Saturday, July 29, 2006

Justin returns

I was surprised to look up from my stretching this morning and see Justin, stretching out across the dojang from me. I went across to greet him and welcome him back.

He's been in France for the last month travelling with friends and staying with French families.

A month is a wonderful amount of time to spend in a foreign country. If you're there that long--and living with natives, as Justin was--the country becomes a little bit of "home," not so foreign. You have somewhere to park your toothbrush, is how I described my long-term stays abroad.

"So did you spend the whole time speaking French?" I asked.

"About two weeks of it," he said.

I peppered him with questions, but I really would like to hear more about the trip--with some visuals like a map and some photos! Having been in that situation before, I know it's hard to answer the question "how was your trip?" in a polite 2-3 sentences that most people want.

And here's the annoying thing: after 4 weeks of not doing TKD--or much of anything, according to Justin himself, he still did the best across-the-floor moves of anyone there! Natural athelete, I thought to myself. And it doesn't hurt to be 18.

The Test

"OK. Jane--you come up and try. One chance."

"Yes, ma'am."

This is the second time in as many weeks that Ms. Pryor has asked me--and others in the dojang--to come up in front of the class and break two boards with a jump reverse kick. Everyone's standing there, watching. I go to the front.

I really want to break these boards. This is the break I want to do at the test. I know I can do it, but I . . . haven't . . . yet.

I line up, breathe, focus. Then ki-hap and jump into the board. No break.

Just like last time.

She calls up student after student. "One chance." But no one has any better luck. That happened last time, too. (After class the last time I stopped June. "Hey, thanks for not breaking. It made me feel better," I joked.)

Ms. Pryor wants us all to be able to break without practice, first time. I know I can do it, but I think I'll need a practice kick at a pad right before. Of course that's not really allowed at a test.

Brian offered to buy me some boards and saw them up so I can practice.

"No. I still have the boards you cut for me before," I tell him.

"You should bring them in and practice."

I suppose I should.

Friday, July 28, 2006


Ms. Pryor's uniform advice was this: buy the top and bottom in different sizes.

Apparently you can do this with black belt uniforms. Those of us who are not black belts have to buy 2 uniforms.

So that's what I did: found a light-weight uniform I wanted and bought TWO of them: one size 2 and one size 3. The size 3 pants are long enough. The size 2 top fits nicely.

Of course, I now have a mismatched uniform that I'm not wearing: size 3 jacket, size 2 pants! Perhaps some mom would like an extra pair of pants for a size 2 child. . . .

I like this uniform, too, because it's a v-neck, rather than the jacket (which can come unwrapped).

But I don't know what these little ties are for . . . they're attached to the back flap of the top. Anyone know?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Black Belts

Mr. Carter
Some people aren't completely at ease with the way Mr. Carter has come back to the dojang, taking back a leadership role and being quite vocal.

"Were you getting some advice from Mr. Carter?" I asked one student (students will remain anonymous . . . )after I saw him correcting her on her form. "Did he give you some advice?'
"Yeah," she told me. "Constantly!"

"I sparred with Mr. Carter," I told another student.
"I don't know what was with him and his fighting stance," she commented. "He was jumping around--it made me think of a dog! I would have laughed if he'd done that to me."

"He's loud," I said to yet another student as we worked out to the sound of Mr. Carter shouting at someone.
"Yeah, that's all he seems to do," he answered. "Yell."

Mr. Carter's loudness and hyper-intensity is getting on some peoples' nerves, it seems. Master Hughes is loud and sometimes intense, but he also has a laid-back, genial good humor that eases tension.

I don't really like Mr. Carter's current approach, but it seems to me it comes out of an enthusiasm and love for Tae Kwon Do. He seems really really glad to be back. Maybe he'll settle down a bit once he's been there a while.

Ms. Pryor
She's helped me with a few things recently:
1. Sparring--she gave me some advice on avoiding kicks. "Just step back--you don't need to reach forward to block a kick."
2. Making the end of Won-Hyo look reasonably good.
3. Uniforms. More on that in a later post.

"I think Justin's coming back sometime soon," I mentioned to Stephanie and Cavio at the end of class.

"I hope not," said Cavio. "I've never liked him. He wants everyone to know he's a 2nd degree black belt. Kind of a show off."

Stephanie and I don't say anything. I'm thinking totally untrue--that's the opposite of what Justin's like. I bet Steph is thinking the same thing.

I think there's tension between Cavio and Justin because they're about the same age, and Cavio joined our dojang very recently after a very long training elsewhere. They also have very different personalities. . . I'm sure it's been a bit awkward.

Black Belts to Be
There's a huge group of people testing for black belt next month. Pam, Jim, Brian A., and June are all testing, along with a big group of kids including Savaun, Grace, and maybe Brittany.

I'm going to be sure to go to that black belt test!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


(Not a surprise: I'm still having trouble with my reverse tornado kicks. My kick ends up hitting someone at about ten o'clock rather than at noon, in other words, a bit to the left of my target. Sigh. Guess I'll just keep practicing. At some point I'll get it.)

Here's the surprise.

We line up for sparring this evening. First I'm paired off with Michelle, Brian A.'s daughter. Next, though, I'm with Mr. Carter, the black belt who's recently returned. He's not wearing pads.

"Don't you have pads?" I ask.

"I'm not wearing them. The only reason I'd need them is to protect you," he says.

"Well, yeah," I answer. "That's what I meant."

Maybe this comment threw him off. Or maybe it's my size. Ah, a tiny ballerina: easy. Or maybe it's the mom thing. Someone's mom. No problem. Whatever it was, he seemed to think he could just catch all my strikes.

He did catch a number of them, but I scored on him several times: roundhouse to the chest, high front kick, a punch. He seemed surprised.

Nice of him, though, when time was up, he didn't just bow. He shook my hand. "Nice sparring!" he said.

He said it again at the end of class. "Thank you, sir. I like sparring," I replied, and bowed.

I also like surprising people. :-)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tough to go back . . .

I went to ballet today, only the second time since our trip to Cleveland and the 4th of July break (2 weeks off). I almost didn't go.

You know how it is when you haven't done something in a while. You think you're not going to be able to manage it, and somehow a sedentary day seems kind of appealing. . .

But I dragged myself over there, and it was good.

There's something very . . . good about doing ballet. Of course it's also exhausting and difficult. But the stretches are gentle and progressive, the combination exercises flow (even the allegros and jumps), and it's great to move to music.

This is very much different from TKD, where sometimes I feel like we stretch too hard, too fast. And those punches and kicks--such violent movements are hard on the joints. Sometimes when we do our kim ja sae jong dan kong keok (horse stance middle punch), which is the first movement of class, I can just feel my shoulder and elbow joints slamming out as I throw that punch. Ouch!

So ballet was good. It was warm in the studio, and I was able to do a passable right-leg-forward splits. Actually I did it Monday at TKD, well enough that Kevin, next to me, said "show off." I was just glad Master Hughes also saw!

(I must say that I was the only one able to manage it in the back 2 rows. I couldn't see the front row with the black belts.) (I sound like a show-off, don't I?)

In ballet, Suki, my usual teacher is back, and we did all the familiar stuff. Though I certainly wasn't in peak form, I could manage OK. And I was glad I got myself over there.

Monday, July 24, 2006


I am now the proud owner of a TKD notebook.

In it are pages for each belt level, giving the steps for that belt's form, and listing what new kicks, movements, and terminology need to be learned. For some reason, I never had one until now . . .

"I need something from your office," I told Master Hughes at class tonight. "I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I never got a notebook."

"Well, you've done pretty well without a notebook," he said, surprised.

"I've been cribbing off of Brian," I admitted. Brian always has his notebook in his TKD bag, and we consult it when we can't remember the next step in a form. "But when he's not here, I'm lost."

I'm glad to get my own notebook. I like that our program emphasizes learning more than just movements; we have to learn terminology and the meanings of forms, etc. I need to get those numbers learned (hana, doul, set, net . . . ) and the names of the kicks (ap chaki = front kick, yap chaki = side kick . . . ).

For my black belt test, I need to "write a paper titled 'What Tae Kwon Do Means to Me' . . . the paper must be at least 2 pages long." I wonder if I could submit this blog . . . :-)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A friend in need

This repair project had me completely daunted . . . until Brian A. came along to help me out!

We've needed new thresholds into and out of the kitchen for a long time. The old ones had gotten all chipped up. But I had no idea how to replace them! (I am not what you'd call handy.) There were no nails or screws that I could see . . . until suddenly I remembered how they were installed: they snapped onto a metal track.

So I pulled them off with the claw of a hammer, took them to Home Depot, bought the new threshold trim, and took that over to the Home Depot saw to get it cut to the right size. How clever am I?

But they wouldn't cut it for me. "We don't do precision cutting," the guy said. "You can cut it yourself. Just use your hacksaw."

I don't have a hacksaw. I was completely discouraged.

Until I rememberd that Brian A. is good at fixing things. I got advice from him to fix my dryer vent once.

So I called him up, and he stopped by today to cut the trim . . . and fix the banister. Matthew and Michelle came along, too, and played at our house.

It took him no time at all. "Piece of cake." Well, not for me. I am very grateful. "That's what friends are for," he said.

And for the friendship, I'm even more grateful!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Clearer head and thoughts about school

This morning was the first since my orthodontist appointment that I didn't have to get up and immediately take ibuprofen. I guess my teeth are getting used to the turbo-charging rubber bands.

I also noticed in class today that my head was clearer; I could focus on what I was doing much more easily.

It was a good workout, too. Started with "marching"--doing kicks down the floor. I was glad I'd done some lap swimming the day before to keep up my cardio fitness because that kinds of stuff really gets a person breathing hard!

After we worked on forms, we also worked on some sparring--"technique today," said Ms. P.

I was paired up with Dillon, one of the junior black belts, and we worked on defending oneself against an axe kick.

"Oh good," I said. "Brian's always doing this on me."

Here's the news: it's tough to defend oneself against an axe kick. But we practiced a few things that will work, I think. I told Dillon not to tell Brian any of them (he was working today so missed out).

I enjoyed working out with Dillon. He's 12 and about my height. He reminds me a bit of Eli, with fair skin, fine hair, and a slender build. We decided that we liked working out with someone our size (he's about my height) rather than the usual tall people. And it was nice to be able to practice kicks to the head without having to stretch too much!

After class, I saw Dillon and John's mom.

"I have to tell you that I really enjoy your boys," I said.

"Oh, I'm glad to hear that," she said smiling. "It's nice to hear that from someone else."

I told her how I was impressed not just with their TKD skills, but also with their good behavior and the way they did not bicker with each other.

"And they're always really nice and talk with me even though I'm just an adult," I said, laughing.

"Lots of people say that," she replied. "I think it's because they're home-schooled."

I had thought they might be home-schooled. Several kids at the dojang are. I think TKD is a nice way for home-schooling parents to get the kids doing something in a group, and to get another adult involved with educating their child.

I think if anyone asked me, I'd say that my kids are home-schooled, too! Just not exclusively. All kids are home-schooled! They learn a lot from the culture of their families: to read for enjoyment, to exercise for fun, to treat others fairly, to be curious, to love learning, to persevere. And kids learn about their parents' jobs, especially when we work at home. My kids have learned much from travelling, since we love to travel.

Of course, it takes the right kinds of kids to home-school well. (I think Eli would take to home-schooling very well, but not Robbie). And it takes the right kinds of parents (patient, educated, intuitive, organized, energetic, willing to persevere . . . )

My hats off to people who do it well!

Thursday, July 20, 2006


"I had some trouble focusing in class this week," I tell Bruce after I get back from TKD.

"Probably because your body is trying to deal with other things right now," he says.

Huh? Oh yeah.

I got my braces tightened on Monday.

"We're gonna turbo-charge these teeth, close up that space a bit quicker," said the orthodontist, putting on an extra rubber band connecting "#3-#6," the teeth on the upper right side.

It doesn't hurt much, except to chew . . . but the constant slight pain seems to cause a bit of static in my consciousness. That's probably why I feel spacey. Or more spacey than usual.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

TKD Feet

Summer is hard on bare feet doing TKD.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Weird Job

I haven't been writing as often as I'd like recently--because of the trip and also because of my strange job: freelance writing. I'm working on a set of freelance articles about the University's football stadium renovation. It's keeping me busy.

Doing freelance writing is odd work. I thought about this the other day when I was sitting in my robe and slippers at 8:30 a.m. doing a phone interview. I don't have to get dressed up to go to work!

And then when I write up the pieces, I often have company. At least in the summer.

The computer's down in the basement. The guys are home in the summer. So they play with Legos or the rats behind me while I write. Sometimes they put rats on my shoulders.

Weird job. But kind of cool, really.

Heat Wave

Still hot here, enough to make it hot up at the dojang even with both air conditioners going. So Monday night, we were all drenched with sweat after our workout, and there wasn't even sparring.

I did work on a few things:

1. My reverse kick. I have trouble with those, especially more than one in a row. "I think I'm doing an outside pirouette," I told Brian. "I'm going all the way around instead of stopping half way to kick."

I think what I need to do again has to do with my feet. Going from a horse stance, facing the side, I just need to turn that front foot about 1/4 of a turn (to toes-pointing-back) so I can execute the kick without swinging my body past the target.

2. The "W" block in Toi-Gye. Mr. Carter had Brian look at mine while I did them. "They look like "U"s, not "W"s," Brian said. Mr. Carter suggested just bringing my fists out further from my body.

Master Hughes later added that I needed to drop my elbows so that the angle was sharper. Oh! That makes sense. Hope I can remember.

3. Brian and I went over our forms and step sparring after class. I don't remember the last time I practiced step sparring.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Returning Black Belt

I haven't yet written about Mr. Carter.

He's a black belt from our school who moved out of town (I think) a while ago. Recently, he's returned, and has been working out with us in class this week.

After spending the last 6 months or so watching black belts leave our school, it's encouraging to have someone come back. I realize that some attrition is natural. Many people consider themselves "done" with TKD when they receive the Black belt. They move on to something new.

But right now, the only adult black belts we have are Ms. Pryor and Master Hughes. Justin is in France, and will be away at university next year.

So it's nice to know there's someone else here who really knows what he's doing.

I don't know much about Mr. Carter except that he knows and has taught Kum Do, Korean sword. I asked him today if he'd be teaching it again.

"My son Robbie took it for a while and loved it," I told him.

"If I do, it'll have to be different from the way most people teach it," he said. He wants his classes to include forms, not just sparring. And he doesn't want the children to work with foam swords. "They need to get the feel of bamboo."

I don't know what it would be like to come back to TKD after being gone 9 months. Mr. Carter seems to have stepped right back into a leadership role. He readily critiqued and made suggestions to students.

I'm not sure if I would do that in his place. I think coming back somewhere it would be more courteous to hold back for a while, to watch and take suggestions until I'd been there and established who I am.

I remember being at TKD once when an older guy came in to work out with us. He worked out in jeans and a shirt, and stood back with the lower belts. He wasn't very good. But when we worked on kicks, he offered many critiques of the others. I was puzzled, even a bit miffed. But I bowed, etc. and didn't say anything.

Someone told me later that he's been a brown belt long ago and he was thinking of coming back to TKD. OK. So maybe at one time he'd been my senior. But now? Is it right to come back and immediately start "teaching?"

This is an extreme case, not like Mr. Carter's--he seems to know TKD and have worked with some of us. Still, I wonder what the etiquette is for "coming back."

Heat Index

"Is that real?"

I'm at class and Master Hughes is examining my ankle.

"No, it's temporary," I tell him. "It says 'health.' It's a blessing for my ankle, which has been bothering me."

It's hot hot hot outside today (90 degrees by 10 am) but the air conditioners are roaring in our dojang. Just a small group today, mostly black and brown belts--who else would be crazy enough to come on a day like this? But we get in a good workout.

We do some stretching, some basic moves, some kicks. Then Master Hughes has us sit at the back. He calls us up one by one to "set up breaks." We have 30 seconds to set up three holders so that we can do 3 breaks, one after another.

There are no boards, just pads, but still. Even pretend breaking is nerve-wracking. When he calls my name, I stifle a whimper and go up. I talk through my breaks ("Hmm . . . how about a palm strike, reverse kick, and then an axe kick . . ." ). Then, with some loud kihaps, I "break" my "boards" . . . or maybe not.

It's a good idea, though. Maybe learning to set up boards is almost as important as actually breaking them--getting the distances and angles right without help. Oh yes, and deciding what you're going to do.

At the end, we spar. I do OK against John and Paul.

"You fight facing forward," I tell Paul. He is a big guy--so a big target. But maybe he doesn't need to turn sideways. "You have intimidation on your side. I just have speed!" I say.

When I spar with Ms. Pryor (always a treat--I learn a lot), I have to change my approach. She fights like I do, fast and with high kicks, but way better! I think I would have been out after about 5 seconds! But Master Hughes compliments my control.

"If someone has good control of their legs, they can use balance to get in double kicks. Work with that strength," he says to me, in front of everyone, at the end.

There'll be an informal practice tomorrow at 11. I'm flattered to be invited. I might drop by after church.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Thoughts on Self-Defense

Kicker Chick left a post with a link to the on-line version of Black Belt magazine. The topic: Women and self-defense. An intriguing article!

The author, Kathy Long, says that most of what we do in TKD is "overrated" as self-defense tactics. She says it's best to go for vulnerable areas: eyes, windpipe, and groin. You can read it for yourself if you click here.

Of course, this is what Brian is always trying to show me.

As you readers might have gathered, I don't really find the subject of self-defense very vital to my life, certainly not in the way it would if I were, say, a police officer. Or a social worker who goes into rough neighborhoods. Or a young, poor woman growning up in a bad part of town.

Still, I suppose it's good to know that if anyone every tried to physically attack me, I'd know what to do. And the self-defense training we occasionally work on in class is giving me a clearer idea of what I would do.

As an aptly-named article, "Know What You're Training For," in the July issue of Black Belt says:

. . . the recipe for action against an armed opponent is as follows: if you're a civilian, your goal is to escape. If you're in law enforcement, your goal is probably to arrest. If you're in the military, your goal is usually to eliminate.

It's good to remember that my goal is escape and not anything more.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Non-Jock's day of Glory

I read an interesting article in the NY Times last week. Actually, I read a lot of interesting articles in the Times last week! They have the most awesome feature sections, including one on Thursday called "Styles" where I read an article called "Once an Athletic Star; now an Unheavenly Body."

"The dirty little secret among former high school and college jocks is that many don't remain active as adults. In their glory days, they were the fittest among their peers. But as adults, many are overtaken by nonjocks who embrace fitness as a committment to health, forget the varsity letter."

So are any of you readers former nonjocks? I certainly am. I like the idea that I am "overtaking" those BMOC and BWOC who were celebrated for their athletic ability when I was a plain old nerd.

And are any of you former HS and college jocks who've switched from a team sport to martial arts?

You can read the rest of the article at the New York Times website, at but you'll have to register.

(I can't post links or use italics, etc. because I'm using my brother's IBook and don't quite know my way around it! Or perhaps Blogger isn't IBook friendly.)

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Three Things

My ankle wasn't too bad at class Saturday, at least before and during class. But when I told Brian A. about it, I found that he had a similar injury.

"See, where there should be a hollow, it's all swollen."

I told him what I knew about inflamed bursae. We commiserated about weird recurring injuries. Ms. Pryor joined us. "What I really hate," she said, "is when you get an injury and you don't know what you did to injur yourself."

Despite mild injuries, it was a good class. I learned three things.

Wheel Kicks
"You need to lean back when you do a wheel kick," said Brian A. He was holding the pad while we worked on wheel kicks, one of my worst kicks.

"Lean back?"

"Yeah. You're staying upright. It's easier if you lean back like you're doing a side kick."

I hadn't noticed.

I tried Brian's advice, and it worked! I did a passable wheel kick.

"Your dad always has good advice," I told Michelle.

Focus and Eye Contact
Ms. Pryor was teaching Alex, but I learned too.

"Do your form and don't make eye contact with anyone," she said. Alex was in the middle of a big circle of the rest of us.

He did it once, then again, the second time Ms. Pryor approved.

"You need to show the judges that you're just thinking about what you're doing. You can't be worried about people watching you. It shows power and strength if you don't make eye contact."

Palm Strike
"So I think I'll just do a jump reverse kick, two boards, and . . . I don't know. I guess another elbow strike."

Brian A. and I are discussing how we'll set up our breaks for the next test. He has to break 3 with a foot technique and 2 with hand.

Me, I just have to do the same I did last time . . .

"Why not try a palm strike this time," Brian suggested.

Yeah, right.

"Like this?" I line up for one. He holds out the board.

"Just strike out straight from the shoulder."

"Should I try breaking?"

"Go ahead."

And so I did: break a board with a palm strike.

After it snaps (no it didn't hurt), I stood there, awestruck, while everyone turned around and stared.

OK. So maybe it'll be a palm strike.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Yesterday I swam. Today, I did nothing exercise-ish. My ankle is feeling OK. A bit tender but OK. I'm hoping it will be fine for class tomorrow.

Ms. Pryor told us that she suffered a major injury to her knee early in her study of TKD. She also has a joint-punishing job in which she has to stand on concrete. "We wear safety shoes," she said. "Still--that's terrible for your joints," I replied.

I guess most people have to work around various injuries or handicaps, especially those of us over the age of . . . oh, say 35. If it's not ankles or knees, it's rotator cuffs or lower back troubles or plantar fascitis. Some people plow ahead regardless; some find ways to work around weaknesses. I think I'd be the second.

We'll see how I hold up Saturday.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

1 1/2 feet

Maybe it was that rough noodle hockey game the other day, but my right ankle is feeling sore. It reminds me of the time this past spring when I had that inflamed bursa.

I didn't really realize it was bothering me, so I went to class Wednesday, as I planned, and didn't even really notice it until Brian and I started going through the forms.

"You OK?" he asked when I stopped to rub my ankle.

"My ankle's bothering me," I said, and I think that was the first time I really knew it hurt. You can go around most of the day ignoring something like that, but once you have to jump and stand in a horse stance, you notice.

I kept going, though. But through the whole class, I felt distracted by it, unable to really concentrate because I was thinking about favoring that foot.

Getting an injury is one thing. When I had that inflamed bursa, I just took a week off and did the healing things: tight bandage, effluerage massage, ibuprofen. And then I was back.

But I don't like the idea that the injury can come back to haunt me later. So now I have to be careful playing noodle hockey?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Photos in a junkyard

We finally got copies of the photos Ms. Pryor took at the Prairie du Chein junkyard! I love to look at them--they make me smile.

Here we all are.

A few of the braver people climbed up on top of an old junked crane--maybe 30 feet high--for exciting shots. I kept my feet on the ground and tried to stay calm watching them. Here's Justin doing a side kick up there . . .

These Been boys look tough.

This is probably my favorite photo.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Trouble with a Junior Belt . . . .

The crowd's small for the 4:30 kid's class. I had told Brian I would be there to help (he signed up to teach), but it looks like adults will outnumber children: me, Brian, Kevin, and Matthew are the only ones there.

We begin with some stretches and warm up kicks. It's all going fine until a couple more kids walk in, a bit late.

It's Arik and Miriam, brother and sister. He's a junior black belt, about 12 or 13. She is younger, maybe 10, and a brown belt.

I figure they'll come join us, but that's not what happens. Miriam slumps into the room, and Arik walks directly up to the front and begins barking out commands to Brian (who's leading us).

I'm shocked, but not completely shocked. I've encountered rude and bossy junior BBs before (you can see my entry of March 30, 2005 in the archives if you want to read about another). Brian lets the rudeness go, but I can see he's really ticked.

We let Arik know that Brian's signed up to teach, and I invite him to work out with us. He doesn't join us. He stands at the edge, watching.

As we get started again, with Kevin leading Basic Movements, Arik butts in again, barging up to the front to loudly "correct" Kevin's stance even as Kevin is calling out the movement.

This time, I can tell that both Kevin and Brian are really getting irked. We let Arik know that we're taking turns leading class. "Which part of class would you like to lead?" I ask him. "Think about what part you want to lead. And please join us. Black belts should set a good example by doing the exercises."

"I don't do basic moves. I'll start yawning."

I wonder if other schools have occasional problems with rogue junior black belts. Most of our young black belts are respectful and responsible. But then there's Arik!

And what a position he put us in this evening. Officially, he's of a higher rank than we are. But we are adults, Brian's the one who signed up to teach the class, and clearly Arik is much to immature to teach. He doesn't even know all the forms.

When we break away to work on forms while the children had a chance to play, I can feel the anger simmering in both Kevin and Brian. They speak quietly but bitterly about Arik's behavior.

As we do our forms, I think about how best to diffuse tension so we can actually have a class. Suddenly, an image comes to mind: Master Hughes showing how to use a W-block. "You don't want to meet the punch head-on," he said. "You just want to deflect the energy."

I think that's what I want to happen with Arik. Not for us to meet him head on, beat him, or "win." I just want to deflect his energy. See if I can get it going in a good and productive direction, even if it's not exactly what we had in mind for class.

After the adults work together on forms for a while and the children blow off some steam, we let Arik choose the next activity. It's noodle hockey. Then more time for forms. Then some tumbling.

I think we work it out the best we can. But we all know we don't want this kind of thing to happen again. It's much too frustrating and awkward.

When Ms. Pryor comes in, she's quickly informed about the junior BB problem. She calls Arik aside and talks quietly with him.

"I told him that I would never come in and start teaching a class if someone else was signed up to do it," she reports to us later. "And I said that he is really not ready to instruct."

It's something all three adults could have told him. But here's one of the difficulties of believing too much in a belt ranking system: even though we adults (who are below Arik in rank) can run class much better than he ever could, and we can even get class to run when he's disrupting it, he would never have listened to the same words of advice from us.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Swimming and eating

It's muggy this morning. My joints are tight and achy as they often are in this kind of weather. I stretch out at home, and get to class early for more stretching, but I'm wishing I could go swimming today instead of TKD--it always makes me feel better on stiff days.

But it's good to be at the dojang. In the middle of the room, Jim and Brian A. are going through forms together while Chelsea watches. Both men are testing for black belt in August. So are Pam and June--they're working out elsewhere in the room. The children run around, alternately working on forms and goofing off.

Brian has managed to get away from work to be at Saturday class, so we go through our forms, and the 1 and 3-steps too, getting through all of them, despite Brian's sore back.

(He and Jim had been sparring Wednesday, and one thing leading to another, Brian had been knocked backwards onto the ground. "You guys are way too rough," I tell Brian. "No, we weren't," he counters. "No. I've seen you. You guys ignore 'light to no contact' sometimes," I say.)

Class is supposed to start at 11, but everyone keeps working out individually, and Master Hughes circulates among the groups and pairs, offering advice and help.

It's really hot and muggy. The air-conditioner is on, but it doesn't seem to be doing much. I'm swimming already in sweat.

At 11:30, Master Hughes calls us over.

"As you all know, I'm going out of town tomorrow and I'll be gone for two weeks. So today I wanted to treat everyone to some egg rolls and fried rice at Phon Lan."

Everyone looks around, puzzled. Then pleased. We get dressed and walk the block to the little Vietnamese restaurant around the corner from the dojang. The owner is already bringing out plates of spring rolls and egg rolls.

There's something wonderfully compatable about eating with friends. Sharing food is a great way to share friendship!