Tuesday, October 31, 2006

TKD Halloween Party

"Sarah had a great time at the party," said my friend Karen. Her daughter, Sarah, came to the TKD Halloween party with Stephanie.

"Yeah. Master Hughes throws awesome parties," I said.

I don't have my camera back yet, but I have these pictures taken by Brian A.

Kevin and Denise were . . . well, guess which nursery rhyme. . .

The children enjoyed playing.

Dr. Evil here was looking for Austin Powers.

Robbie has that "not in public, Mom" look. But he enjoyed himself!

Ms. Pryor created a pinata filled with candy. Children kicked it until it burst!

Here's Sarah and Stephanie . . .

And the whole gang of youth!

Me, being Mitzi Mittens, our kittty.

Justin had to teach me the macarena. Glad I finally learned it.

So what does this have to do with TKD? Parties like this one aren't necessary for studying TKD, but I'm glad Master Hughes has them. I feel a strong bond with my fellow TKD students, and I think that bond is strengthened by the friendly, outgoing approach to learning that Master Hughes inspires through class and through our (many) social events. We study together, work hard together, sweat together--and play together! It builds trust and friendship, two elements that have been important to my study of martial arts.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Party with TKD!

I don't know if other schools do this, but our dojang has lots of social events. We've gone on a trip together (see pictures in the May archives), gone out to lunch together, celebrated birthdays, gone roller skating . . . and tonight was our annual Halloween party!

How do you throw a party that will interest everyone, from the 4-year-old mini-ninjas to the adults? Well, we decorate the dojang, hire a D.J., and have a potluck. It was "costume mandatory" and "bring a friend," so the place was packed with jedi, skeletons, a cheerleader, a geisha, kitties, witches, various gothic and romatic figures, belly dancers, movie characters, a sumo wrestler, and a hula girl.

We goofed around, danced n(YMCA, Macarena, Cha Cha Slide, that kind of stuff), and ate. Master Hughes emceed a costume contest, and the children took turns kicking at a "pinata" (can't get the squiggly thing over the n) full of candy. An enjoyable, crazy time for all, especially the young people who are too old for trick or treat and classroom Halloween parties. I guess that would include adults, too, wouldn't it?

I promise to share some photos next time. I took some with my camera, but my camera has gone missing. I'll have to wait for some photos from Brian's trusty (and better) camera. Hope mine turns up soon.

Any of you martial artists out there have dojang parties?

Saturday, October 28, 2006


"You don't hold back when you spar, do you Jane?"

Mindy and I are getting changed after Tae Kwon Do.

"I like sparring . . . " I say.

"I mean you actually make contact. You were really going at it," she says. "I always come close, but I don't make contact. I don't want to hurt anyone."

"Oh. Well, I hope it was light contact," I say. "I'm used to sparring with the guys. "

I haven't ever been called on having too heavy of contact when I spar, but Mindy's comment makes me wonder. Am I hitting too hard? I do spar with men a lot, and they make contact--usually light contact, but we do actually kick each other.

I know there are some schools where contact of any kind is not allowed. Some of the women at the Jung's tournament were surprised, even horrified that we actually made contact in sparring at the tourney.

Maybe before I spar with women I should ask if light contact is OK or if they'd rather I used no contact. I'm pretty good at sparring and I don't want to be a bully if someone doesn't want to get hit.

Creepy. I've never thought of myself as a physical threat to anyone before.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Time and Place

Yesterday in class, Patrick asked me if I'd like to team-teach step-sparring class with him.

"I know that lots of the kids don't know it," he said. "I know step sparring, and you do too, so we could teach them."

I was flattered, but I had to put him off. He wanted to hold the class on Thursday or Friday, and I just can't do one more day at the dojang. I said I'd love to lead a class with him, maybe before or after a regular class. We'll see if he thinks that's a good idea.

There are lots and lots of opportunities to put in time at our dojang apart from the 2-3 classes we all take a week. Some people come for Friday forms class. Others come and work out during the children's class before the usual 6 pm. class. Before every test, people come to the school and clean up on Fridays.

I don't do a lot of these things. Sometimes I feel like I miss out on some good opportunities to help my school, to show my dedication, and to hang out with my TKD friends.

But it's hard for me to get away. Sometimes I feel like I'm pushing it to be gone 3x a week for classes.

For most of the people (adults) at the dojang, they are there with their children, or even their whole family. So TKD becomes a family thing as well as "something I'm doing for myself." For me, I have to leave my family to do TKD. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I leave them right at suppertime--family time at our house. Of course, because of my weird job and flexible schedule, I've been home with the boys, supervising homework, etc., since 3, but still.

So I've been trying to volunteer to do stuff that I can do at home: keep the photoblog, write the ads, and my newest venture--work on a school newsletter. It's not the same as being there with everyone, but it's what I can figure out to do now.

I am going to bring Robbie to the Halloween party on Sunday. Yes, our dojang has a Halloween party! I'm looking forward to it. There'll be pictures, of course. And I'm going to help by bringing food and maybe even a game or two. . . I look forward to the chance to be there, an extra time--to help out and have a good time.


[Hello Blog-readers--I was unable to post last night--couldn't even get on Blogger or Blogspot. So I wrote my entry on Word and am posting it now! Ah, technology!]

It’s hard for me to believe that I contracted that cold over 10 days ago, and I am still feeling the effects when I go to the dojang. I don’t have my usual level of energy for TKD. I just feel kind of . . . .well, limp.

I got to class early to practice forms with Brian, and it took me a good long time just to get warmed up. And by halfway through the class—when we were doing sparring—my moves were sloppy and slow, as if the cells in my body just weren't cooperating. I was just plain tired.

I'm never sure, on days like these, whether I'm actually still sick and need more rest, or on the other hand, if I need to increase my exercise so I can get through tough classes.

At any rate, I certainly am reminded of how much I take my (usual) good health for granted, to the point that I get annoyed and frustrated when I’m not well. There are plenty of people out there, that crazy chick for example, who blogs about having to deal with health limitations while they do martial arts. And people for whom health limitations limit their everyday life, like my parents.

Maybe rather than getting frustrated when I feel weak, I should take it as a sign that I need to appreciate health a bit more. And that I need to take it easy on myself a bit. I suppose I should show courtesy to my own body and perseverence, knowing that I just need to stick it out and I’ll get back to normal soon.

Easy to say . . .

Monday, October 23, 2006

New Beginnings

One nice thing about academia is that you get lots of new beginnings. At the beginning of each term, you get a new group of students and a new class to teach.

TKD is kind of like that, too. Now that I've passed my last test, I get to work on a new form!

We're now working on Hwa Rang. I like it. In general, the brown belt forms are interesting. This one's particularly cool--it's not symmetrical at all and we get to do lots of new moves--a pressing block to the right diagonal, an X-block that goes into a reverse elbow strike, some scissors blocks.

Tonight seemed like the beginning of a new term, too. Some people returned after being gone for a while. Aimee is back after being gone about 4 or 5 months. Paul is back after his first year on a high school football team. And we had two young people trying out the class and one adult watching!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Clearing tables

This morning I worked at a company breakfast, clearning tables. It was at Master Hughes's work, a food processing plant I've always wanted to visit. Every year he volunteers our school to help with clean up and to do a little TKD demonstration. This year, he wanted the children to demonstrate.

Well, I can certainly clear tables, so I went over for an hour in the morning. It was cool to be in an old hall that was part of the huge plant. The red brick hall had a high ceiling, big windows, and a stage at one end. Round tables were set up throughout, and workers and their families had been invited for a big buffet breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and hashed browns.

I got to wander around and pretend to be a waitress, asking "Can I get that out of your way?" and "Let me clear that place for you." Somehow it was nice to have an anonymous service job like that.

Some workers came down for a break from their shifts, still wearing work jeans, head coverings and earplugs around their necks. One of them was Bob, who along with his son Nolan, sometimes takes TKD with us. He's maybe 50, and he doesn't study too regularly, but he has good insights about forms and sparring. Someone told me that he had been a boxer.

He waved to me, and I went over to chat.

"So are you and Nolan going to be at tae kwon do this week?" I asked. "You know, Nolan's really a natural at it."

"Yeah, he likes it," said Bob. "But you're really a natural yourself."

This surprised me. "Well, I like it."

"I wish I had your flexibility. Then I'd really be good."

I asked Bob about boxing. He told me that he had done a lot of it, and he'd learned just about every martial art there is.

"It's helped me in fights," he said. "But that's one thing I want those kids in tae kwon do to know: not to get in fights."

"I'm not interested in fighting," I said. "I love to spar, but I'm not interested in fighting."

"That's good," said Bob.

The children did a nice demonstration, the tiniest ones broke some of the thin balsa boards, and some kids from among the breakfasters got a chance to break, too.

A good chance for our school to demonstrate our work ethic and our TKD skills.

Friday, October 20, 2006

First Temporary

That whole brown belt progression that I described a post or two ago is a bit confusing. Whenever Master Hughes announces something like "I want the 2nd temporary brown belts up here" I just turn to Brian and ask "What are we?" We've been brown belts for almost a year (it'll be a year when we test for black belt), but there are these odd divisions . . .

Some schools have red belts in the place of our belts that are brown and black striped--for the belt right before black. That might make it easier.

At any rate, we are now first temporary brown belts. The way you can tell is that we have this black electrical tape on the ends of our belts. Here's Master Hughes putting tape on my belt.

Here's the whole gang.

It was a small test--maybe only 20 people, children and adults. But there were 5 new white belts testing--maybe the number indicates better recruiting times and larger classes for our school.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ballet Today

"This is the combination I gave to The Advanced Girls."

When Suki says that to our ballet class, we all feel great.

The Advanced Girls are the top class of ballet students at our studio. They're high school girls, they've been dancing since they were six, and they've been in numerous studio recitals and shows (our school puts on regular ballets like Coppelia and The Frog Princess as well as the usual recitals). Some of The Advanced Girls have been selected to attend summer sessions with ballet companies in New York, Chicago, and Pennsylvania.

It makes me glad to know that, at 44, and after having only 4 years of ballet (and OK, some modern and ballet when I was in high school and college) I can aspire to being able to dance with The Advanced Girls.

There's something about performance, and maybe especially about dance, that makes you very aware of your rank--how you measure up. Unlike TKD, there are no belts or patches to designate how good you are. Well, at least when you're an adult--there are just 2 or 3 adult classes, so there aren't ranks (like Ballet 4 or Ballet 5).

But still. I'm very aware of my rank in our adult class. It's either 3rd or 4th right now. I'm after Lehrin (who is 20), Shannon (who took ballet with Suki's teacher when she was younger), and Susan. Well, I'm more musical and graceful than Susan, but she can do brises and entreche quatres while I can't.

It's so weird to be so aware of that, especially when there's no official ranking in that class. Sometimes I wish I wasn't aware. Other times I like it, because I know who to watch and emulate!

Still other times, I must admit, I just wish I ranked first.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Belt System at our Dojang

(The picture is from a year and a half ago when Robbie still did TKD. He loved the idea of a belt system!)

TKDRocker asked about our belt progression at our school. I realize now that schools do TKD differently, and they do testing differently, too.

At our school, we have a test every 2 months. Most people test each time, unless they've been away.

Here's the progression of belts, with the form they need to do and their breaking kick.

White--Chun-ji and Palgwe 1--step side kick
Yellow--Dan Gun and Palgwe 2--reverse kick
Orange--Do San and Palgwe 3--wheel kick
Green--Won Hyo--jump reverse kick
High Green--Palgwe 4--
(Here I'm not sure of the kicks--I'm missing a page or two of my handbook. There's an axe kick, and a jump front snap kick in here somewhere!)
Blue--Yul Gok--
High Blue--Palgwe 5--hooking kick
3rd Temp Brown--Chun Gun--two board breaks
3rd Perm Brown--Palgwe 6--two board breaks
2nd Temp Brown--Toi Gye--1 board hand, 2 boards foot
2nd Perm Brown--Palgwe 7--2 boards hand, 2 boards foot
1st Temp Brown--Hwa Rang--2 boards hand, 3 boards foot
1st Perm Brown--Chung Mu--2 boards hand, 3 boards foot

I'll be a 1st Perm Brown (testing for Black) in February! So my next challenge is to learn Hwa Rang.

Our tests consist of warm ups, basic movements (which at our school is a prescribed progression of blocks, kicks and strikes), forms, sparring, and breaking. Sometimes we're tested on 1 and 3-step sparring. We're expected to know the meaning of each form, and some basic Korean terminology

Black belts have to do all the forms for all belt levels--all 13 of them--at the test. Master Hughes will call out a few in what seems like random order "Hwa Rang, Palgwe 6" and tell you which direction to face. They've been practicing them since the last test--people testing for black belt have to have all 13 forms seen and approved by black belts at the school before they can even test--they fill out a board with signatures.

In addition, black belts have to do all the 1 and 3 steps, do 2-on-one sparring, take a written test, write a paper ("what TKD means to me"), clean the dojang in preparation for the test, and provide food for the judges! It's a lot.

But I think there might be just as much demanded -- or even more--at other schools. Once when I was coming home from Cleveland, I met a woman on the plane who'd just been to her granddaughter's black belt test. Everyone had to begin by running a mile, then do 50 push ups and 50 sit ups. Then there was the usual test, which ended with concrete block breaking! At our school that concrete block business goes with 2nd degree testing.

So it differs from school to school. But always, always, the black belt test is an ordeal.

Tell me what it's like at your school!

(P.S. I am writing this post from a laptop in my dining room. My computer needed to be fixed, and won't be back for 2-3 weeks! Meanwhile, I have this loaner from the college. Hey, laptops are nice!)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Test Photos

I have photos of Saturday's test, even though my photographer, Robbie, did not go to the test. Brian A. always takes photos, and this time, since he wasn't testing, he took a ton of them! Here are a few featuring tkdmom:

Me sparring Jamie.

My board breaks: palm strike . . .

and reverse elbow . . .

and flying side kick!

Ms. Pryor told me that she wants me to try new board breaks, especially kicks. "When I was a brown belt, I worked on all my kicks," she said, "to be sure I could break two boards with each one: wheel kick, axe kick, jump spinning wheel."

Yeah, right. Having enough power to go through two boards when I'm NOT putting my weight into it seems just about impossible. "It takes technique," encouraged Ms. Pryor.

Well, I do need to practice some more breaks. Maybe my next test.

Unlike me, the guys don't worry about breaking like I do. That's why I love to watch them break. They're big and strong and just whack theose boards.

At this test Brian and Kevin were the only adult men breaking. Brian used an axe kick to break two . . .

And punched through another two--you can see here that he's a lefty.

I think Kevin used a jump reverse kick

It was Raiden's junior black belt test--he did a very nice job. His side kicks were high, and he broke without too much trouble. I love this picture of his flying side kick! Isn't he great?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Testing while Ailing

I woke up this morning with a sore throat and headache. I wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, but it was test day. Gotta get going.

I've tested while not feeling great before, but it's usually been injuries, and slight ones. I couldn't decide today whether I should take something like Sudafed. Decided against it--I didn't want to feel doped up.

Seems like when you really put your mind to it, adrenaline and determination can pull you through most situations, even when you're not feeling up to par. That's how I got through the test today. I layed off ki-happing and rested all muscles whenever we stopped. I managed to get through my form and sparring, even landing a few 2-pointers on Jason, not an easy feat.

I was a bit worried about breaking, though. "Why don't you break for me?" I'd asked Brian earlier. It's one thing to spar and do a form, another to gather up the focus and strength one needs to break a board when you're feeling off.

So I just stuck to last test's hand techniques: palm strike and reverse elbow. Those worked fine. And I stayed with my most recent plan for the foot technique: two boards with a flying side kick. After a few attempts (and some needed advice from Ms. Pryor), I nailed that one, too. Kind of fun, actually :-)

Now I'm home, looking forward to a restful afternoon. Maybe I'll just go have a little lie down . . .

Thursday, October 12, 2006


I wondered last night at TKD if I were the only adult in the building who didn't go to a chiropractor.

In the midst of a discussion of aches and pains Brian and I were joined by Master Hughes. He thought Brian should see a chiropractor about his back (Brian already has), and recommended one.

"He had me fold my arms across my chest," Master Hughes demonstrated and had me do it. "Then he grabbed me in a big bear hug--don't be offended" (here he wrapped his arms around mine) "and lay me back along the table. Each of my vertebrae cracked, one at a time!"

Where I'm from, a chiropractor is seen as one step up from a quack. But here at the dojang, everyone's got a chiropractor story.

I remain skeptical. I mean, my son cracks his knuckles and his neck, but that doesn't make his joints healthier. I have a hard time believing that joint cracking and spine "alignment" can make a person healthier.

Besides, despite the "Doctor of Chiropractic" degree, chiropractors are not doctors in the same way our family doctor is a doctor--in fact, some don't even like to use common medical tools like, oh, say, x-rays. I've always understood that their "manipulations" can cause damage if someone really has a problem. And I've heard stories of them recommending dicey nutritional advice--like megadoses of vitamins, etc.

But I suppose they can't all be bad. WebMD says "Research has shown chiropractic therapy to be effective in treating low back pain and to be helpful in treating neck pain and headaches."

The people who go to chiropractors at TKD all have jobs where they're on their feet all day. Master Hughes, Ms. Pryor, Jim, and Kevin all work at the Quaker plant. I hear them talk about steel-toed shoes and concrete floors, so they're doing serious stuff. And Brian's a police officer--that involves a lot of sitting AND a lot of being on his feet, I'd imagine. Perhaps chiropractic helps with the strains of a physically punishing job.

For me, occasional massages are enough. Maybe chiropractic is like a massage for the joints. And if it helps people feel good enough to get to TKD, that's a good thing.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

In Memoriam

It was hard to get back to TKD yesterday. Not only did I miss Saturday's TKD class, I was out of town, being someone other than the Tae Kwon Do Mom. I flew back to Cleveland to see my parents, and while I was there, was fulfilling my roles of daughter, granddaughter, aunt, sister, niece, and cousin.

I think I was having trouble making that shift back to being Tae Kwon Do Mom.

I'd bought the plane tickets a few weeks ago, and I'm glad I did. On September 30, my grandmother passed away at the age of 102. I wasn't able to be there for the funeral, but got there the next day. I visited the gravesite with my aunt, cousin, and niece, and got to spend time with other cousins, aunts, and uncles.

When someone dies at the age of 102, the death isn't unexpected; it's more like closure. And for my grandmother, who had suffered from dementia in the last year of her life, and who'd contracted a severe case of shingles in the last weeks, it was even merciful.

We all had some measure of comfort from remembering my strong-willed and practical Grandmother, who grew tomatoes and green beans in the back yard, who made quilts from scraps, who never learned to drive (she walked where she needed to go), and who lived in her home until she was 100.

Still, facing death and loss is hard. And though I enjoyed seeing my parents (I always do! They are wonderful people with whom I'd be friends even if I weren't related), they are not in very good health, and every visit reminds me of how difficult their lives can sometimes be, especially for my mom, who's confined to a wheelchair.

Perhaps watching the aging process of those I love--sped by illness and medical crises sometimes--is one thing that spurs me on in Tae Kwon Do and ballet.

When you're younger--20, 30--you don't think so much about . . . well, mortality. You conveniently forget that "everyone has an expiration date," as my friend Karen says. It's easy to think "well, I'll get in shape when I have more time," or "someday I'd like to learn martial arts" or "It would be cool to learn to dance en pointe."

Seeing those around you face illness and death--especially when you're at the midpoint of the life expectancy!--are kind of a wake-up call. Hey, do it now!

So I did it--I went to class last night, despite a haze of exhaustion and sadness and feeling like I was in two places at once. It was what I needed to do. I think my grandmother would have understood.

Friday, October 06, 2006

More cardio

After the petit allegro in ballet yesterday, I was winded!

Petit allegro is exactly what it's called: "small and fast." Suki says it's "neat fleet feet." It's not the big, expansive jumps across the floor; petit allegro is quick little jumps and hops and turns.

Petit allegro is also my favorite part of ballet class, and I don't usually get winded after it. So I'm thinking I need more cardio in my life so I can do what I love to do.

Swimming used to give me a good cardio workout. It used to be my only workout! I liked it because it was good for strengthening AND cardio. Plus, it doesn't really seem like exercise and it doesn't take long to get a good workout (that's the lazy side of me speaking).

But this morning, fate aligned to make it possible (even desirable) for me to go swim before I taught. There was a small crisis at home (involving fighting children) which meant I didn't have time to shower before taking Eli to school. So that decided it: I needed a shower, so why not do it at the Y after swimming? I dropped Eli off at school, went to the Y for a quick swim (I got all the green lights--see: the stars were aligned), and then made it to the college in time to hand out the test my students were taking!

I'm always amazed at the ways I can trick myself into doing stuff I don't really think I have time or inclination to do.

Now I just need to trick myself into grading these exams . . .

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Movie Recommendation

I saw a movie yesterday right after TKD class. I'd strongly recommend that you see it if you haven't yet.

No, it's not Fearless--I haven't seen that one yet.

I'm recommending An Inconvenient Truth. Maybe you've already seen it in the theatre. If you haven't, you need to see it.

I know, I know. It's that stiff Al Gore and a bunch of charts and graphs. Sounds deadly dull. But actually, Gore is way more relaxed, animated, and appealing in this movie than he EVER was when running for office! And the charts and graphs are very dramatic, and enhanced with cool computer effects. There are also maps, video clips, and the Simpsons.

What I liked most about the film was the way Gore took scientific, technical information and translated it so that ordinary people could understand.

But you don't just understand the basic facts after watching this movie--you understand the gravity of the situation. And you understand what must be done--this is no doom and gloom and despair kind of film. He ends it by saying that "we have all the technology to stop global warming. We just need the political will to make it happen."

As Gore points out, global warming presents a moral and ethical challenge to us. What we do--or don't do--about it will affect billions of people.

My children, ages 9 and 11 went to the movie, too. They were interested and inspired. "I'm going to tell my science teacher about it tomorrow," said Robbie.

Please, please see this movie--even if you don't like Al Gore, even if you usually vote Republican! Global warming isn't a partisan issue. And if you can see it with a group of interested friends, and have a chance to talk afterwards, that would be great. It's being screened for free all over the place now.

And if you see it (or saw it) let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Before class the other day, Master Hughes gathered the brown belts and black belts together to talk about a new class he's going to start.

It's going to be a pedagogy class: all about how to teach TKD.

I'm glad he's doing that. All black belts are supposed to help with instruction at the dojang, but many of our black belts are young and haven't had experience teaching someone to do something. It's hard to instruct well--just because you're good at something does not necessarily mean you'll be good at teaching it. But Master Hughes told us that he wants the teaching at our dojang to be good, even when he's not here.

"Does everyone know about PCP? What does PCP mean?" he asked.

"Praise, Correct, Praise," someone answered.

"That's the way we do instruction around here. First you praise the student for something they're doing right, then offer correction, and praise when they've done it right."

Master Hughes has talked about this before, and I know that it's sound pedagogical advice. As someone who teaches writing, I know that students are more able to listen and learn if they know what they're doing right. As in "Your form looks great--your kicks are good. Your C-block needs some work though. Here let me show you. Yes! That's right."

But, you know what? Master Hughes doesn't completely follow this pattern--at least not the letter of the law.

More often, he'll come up to a student--a child, let's say--and say "what's this?" imitating the child's bad stance with a silly look on his face. "Is this a good stance?" The child will giggle a bit at his antics, say "no sir" and correct the stance.

Or sometimes, he'll come up and hold his hand out for the student to kick. "Higher!" he'll say. "Bring your knee up higher." Then "that's it!"

It seems to me that PCP isn't really a pattern for how to talk to a student, a rote formula to memorize and spit out. It's more an attitude toward teaching and students and the subject matter. Master Hughes embodies this attitude: he loves the material and cares about the students. He knows how to--at one time--challenge and encourage.

I'm not sure everyone is capable of knowing martial arts as well as Master Hughes, but maybe we can aspire to his approach to learning.

"You know," he said at the end of the meeting, "I think of all of you as my kids. You may not really be my kids, but I've brought you up in Tae Kwon Do."

So I guess we're a family, and we'll be learning the family's way of caring for and bringing up one another in martial arts.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Learning about Sparring

A new tactic
“Hey, if I get in close to you, you can’t score on me!”

Right before class, Brian and I were goofing around, sparring, and I was moving in close, leaving only about 8 inches between him and me. I discovered that this works because it thwarts his favorite move: the axe kick. He needs space for that one to work.

How did I figure this out? Brian does this thing where he comes up to me and does an inside-outside kick right over my head. Quite amusing, really. It made me realize, though, that if I’m close enough to him, those lethal axe kicks he throws at me when we spar will go right over my head, not on top of it!

Of course, then I have to watch out for the fists . . .

Speaking of sparring
TKDRocker wanted to know my impression of sparring at the tournament this weekend. The school that put on the tournament practices Olympic-style sparring, different from our school where we practice point sparring.

Actually, I didn't stay for the sparring. But I did hear reports at the party Saturday night.

Seems like there were two things our people noticed. One was that the Olympic sparrers used their hands differently than we do. We keep our hands up, boxing-style, to use in punching and also to protect our faces from head-kicks. In fact, if we don't keep our hands up, Master Hughes will come along and give us a friendly pat in the face--reminder that your opponent can get your face, too.

The people that watched the sparring said the Olympic sparrers kept their hands down, and didn't punch at all. Ms. Pryor reminded us that it would be hard to land a "trembling blow" with your fists, so they mostly used kicks.

(In point sparring, you just need to touch your opponent with a foot or fist to score. In Olympic sparring, you need to deliver a trembling blow, one where you can see your opponent reel back from the force of your kick or punch.)

Pam and Denise also pointed out that the Olympic sparrers also used mostly roundhouse kicks. When they warmed up, they did lots of different kicks, but when sparring, "it was just roundhouse, roundhouse, roundhouse." And mostly to the midsection.

I suppose that might also have to do with the "trembling blow" rule?? But roundhouse, roundhouse, roundhouse would get dull . . .

At our school, Master Hughes sometimes will say that we have to spar but can't use roundhouse kicks--because it's the kick everyone falls back on when they're tired or not thinking. We're trained to do combinations of a wide variety of kicks in sparring: axe, reverse, hooking, side, crescent, etc., etc.

Maybe, though, this had more to do with the ability of the sparrers than the approach of Olympic sparring. I'm not sure, and I didn't see it. But it does make me (again) glad that I'm learning point sparring. I like to be able to do all sorts of different kicks, and think more about speed and finesse than raw power.

And besides, I'm not sure I want to suffer "trembling blows" !!