

Talking about Teaching
After class, Justin appears. He'd been taking his SAT. "How'd it go?" we all ask. He shrugs.

We get to talking about the new junior black belt class he's been leading. Apparently he asked the kids about whether children should get black belts, and why (see my post of 26 Jan). Of course they thought children SHOULD be able to earn black belts, but couldn't explain why. Justin said he wrote about the question on his blog. I'm going to check it out.

Brian A., Stacey, Justin, and I all have strong feelings that junior black belts should only be teaching if they are supervised closely by adults. We have to make our views very clear to Master Hughes. As I pointed out, it's not really fair to expect children to know how to run a class. But there are plenty of opportunities to have them learn to teach and lead.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Men and Women and TKD

One cool thing about Black Belt Magazine is that it had a woman martial artist on the cover! Still, maybe she paid to get on the cover.

But there were also good photos of women martial artists inside--included in a long article, "Armed Kata: 10 Weapons experts help you hone your skills for competition." Four were women--cool! (The article was also written by a woman, who's also the managing editor of Black Belt.)

I also liked this photo--isn't she cool! She looks small-boned, but fierce!

Still, I think the magazine's aimed mostly at men. I mean, look at some of the ads!

Funny. Seems like they prey on a (male?) desire to have a chance to be in some kind of life-threatening situation where you can beat someone up.

Perhaps it's not just a male desire. I remember feeling it once when our neighbors behind us owned a large pit-bull. It would bark and snarl and leap against its leash (it was often chained outside; I should have felt sorry for it). I remember being back there in the garden when it was doing that and the boys were outside. Jump that fence and go after my children, and your head will be flattened with this shovel, I remember myself thinking.

But then there's that body building ad, too! Hmm. Of course, it could have good results, as this lovely piece of beefcake shows! Now is this ad designed to appeal to women readers?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Magazine for Martial Arts

Brian loaned me a magazine this week. It's called Black Belt and he thinks it's better than the Tae Kwon Do magazine that's out there (can't remember the name of it. The one where people pay to be on the cover).

I love magazines. As a free-lance writer, I'm always interested in seeing how other writers put together stories for the ephemeral press. So I was glad to borrow it for a while. It did have lots of interesting articles.

It had a number of regular columns, and those pieces are always fun to read. Usually columns blend storytelling, facts, and opinions. I read almost all of them. One was on Taikikan, an "internal" martial art similar to Tae Chi, but it also has sparring. Another talked about "thrust kicks" in Tae Kwon Do. There was the requisite "what is this world coming to?" kind of column which seemed to suggest that we all need to do martial arts to stop bad guys from shooting law enforcement officers like in New Orleans. Right.

One column that really got me thinking was by Dave Lowry and called "What Does a Black Belt Mean?" In it, he says that most people believe the black belt connotes extraordinary abilities, but actually, in most budo (Karate schools?), "it signals that a person is a serious student who's ready to begin training in earnest."

Lowry wishes that Americans viewed black belts that way, as a sign that you want to learn more, not that you are an expert and done with your training.

He gets even more radical when he says "nothing good can come from awarding a black belt to a child."

Wow. I have to say that I think a child black belt (at our school we have "junior black belt" rank for most children under 12) is different from an adult black belt. Children and adults train in martial arts for (usually) very different reasons, I would guess.

Here's what he says:

In the West, when people see a child with a black belt, they assume that in this dojo at least, the training is literally kid's stuff. They expect some level of skill in a black-belt holder--skill that's beyond the grasp of a child. They wonder, How well would that kid do against a 21-year-old black belt in competition?

He also seems to suggest that viewing martial arts as a children's activity could make it less appealing for adults. "Some schools have trouble attracting adolescents and young adults for that very reason. These are the age groups that have the maturity, physical ability, and income to make martial arts training a long-term investment of time and energy."

Hmm. Actually, I love it that children are learning martial arts at our school, and even in the same class as I am sometimes. In fact, I don't know if I would have gotten around to learning a martial art without having my children start first, and then being able to work out with them. I also like the family atmosphere of our dojang, with children, moms, dads, teens all working out together. He doesn't consider this in his article; perhaps he wants a more "serious" school.

I have to say, though, that I like the view of the black belt that he offers: It shows you're a "serious student," not an expert. If people remembered that, maybe there wouldn't be controversy about junior black belts.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Students learning to teach . . .

Last night at class, I saw young black belts teaching at their best.

It wasn't leading the class--Master Hughes did that.

It was one-on-one teaching. And the teens and younger kids did that very well.

Teaching the TKDMom
While we were working on kicks, I got some useful hints from both Chelsea and big James. I have been working on my hooking kick, my next breaking kick. I love to use it in sparring (fast tap to the head!), but I cannot believe I'll be able to break a board with it.

Chelsea pointed out that I need to bring my foot back around much faster. "I had a hard time learning that one, too," she admitted.

Big James also noticed something. "You're not bringing your foot back straight. You're bringing it around in an arc."

He's right! My foot is doing ballet, a rond de jamb en l'air! How funny! I'll have to tell Suki--and thanks to those two kids, I can be more mindful of what I'm doing.

Taking and Giving Instruction
We did our forms in groups today, and I noticed two things. One was that the young black belts take instruction well, listening carefully and politely to Master Hughes. He gave some useful advice to Cavio, up there in the front row. Later, she also gave quiet advice to others after their forms.

Working with Younger Kids
After the brown belts did their forms, Master Hughes asked Stephanie to work with Matthew B. on his form. He told her which part. "Just go over that part about six times." She went off with him readily and worked with him.

I know Stephanie is good at working one-on-one with others as I've often asked her to help me! She's patient and knowlegeable, and notices things. Plus, the younger kids like her--I remember Eli liked working with her long ago when he took classes. At that time, she just went on her own to help him out.

Mentoring and Learning to Teach
Justin told me that there was a new Junior Black Belt class starting up and that he was going to teach it. "I'm going to let them take turns teaching the class," he said.

Now this makes sense to me.

Most people, when learning to teach, do it one of two ways (sometimes both)
1. student teaching--you teach, but you're guided by a supervising teacher, who's in the room at first to help with discipline and direction.
2. being part of a "how to teach" class where they discuss teaching and learning issues

Seems like this will work.

How do you do it?
I'm curious about how young black belts elsewhere are initiated into teaching. Those of you who are martial artists elsewhere--how does your school do it?

Obviously, we have a lot of budding talent at our school. We've learned a lot from watching Master Hughes, a master teacher. But to underestimate the difficulty of teaching a big class is unfair to the young people. I hope we find a way to nurture their obvious abilities.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Wish I'd gotten my camera out . . .

. . . because at the end of class, while people were milling about getting boards signed, practicing forms, and chatting, there were lots of crazy things happening. Upside down activities like:

Justin doing one of his handstands. ("Break a board now," I said. "Don't encourage him," said Cavio.)

James doing a tripod (then Justin, too)

Brian A. doing some crazy stunt of getting into a handstand on a chair, then jumping off.

"I can't do a handspring, but I can do the worm," said James.

"Really? Let me see," I replied.

So he did. He looked like a break dancer.

Nice to have a place where people can try out all kinds of physical stunts, and where others can appreciate them!

Curiosity and Openness

Today, I decided just to ask Master Hughes about the rumors we've heard about Ms. Pryor. After class, I found him in the office and just asked him if he knew about these rumors.

Apparently, they have some basis in fact. He told me that Ms. Pryor had said she would quit, but Master Hughes thinks it's mostly because they had a personal falling-out. He seems to hope she'll come back to our school, and he seems to be pretty optimistic that she will. They're good friends, apart from everything else, and they both love tae kwon do. That has to count for something.

Then the phone rang.

"There she is now," he said to me. It's one of those cell-phones that you can program with different rings for your different friends.

"Tell her 'hi' from me," I replied and turned to go.

"Jane says 'hi'," Master Hughes said into the phone. "Here you can talk to her." He handed me the phone.


I didn't know if she remembered me, but I took the opportunity to tell her how much we all missed her and how we couldn't wait until she got back. She seemed moved. "I miss you guys, too," she said.

That's all I wanted to do. To find out the truth, or as much as I could of the truth, and to get a message to Ms. Pryor that we all miss her and want her back. We'll see what happens from here.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Student Teaching

Cavio did lead the all-belts class today, something I know she's wanted to do for a while. She had the basics just fine. She knew the order of our workout, and had some new ideas as well for the small group of us there. The students, most of whom were around her age, followed along pretty well, at least during the first part of class.

The hard part about teaching, though, is maintaining a connection with a class and maintaining authority. That got tricky for Cavio as the class went along, as might have been expected.

I think it would be very difficult to maintain authority with your peers--especially if your peers are high school and middle school kids . . .

For some odd reason, Alissa and Stephanie started acting up. This completely confused me. I thought they were friendly with Cavio, or at least would be allies with her in teaching. I would have thought they would have wanted Cavio's class to go well--to prove that girls can teach as well as Justin. But that's not what happened. They were silly and disruptive.

I know that they occasionally read my blog. Perhaps they'll explain to me what was happening.

Cavio handled that scene as well as can be expected. After telling the girls to stop goofing around and ordering push ups, Cavio chose to ignore them, which was a good tactic for someone her age. She didn't want to embarrass herself or her friends . . . I guess it's best to let the friends embarrass themselves. Still, it added a note of chaos that affected everyone.

It made me feel in an awkward position. As an adult there (one of 4), perhaps it should have been my job to get them in line. But those girls are my seniors. Also, it was Cavio's class. Also, I didn't know exactly how to handle it best without embarrassing everyone.

After class, the other adults and I were talking, and they expressed the same frustration--and others, too.

The main line of discussion was that chaotic classes run by teens might be the future for our shrinking school.

We have all been a bit worried because of rumors we've heard about Ms. Pryor. The rumors? That she's not just taking a break; she's left our school. I have not heard from Master Hughes anything about these rumors, but I wish I would soon. Not knowing is very hard.

Master Hughes has said recently that the black belts need to step up and help in teaching. That might be true, but at this point, we have no adult black belts who attend regularly, except Stacey. And she's about to embark on an evening MBA course.

If we're going to have to rely on other black belts besides Master Hughes, teaching, it looks like there will be many more classes run by teens who might know the material, but aren't quite ready to engage in real teaching and discipline. Justin is an exception; he's had a lot of experience and is doing well as a teacher these days, but he'll be going off to college soon.

I don't know what to make of all this. Some of the other adults were talking about just switching to other forms of exercise. I suppose I could do that, too. But I'm not learning TKD primarily as a form of exercise. I'm learning it because I want to learn a martial art. I hope that this desire isn't thwarted by dojang dissent and unhappiness.

New teacher?

I heard yesterday from Justin that Cavio would be teaching today. She is new to our dojang, but a talented black belt (especially good at forms). I am interested to see how she does leading a class. She is a fun-loving person and a bit irreverant, so it will be interesting to see how she manages it.

I am glad that the young black belts have a chance to try teaching . . . but teaching is tricky. You have to have some distance from your peers as you lead, a willingness to focus, and a whole lot of calm self-confidence.

It remains to be seen! And off I go.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Blog Awareness

Something surprised me this week. My students at the college--mostly juniors and seniors this semester--didn't know what blogs were.

Well, not all of them were clueless, but doesn't it seem like blogs are pretty mainstream? I mean, I'd heard about them over a year ago, and I'm not particularly technologically hip.

A whole bunch of middle-school and high-school students at the dojang have blogs--they're a step ahead of my students!

But perhaps college students don't have a need for blogs. Most don't seem interested in sharing an on-line diary ("all about me and what I did today") with others, as many younger kids seem to have fun doing. And they don't have the kinds of Serious Interests that some adults (and some young people) do (TKD for me, language for The Language Guy, controversies in the news for Gadfly Professor). The college students I know who have blogs are ones who are doing something out of the ordinary--studying overseas, like Rob, who just started The Adventures of Rob blog. Or battling illness, the story in Jase's Journal, which Jase kept while going through cancer treatment last fall.

And that's probably it: most college students don't really have a subject. I don't think I would have started a blog without a subject, something I was going to write about besides "me" or "my day." I needed to be exploring something new, something that puzzled me, something that I didn't have all the answers about. Blogging has given focus to my education in Tae Kwon Do, and Tae Kwon Do has given me an excellent topic for writing, researching, and reflecting.

I don't know what (if anything) I could have written about when I was in college. Funny thought!

I'll be interested to see if any of the students in my writing class attempts a blog. I wonder what their topics might be.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Got this note about my last post from my brother:

Just caught up on your "sports" injury. (Can an activity that one does while drinking bottles of Rolling Rock be considered a sport?)

Got me to thinking- do you do any muscle building/strength exercises in your routine? Like free weights or something like that? I mean, really. Eight pound ball, dude!

Funny he should ask.

Monday night after TKD, I wandered into the weight room that Master Hughes has set up in an empty space. I'd been thinking of trying out weights for a while. Pam is in there before class; I could probably join her and have her show me how those machines work. I was thinking about that after class.

But I have to say, that room left me cold. I just was not inspired by it at all.

Maybe it's because I don't know how those things work. Maybe it's because I was tired after class.

Maybe it's because I'm basically a wimp.

Actually, I need to add more cardio into my workout schedule. That's more appealing to me anyway. I'm going to swim laps Thursday (or maybe Friday morning) instead of Thursday ballet class--maybe substitute it every other week. That's kind of a weight workout, isn't it? I mean, I'm pushing on all that water. That's got to do something.

Oh, and I'd like to point out that my brother also sustained a bowling injury last time he went.

I managed to pull my left ass muscle, he told me. I wonder if there are weight routines to prevent that. :-)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sports Injury

Yes, I have a sports injury. It is a . . . a bowling injury to my elbow.

OK, OK. Not as exciting as, say a black eye from sparring, or a torn ligament or something. In fact, it's a pretty wimpy injury.

First of all, it happened weeks ago, when I was visiting my family at Christmas. We all went out bowling together. And my elbow still hurts!

Not only that, I was bowling with an 8-pound ball! I mean, you'd think . . .

Well, I did fine during the first few frames (for me, anyway). But once my elbow started hurting, I bowled gutter ball after gutter ball. So I got injured for a lovely score of 69.


Not like anyone expected any better, though. Robbie didn't. But he was devastated that he wasn't the winner in the kids' lane.

"Yeah, that's a bummer," I said. "But at least you beat me. I did much worse than you did."

"I know, Mom," he said. "But you're really bad at sports."

The Bowling Incident reminds me that this is true. I'm not a jock. But I think I wouldn't know that I even had this injury if I weren't active! And though I'm bad at sports, I'm good at active. Even with a dorky injury.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Just a few photos

Just a few photos from last night. I wished I had a better camera--mine is terrible for action shots. I got so many pictures of things AFTER they'd happen.

Still, here are a few.
They did limbo, which was fun to watch. Ashley, who won, was awesome. She slipped right under that pole! Too bad I didn't get a photo of that. But even some of the bigger people, like Justin, here, did very well.

Everyone had fun. I like the idea of a skating party better than a dance as everyone can really participate. Younger kids and adults, as well as the teens. And the teens can still dress up and . . . well, hold hands with someone if they want! You can see here that they're having lots of fun.

Master Hughes sure throws a great party.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

We Like to Move it, Move it

This was the name of one song that Robbie requested at the TKD roller skating party this evening. It's an amusing and high-energy song from the movie "Madagascar." Robbie thinks it's the coolest song and goes around the house singing it loudly. He does everything loudly. And it's fun to hear him singing "I like to move it move it."

Bruce and I think it's hilarious because Robbie has ALWAYS liked to "move it move it" from the time he was born (and, actually, in utero). He's a guy on the move--learned to walk by 9 months. Today,he skates, runs, scooters, and bikes, full of energy and activity from the time he gets up to the time he crashes into bed at night.

I remember when I took him ice skating this December. "I just love being on the ice," he told me after a few high-speed, reckless turns round the rink. Reminded me of when he learned to ride his bike. Once he finally got it, he pedaled over to me where I was standing at the edge of the playground and said, wide-eyed, "Riding a bike--it's like flying."

Bruce always blames Robbie's intensely high energy levels on the my family's genes. I always say "It skipped a generation" and tell him that Robbie's like my Dad, whose energy these days is channelled into writing letters to the editor and stirring up trouble at the retirement community where he lives . . . but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it didn't skip a generation.

I'll admit it: I like to move it, move it, too!

I think this is becoming more apparent to me as I get older. When I was younger I wasn't as active as I am now, and certainly not as active as people around me (other kids my age, boys and girls). But as I get older, a time when most women my age are slowing down a bit, I'm not. I still love to skate, to dance, to swim, to hike, to bike, to learn TKD.

Like tonight, for example. I thought roller skating would be a fun thing to do, especially with Robbie and my TKD friends. But I didn't realize how much I would enjoy it. Wow, it's fun to go fast! And of course, I think many of my TKD friends, adults and kids, are just a bit addicted to moving fast as well, so they were great companions at the roller rink. Kevin and Justin both indulged me in some roller-rink racing contests. I'm not sure who "won," but the contests were invigorating.

Robbie and I overdid it, of course, as we "move it move it" junkies will. We took turns soaking in the tub and discussed how nice it would be to have one of those deep, wooden Japanese baths!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

End of a working out week

As I'm getting ready for TKD today, I realize that I've worked out every day but Friday this week. And two of those days were ballet classes after 3 weeks of break . . .

In the News
Before class starts, I seek out Arik and Miriam to congratulate them on having their picture in the paper. It ran along with an article about TKD for children in the local paper's "Mind and Body" magazine. The kids havn't seen the article yet, but are excited to hear that it's been printed. I promise to bring them a copy. As a freelancer it's easy for me to get tear sheets.

My article featuring Brian (all about plantar fasciitis) is on the facing page; two whole pages featuring students from our dojang! Brian says he hasn't seen it yet; he's been at work since early morning and I'm just glad to see he was able to get away for class!

Usual stuff
Class is smallish again, about 30 people. Justin begins by having us break up into small groups to do stretching and kicking. This is a great way to get some of the seniors to practice leading a class--kind of what I do in my classes once in a while. Students like small groups now and then. Gives the quieter ones a chance to shine.

We move on to the usual stuff: basic moves, forms. Then on to step sparring. I work with Pam, and we complain to each other about forgetting the moves too easily. "I just worked on these this week and already I'm not feeling sure about them," I mutter. But as we work through them, they come back to me.

Sparring memory loss
Pam and I work quickly through the forms while the rest of the class moves more slowly. When we get stuck, we ask her son Paul for help. ("Is Yellow Belt #4 a take-down?")(It's not.) Paul is looking so happy to be a black belt--and he seems to be enjoying doing his step sparring with Stephanie. He remembers all the step sparring without having to think about it. sigh.

When we start sparring, Pam is again my partner. I like working with her. She is clean and accurate in her kicks--no sloppiness at all. Then I face Matt (Stephanie's brother), whose long legs seem to be a hinderance today. I end up facing Justin, just like last week. Too bad it's when I'm a bit winded, but I still get ONE point in on him (this always surprises me).

Strength and Mercy
At then end, Justin does some strength training stuff. It's OK, but most of the class isn't really ready for it. I know some ways to get through stuff like that from ballet (leg lifts, lunges), but most people don't. I wonder if next time he will start small (maybe just 5-10 reps), stop, and let anyone do more if they're up to it. The children often ending up doing the exercises wrong (and so they might get hurt) and some of the adults don't like to wimp out. And I hope he'll remember to "stretch it out" --stretch the working muscles.

After class, Brian A., Pam, Cavio, and I go through our forms. That's good brain work and good exercise. I feel more awake--and more sweaty--afterwards.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Happy Birthday, Master Hughes!

Word must have been spread about Master Hughes's birthday and our celebration. When I got to the dojang Wednesday evening, there was a celebratory feeling in the air. A good crowd of children and adults milled around, and a number of parents were watching from the back.

Justin put me to work immediately, giving me the card to take round and have signed by everyone.

"He saw the cake," Justin told me.

"That's OK," I said. "It doesn't have to be a surprise."

Master Hughes had on a new red uniform today and was in high spirits (isn't he always?) He ran the class this evening, beginning with heavy-duty stretching. I can DO stretching, but because I didn't have a chance to warm up before class, I am hurting today!

At the end of class, Master Hughes gave a brief pep talk, encouraging the black belts to be involved and responsible, reminding us that he wanted our school to be involved with more tournaments.

Justin then brought up the cake.

"OK. Shall I run the gauntlet?" asked Master Hughes.

Everyone cheered and lined up in two lines.

We all enjoyed cake together.
It seemed like we have been needing a gathering like this. Things have felt slow at the dojang recently. Ms. Pryor hasn't been around, the holidays meant lots of people were out of town, and the numbers of students in classes has been small. I hope that this party--and the ad for the local paper Master Hughes showed me after class--will get our momentum going again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Did you ever wonder why ballerinas always have their hair like this?

Yesterday at Ballet Class
Suki: "Jane, you're closing your eyes when you do your pique turns."

Jane: "No, I'm spotting that wall." [I point to the wall in front of me]

Suki: "As you come around, though, you're closing your eyes. I think it's because of your hair. The end of your ponytail is going in your eyes when you come around."

My hair
I don't put my hair up in a bun for class. It's too wavy and thick to do it easily, so I do the lazy thing and just put it in a ponytail. After class, though, Suki showed me how to pin it up.

"It will stay out of your eyes when you turn and it will help your balance. The higher you get that bun, the better it will be. It won't throw you off balance when you turn."

Well, I never thought of that!

My new resolution for ballet: try the bunhead.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Brain Work

So what I want to know is why I can work on 3-step sparring on one day--and really have all those moves down--and the next day . . . I've completely forgotten all but White Belt #1 and #2.

Actually, I don't think I want to know why this happens. I just want to improve my memory--at least of the movements I need to know for martial arts.

That's the main reason I want to add one more TKD workout a week: for more repetition and better memorization!

This week I worked out with Brian on Monday morning. We found an empty squash court in the Racquet Center here at the college and went through all our forms, from Palgwe 5 on down, our kihaps echoing off the walls. Then we practiced step sparring. I think I have the White and Yellow Belt step sparring memorized now.

For those of you who aren't martial artists, step sparring is prescribed movements of self-defense. This is what white belt #1 looks like. (Brian and Brian were my models!) See how Brian A on the left blocks the punch and punches back--first to the stomach, then to the face . . .

Crazy, isn't it?

"I think I need to write these down," I said to Brian after we finished.

"Didn't I give you a copy? I can get you one," he offered.

"No. I have a copy. I need to actually write them down. It'll help me remember them," I told him.

OK. I did it. But maybe I better continue with those extra workouts, too!

Monday, January 09, 2006


I got into an interesting discussion about co-ed gym class on Saturday.

I think it was after the discussion about piercings when I said that nose piercings were cool and Chelsea said "why don't you get one?" Hmm. There's a thought.

Anyway, the topic turned to gym--phys ed--and I asked the girls, Cavio and Chelsea and Stephanie--if gym in middle and high school was still co-ed. They said it was.

"Co-ed gym. Now that was a really dumb idea. I'm surprised they still do it."

"I like playing against the guys," said Chelsea.

"Well, you're good at sports, Chelsea," I countered. "What about girls who aren't?"

I was talking from experience here.

Having gone to jr. high and high school in the 70's, I was one of the first generations of girls to be affected by Title IX; I believe that's the name of the law which insisted that boys and girls receive equal instruction in sports.

Equal? OK. Let's put them all together in the same class.

Personally, that didn't make my physical education equal to that of the boys.

In junior high, gym was run "pre-Title IX." We were separated by sex. I liked it.

The girls learned basketball, volleyball, softball, probably much like the boys did. But we also did gymnastics: trampoline, balance beam, bars. We learned archery, which I liked, and cheerleading, which made me feel silly.

Still, I didn't feel as far behind the others as I did in late elementary school, where boys and girls took gym together, and my lack of physical fitness and coordination seemed more apparent next to the blooming strength and speed of 5th and 6th grade boys.

In junior high, there were other small skinny (or tall skinny, or overweight) girls with no coordination or strength, and the teachers could help us at our own level. We made up an interest group on our own.

In high school, my first phys ed class was not only co-ed, but all-grades (that would be 10-12 grade). So there I was trying to play basketball with senior boys! Ridiculous! Did I even PLAY any basketball that semester? I think not. I remember kind of darting around on the court, trying alternately to get someone's attention and not get run over.

I figured it out the next time. I signed up for all the individual sports: swimming, fitness (running and weight lifting), golf. Now THAT worked! One of my prouder memories from high school gym class was running with Mr. Pheneger, the boys' basketball coach and gym teacher! He was running with me! With Jane, the non-athletic one of the family!

Still, I wonder if maybe all this equlity--and maybe the co-ed gym class stuff--has actually helped girls in the long run.

I pointed this out to the girls at TKD.

"When I was in school, very very few girls went out for sports. You had to be very serious and talented and kind of an independent spirit," I told them. "But now, it seems like there are so many sports choices for girls, and girls seem ready to take them. Maybe playing against boys in gym has helped!"

It's definitely true for the TKD girls I was talking with. Chelsea plays volleyball, Cavio plays tennis, and Stephanie runs track and plays basketball (so does Alissa, I believe).

"You don't have to be super great at some sport to play sports anymore. You can just like it and go out for it, like the boys do."

Of course that's not always good, as Chelsea pointed out. "Yeah, there are girls on the team who like volleyball but they aren't very good at all," she laughed.

Well, I suppose equality also might mean cutting people from teams or having plenty of bench-warmers, too.

I think I still prefer those individual sports.

Tell me what you think about co-ed sports in school--stories from your past or present!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Encouraging Words

"Are you thinking about going to any tournaments this year?" Stacey asks me.

Stacey and I are taking a much-needed water break after sparring at all-belts. My mitts are slimy with sweat inside and I need to wipe my face. It's been a good class today with Justin leading. We've done a good variety of activities, including sparring, just now. I even got to spar Justin, which was good, even though I got clocked in the head by his powerful hook kick.

Stacey's been helping me out a bit today, on my kicks, with 3-step sparring, with self-defense.

"Well, I'm thinking about maybe doing a tournament," I tell her. "I did our school's tournament last year and it was fun."

"You ought to think about the one in the Quad Cities," she says. "It's good, and people from our school usually do well on forms. "

"Maybe I will," I muse.

"You really ought to think about it," says Stacey. "I bet you'd do well. You're good. You've really come a long way since last year."

I don't remember if I thanked her for those words, but they rang in my ears for quite a while. Unasked-for encouragment is a wonderful gift.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Two ways to move

I've been trying to figure out a way to get in one extra TKD workout a week (bringing my total up to 3x a week). I need it mostly to help my memory. There is so much to memorize in this martial art: all the forms, and the 3 and 1 step sparring--that's a lot of exercises. Let me see: 10 forms and 21 step-sparring sequences if I just go through Orange Belt step sparring!

This week, I met Justin over at the dojang on Wednesday, before the children got out of school. He had some time, and so did I. We worked on forms and 3 & 1 step sparring for about a half hour.

At some point, we talked about tournaments. I asked if he'd ever been to a tournament with people who did other martial arts. He hadn't.

"It would be cool to see some of those other martial arts," I mused. "Like Kung Fu, Shaolin style martial arts. I'd really like to see that."

"OK," said Justin. "I'll show you my favorite form."

And he did! (He'd learned some from a teacher at his school.)

Shaolin style martial arts, like Kung Fu, look very different from Tae Kwon Do. Where TKD has direct, sharp, strong movements, Kung Fu has circular, softer movements. Justin showed me how some of them were used to block punches. One arm would circle in to start the block; the other would circle in and continue the block while the first arm prepared for a punch.

I'd like to see more of those kinds of forms. I'd like to see how they fight using that style.

In November, I tried out that Pilates class with my sister-in-law. I really liked the results, even after just one class! Those exercises really help lengthen the spine, improve the posture, and strengthen the abdomen.

The other day, I picked up a Pilates DVD, and I've tried out the exercises.

I'm not much into exercising with tapes/DVDs. I don't really have a place to do it (only 1 working TV and it's in the living room), and I'm not all that motivated to exercise the same way, alone all the time. And what if I do it wrong? No teacher to correct me.

Still, I thought it might be OK to try. The exercises are like some I did with Susan (of course there aren't any with machines like that "Reformer." We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy Birthday, Blog!

Exactly one year ago, on January 3, 2005, I began this blog. It's now one year old!

Happy Birthday, Blog!

When I began writing the Tae Kwon Do Mom blog, I thought of it as a place to draft a book.

But somewhere along the line, I decided that the blog itself is a satisfying and exciting piece of writing on its own. I'm not even sure if this story needs to be a book. Maybe it makes a better blog!

Keeping this blog, I have . . .
. . . made a (pretty involved) record of my experiences, observations, and thoughts about TKD.
. . . given family and friends a place to read about what I'm up to, at least in one aspect of my life.
. . . gotten a lot of writing practice. Blogger says I've posted 265 entries in the last year.
. . . had a chance to experiment with different writing styles and techniques, from storytelling to dialogue to description to book reviews, etc. etc.
. . . been able to combine my love of journal keeping with my desire to reach others through these frequent essay-like, column-like, story-like posts.
. . . heard from other writers, martial artists, friends, and family. Thanks for your comments, emails, and conversations!
. . . become more familiar with certain aspects of e-writing, digital photo manipulation, and internet-using.
. . . given myself a focus for my questions and reflections.
. . . found a focus for my passions: writing, learning, moving, and connecting with others.

Someday this may become some sort of book. My friend Steve sent article about "blooks," you guessed it, books made from blogs. There are, apparently, several sites which help bloggers create POD (print on demand) books out of their blogs, lulu.com, for example. Maybe my Mom and Dad would like a copy someday . . . if I ever deem this project "done!"

Still, right now, this blog itself is a great adventure for me. I hope you've been enjoying it, too! If you do, please let me know! (This blog no longer allows anonymous posts, so if you post, be sure to register with Blogger! It's easy. And maybe you'll decide to start a blog!)

Monday, January 02, 2006

Back to the dojang

It's good to be back at the dojang again. I kick off my shoes, hang up my coat, and change into my uniform. There's a small crowd working out--maybe some people are taking this federal holiday off.

Everyone I greet says similar things: how glad they are to be back, and how they worry they've forgotten a lot! Pam says she and her family took the week off; both Brians went to the "mini-tournament" which was also sparsely attended. I didn't hear how they did.

One thing makes me happy: I remember my new form. I'm finding Palgwe 5 easier to learn than, oh, say, my last 3 forms. This one seems to make sense, once I got those scissors blocks down. Brian and I run through it and then work backwards through the others. I get stuck somewhere around Do San. Kevin joins us at some point: his memory for forms and the 3 & 1 steps is amazing!

"I need a brain transplant," I joke. "You just need to think about them," says Kevin. "Even when I'm just sitting around, I go over them in my head."

Yeah. That's what I used to do when I was dancing regularly and had to learn half a dozen new dances a year. But that was ONE dance at a time!

Master Hughes has us all do our forms at one time, and he gives suggestions to just about everyone after it's over. This amazes me: that he can be watching everyone closely enough during that chaos to notice what each person does!

We do a little combination-kicking exercise next. I decide to partner up with Jamie. She has a black eye!

"What happened to your eye?" I ask.

"It happened during wrestling," she replies.

"Wrestling?! Are you a wrestler?"


"Jamie! That is so cool! I've only known one woman wrestler before. She was a student of mine and about my size. So are you the only girl wrestling at your school?"


I will have to talk with her sometime about what got her interested in wrestling.

After class (and after we sing Happy Birthday to 12-year-old Dylan), people drift away saying "see you Wednesday." I don't usually come on Wednesday, and I'm feeling a bit reluctant to leave. Seems like it'll be a long time until Saturday, my next all-belts class. . . So I get my board signed, listen to Master Hughes talk about a possible upcoming trip to Chinatown in Chicago, and wonder if there's someone around to work on 3 & 1 steps with me.

I look around for Brian, and see him at the other side of the dojang, getting sparring gear on. So is Justin. Well, I'd like to watch that match. Seems like even watching sparring can give one new ideas.

The match is fun to watch. I'm watching both of them, trying to figure out each person's style . . . and how I might counter it next time I'm fighting one of those guys!

Another workout time?
So I'm wondering if I might be able to work out sometime during the day, while the kids are in school--especially this week when there's no ballet, but even in the future. I don't want to come another evening as I'll be teaching Tuesday evenings, so I'll be away from home 2-3 evenings in a row.

That's not an issue with most of the adults, since they come with their families, or at least their children. But since it's just me, I don't really want to be away that much!

I suppose I could work out at home, but it's so much more satisfying and useful to work out with at least one other person. I wonder if Ms. Pryor would like to work out with me--she's been working 2nd shift and can't come to classes. If a few of us could meet with her at an odd time, it might be worth it for her! Maybe on Saturday, I'll ask Master Hughes.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Blogs and Martial Arts

"Blogs are saturated with the personality of their creator."
--From Who Let the Blogs Out, by Biz Stone

"We become the form, we are the form, and the form is an expression of life within and without; it is life moving through us."
--From One Encounter, One Chance, by Terrence Webster-Doyle

I was thinking recently about how different these two activities are: blogging and martial arts. Yet they are both so satisfying to me. Maybe they emphasize two different ways of being that are both satisfying.

The presence of personality seems to be one issue where blogging and martial arts differ. Seems like in martial arts, you need to--at some level--overcome the quirks of personality to become part of something greater than you are. When you do forms--heck, when you line up and bow to the teacher--you have to put aside personality and willingly "become" that form, especially when doing a form with classmates.

But when we "become a form," we also shape that form--just the slightest bit--with our own energy and style. I noticed this when watching the black belts do forms. Once Justin and Chelsea were doing the same form and they looked quite different--Chelsea flexible and light on her feet; Justin deliberate and powerful.

It makes me wonder what my forms look like in comparision to my classmates'. I know that my Palgwe 5 form, my newest, has more power than earlier forms--I think this is because I worked on it quite a bit with Justin and am absorbing some of his style and energy.

Still, a form is a form. There's not too much freedom to alter it. (None, actually.)

On the other hand, as Biz Stone suggests, this blog probably is more "suffused with personality" than a form! I would say that writing a blog is more like sparring, the part of TKD where individual style and finesse matter most. Like sparring, writing a blog requires attention to someone beyond oneself. You don't write--or spar--in isolation!

Plus, writing a blog, more than writing other genres, really allows for creativity. I can post pictures and write about them, answer questions, make links, and write up my post in any number of ways (conversations, lists, a story, etc.) And I can write about topics and in a style that refects my personality, or at least some aspects of my personality.

Luckily, though, blogging allows time for thinking and revision. (Due to the busyness of this day, I've written this post in a couple of sittings!)