Thursday, November 30, 2006

Laying on of Hands

I don't know how massage works, but it works for me.

Some people really like it; some hate it.

I like it.

But I don't do monthly appointments, like my colleague Sherry used to do. I go on an as-needed basis, usually after I've overworked my body doing ballet or TKD, or at the end of the semester, after I've spent several days hunched over papers, grading, and my neck and back are stiff.

Now of course it feels nice to have someone rub your back! But why does it feel better even after they've finished?

I guess it's partially the heat (they use heating pads to warm muscles), and partially muscle-manipulation. I also just like having some time (I usually do a 30-minute massage) just to relax!

So far, so good--my shoulder feels much better.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My Bones

"Have I told you lately about my bones?"

My husband says this to me occasionally when he's feeling bone tired. I think he does it just to see me laugh. I am easily amused, especially by his self-deprecating humor.

Today, I'm the one complaining about my bones.

Actually, it's my tendons and muscles.

I did something to my right shoulder recently which makes it painful to get a full range of motion and any power into TKD moves. When I do the slow hammer fist of Hwa-Rang or double scissors blocks, I feel a twang of pain that goes right down my arm.

And my hip joint on the right side has also been a bit out of whack, making my front kicks inaccurate and painful.

And of course, there's the continuing problem with the tendon near the ankle on the outside of my right foot. It makes the horse stance almost impossible to do. Horse stance is a basic TKD stance.

It's been hard for me to get my feet pointed forward like this, and I need to for the first movement of my form, Hwa Rang. When I stand that way, feet pointed ahead, it just pulls on those tendons along the outside of my feet, especially the right one. Ow!

Ms. Pryor had some advice for my foot trouble tonight that sounded good. She suggested I ice the tendon after class and elevate it until the inflammation goes down. Then, at another time, I might try gently rolling my feel outward to stretch the tendons.

This seems sensible to me. I've been doing some other physical therapy for weeks and it hasn't worked. I'll add her suggestion.

As for my shoulder and hip . . . I've got a massage appointment tomorrow! Hope it works.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Dojang Newsletter

I've taken on a new job: editor (and writer) of the dojang newsletter. Master Hughes said he wanted a newsletter and I am only too glad to do that. I'm glad to be able to help out in a way that doesn't take me away from home more often! I wrote this month's newsletter at the office on my usual freelancing day.

Despite the fact that our society is so electronic, I think it's nice for people to have something on paper to remind them of the school. Our newsletter has a feature story, upcoming events, column from Master Hughes, and list of classes, along with a few other tidbits.

I'm curious about how others communicate with the groups they belong to--does your martial arts club (fishing club, drama club, youth group, choir, etc.) have any kind of way of staying in touch, creating goodwill, and reminding people of upcoming events? An email list? A website? A newsletter?

What works for you?

An Inspiring Story

"Does anyone remember me talking about Nancy R.?" Master Hughes asks at the end of Monday night's class.

Alex does. But the rest of us haven't heard this story.

"Well she was a student a while back. She was only about 4 feet tall. She had dwarfism. She couldn't do a side-kick because of bad hips. But she was an awesome martial artist. We figured out a way for her to do a tornado kick using her crutches."

Here Master Hughes mimes a crutch-tornado kick, showing how someone could whirl crutches around as a weapon.

"I finally said I wouldn't spar with her unless she put pads on those things," he laughs. "And she did! She put pads on her crutches.

"The cool thing is that she got her black belt and went to open a school in North Carolina. And her students were just as good as anyone else's."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Words and Music

My sister-in-law, Susan, is a musician and music teacher--flute and piano. She said something this weekend that gave me an insight about The Beginner's Mind, something I've discussed here recently.

Susan talked about how beginning musicians tend to play music very mechanically, playing each note separately, sometimes even with the slightest pause in between notes.

"One advantage to learning to play a string instrument is that students learn to look for the line of the music and to think about phrasing."

I have noticed that Robbie, who's learning to play trumpet, plays each note separately, as if there's a comma after each "word" of the musical "sentence"--unless he's playing a song he really knows. Then he'll play with phrasing, linking notes that go together, and it sounds more like a real song.

The same goes for when we learn forms in TKD. I've noticed that beginners do each movement separately, pausing after each movement, doing each with the same emphasis.

The weird thing is, I've been doing this, too! It's only recently that it's finally dawned on me that the forms are like little poems, with words and sentences. Some movements need to be emphasized--accented--and others should flow into the next movement more smoothly. There are places to move faster, places to go more slowly.

Ms. Pryor was helping me with this before one of the tournaments. I think I began to get it then, and watching others do forms at the tournament really made that light bulb go on over my head!

The funny thing is that it's merciful that beginners don't notice how mechanical their forms are. If you're a beginner and you were aware of everything that's wrong with your performance, you wouldn't be able to go on! Perfectionism would give you performance anxiety!

But as beginners, we have limited vision, limited abililty to critique ourselves. We think we're doing OK, so we keep up with it. We only notice the more sophisticated refinements as we become able to make them.

Robbie thinks he's a great trumpet player! And I'm glad--that keeps him doing it, and he'll improve as he learns to notice how to improve.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


At my annual check up this week, the doctor noticed I'd gained weight in the last year.

"Yeah, it's weird," I said. "My clothes still fit--how could I have gained weight?"

She asked me if I get regular exercise--I told her my schedule: TKD 3x a week, ballet 2x a week, swimming 1x a week.

"That's probably what the weight gain is--you're gaining muscle mass. You're actually now within the normal range for your height. Before, you were a bit underweight."

Now I'm not. And that extra weight is muscle! Cool!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Inspiration while doing TKD

"Pretend it's someone attacking you at 17th and B!"

Brian thinks he's giving me some inspiration to do a great flying side kick. But actually, I don't think about fighting when I do TKD. I don't think that someone's attacking me when I'm sparring. I don't think about killing someone with one stroke when I break boards.

I don't because I can't. Thinking about those things would be too distracting.

Instead, I just think about what I'm doing. I tell people who are about to break "be one with the board," which sounds silly, but it's what I do. When I get set to do a flying side kick, I think about flying at the target.

When I spar, I can't be angry or think about being attacked. I take a cleansing breath before I get into fighting stance, and clear my mind of everything but sparring: combinations, combinations; look for an opening; light on the feet.

What do you do? Does picturing an imaginary opponent help you?

Monday, November 20, 2006


I like that Keirsy sorter, but it doesn't specifically help you determine whether you're an Introvert or an Extrovert (if you don't know already). I recently found a website that helped me understand those terms better--and the other factors in temperament. It's called Personality Pathways. It says this about temperament and learning:

In reviewing the comparisons in our inventory, you may find yourself drawn equally to opposing choices. In such cases I suggest you try to think back to how you were before the age of 12 or even younger if you can recall. The rationale for this suggestion is the fact that by the time we are 3 years old, the core of our cognitive organization is well-fixed. . . although the brain continues to allow some plasticity until puberty.

After the onset of puberty, our adult learning begins to overlay our core personality - which is when the blending of nature and nurture becomes more evident. For some people, this "learning" serves to strengthen what is already there, but with others it produces multiple faces to personality. Discovering or rediscovering this innate core of yourself is part of the journey of using personality type to enrich your life.

In other words, we're shaped by our temperament, but not doomed to it!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Teaching and Temperament

This week, I've thought about a particular teaching issue: the way personality and temperament influence teaching.

I began thinking about this after a phone conversation I had this week. Justin is applying for a job teaching at the University fitness center. He had me listed as a reference and I was called by the supervisor.

She obviously thinks very highly of Justin. The only question she had was about his temperament, really. "He's kind of quiet, kind of an introvert. Do you think he'll be able to reach out to students?"

I assured her that although Justin can be quiet, he conducts a class with authority and energy.

I wondered later about the comment. Do people think introverts aren't suited to teaching? They are wrong! I am speaking as an introvert here.

If you're not sure what I mean by introvert, the definition I'm using is from the Myers-Briggs Personality Test. It says that introverts direct their energy inward, towards thoughts, reflections, ideas. Extroverts direct energy outwards--to activities, conversations, other people. To recharge, Extroverts go to a party and have a blast conversing with everyone. To recharge, Introverts leave the party, go home, and sit in blissful silence, reading a book in their comfy chair! (I'm speaking from experience here!)

[Are you interested in seeing your temperament type? I bet all you thoughtful Introverts are! There's a short version, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter online that's free. If you do it, drop me a note and tell me your temperament type!]

I'm an Introvert, according to every test or personality sorter I've ever taken. (My whole score is INFP, the "Idealist"). Many people find that hard to believe as I am easy to approach, friendly, and warm. I love talking to people--but I much prefer one-on-one conversations to conversations with several people.

So how does that affect my teaching? Because I REALLY REALLY wanted to teach (at the college level), I had to learn to be what I call an "outgoing introvert." I like people, and I learned how to listen and show that I care for them when I talk to them. I learned to take on the role of teacher--to be energetic, caring, clear, and firm in front of a class.

I think that's how most people are. They are most comfortable being one way, but as they mature, they learn to become more balanced. I will always need to sit in my comfy chair and read, but I can be more outgoing when necessary. And I can enjoy it.

Teaching can be a good profession for introverts. We think and reflect about the purpose of what we do, about how best to get people to learn. Some of us think of teaching as a "role to play," which makes being outgoing easier.

Maybe introverts would get tired out easily if they had to teach all day, like a high school teacher (I could never do that--too exhausting to be around that many people for that long). But doing something like college teaching, or TKD, or fitness classes, or one-on-one tutoring seems like a great place for us to use our ideas, thoughts, and reflections and pass them on to others.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Beginner's Mind

I have mixed feelings about not being a beginner in martial arts anymore.

Now, as an experienced student, a brown belt, it's my responsibility to tend to the newer students at the dojang, to take on jobs like writing the newsletter, to expect extra duties. Kind of like being a mom . . . but I'm not sure I want to give up being "the kid" yet.

Still, there are rewards from taking on the mantle of the "experienced student." It's deeply satisfying to help newer students, and having more duties at the dojang means I'm really part of that place.

I guess a good way to achieve rewards both of the beginner and of the experienced student would be to strive for the "beginner's mind" while I'm learning and growing as a martial artist.

One author describes the beginner's mind concept this way:

One way to promote right effort in your studies is to assume the attitude that is known as "beginner's mind" in Zen literature. Beginner's mind is an empty mind. It is to approach each situation or task without expectations or preconceptions. It is willingness to accept what happens, to deal with life as it unfolds.

Beginner's mind is a perspective that is always fresh. It is the realization that no matter how many times a task or situation is encountered, it is always new, each time is different, and it warrents complete concentration and sincere effort. Beginner's mind is present mind. It recognizes that the situation or task at hand is a unique event that only occurs in the present moment. Beginner's mind knows that what life brings to be done in each moment is a new beginning, a whole world unto itself that will never appear again.

--John J. Gibbs, Dancing With Your Books: The Zen Way of Studying

"No matter how many times a task or situation is encountered, it is always new."

Sounds like good advice for us learning martial arts (especially sparring) . . . and just about anything else.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Kicking Butt and Taking Names

I love sparring.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Intangible Rewards

I gave Jimmy and Matthew my tournament medals to look at yesterday. Kids like looking at those things. A bunch of small boys gathered 'round to admire them.

I like them better than trophies, since they're smaller and don't take up so much space. And I like having the trophies as a reminder that, on that day, at that place, I did (what the judges thought was) the best form!

Still, there are some things that happened at the tournament that made me happier, things that were intangible.

Some of the other Senior Women Colored Belts talked about this--about how they loved being at the tourney with their children, or how they loved keeping on with TKD when their children were "taking a break." Laura talked about how she brings up competition to her students, and emphasizes the rewards of working toward your best. Lauri said that the tournament gave her encouragement at a time when she was feeling discouraged.

Like them, I found intangible rewards to be more meaningful to me even than the medals. Hanging out with a bunch of martial arts women, for one, was a wonderful reward, as was spending the day with Justin, who is great company.

A few words from some of the black belts were very memorable and meaningful. After sparring, one of the black belts who shook my hand said to me "nice control." That meant a lot to me, especially knowing that not everyone seemed to use good control.

And later, I ran into the the head black belt who'd run the rules meeting. I remembered him from the earlier tournament when he'd been the judge in my division.

I don't know how it came up, but he noted that I had gotten a gold medal in forms and had done my form in front of the whole crowd. That he'd noticed--and remembered--meant a lot.

I'm not sure why those things meant so much to me. I think it's because people are recognizing me as a martial artist. I guess I'm becoming a martial artist. I'm no longer a beginner.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Tournament Photo Essay

My little point-n-shoot camera did a pretty good job at the tournament, though I wasn't able to get movies, of course. Here's the story of the day, in pictures.

We had to drive 2 hours to the tournament, so Justin and I left about 7 a.m. We arrived at 9:15 or so, and got registered.

Usually, tournaments have a "Rules Meeting" for all black belts, since they are the ones who will judge. At this tournament, everyone attended the rules meeting. Sparring rules were gone over, and it was emphasized over and over that sparring was no/light contact. "Uniform movement will indicate a point," said the black belt heading up the meeting. I hoped that would be true, especially in the case of Black Belt Men 17-34, Justin's category.

Justin: Forms and Breaking
Black belt competition was first, and Justin did very well. I thought his form looked better that the other competitors--they had shallow, inexact stances, and one competitor's form had only slow moves. The judges awarded him 3rd place . . . it's all subjective!

Look at those other two guys. They seem to dominate tournaments in this area. They're big, mature (probably at the top end of the age range, with lots of experience and bulk), and really aggressive.

I love watching the men--especially black belts--break boards! I figure by this time in the tournament, the adrenaline and testosterone are flowing, so the breaks are spectacular and very competetive! Justin did really well in breaking. His set-up (4 boards) included a reverse-hook speed break, punch, and a tornado kick.

The other competitors couldn't quite get some of the boards to break as well! So Justin got 1st.

Jane: Forms, Breaking, and Sparring
Colored belt competition was next. I'd already greeted some of the women I'd met at the earlier tournament and met some new ones, but I was still stunned and thrilled to find that the "Senior Women Colored Belt 35 and Better" category had 19 women in it! Wow!

At the last tournament, there might have been 10. At the tournament I observed, there were maybe 2. Ms. Pryor has said to me that I just will not find many "senior women" in TKD--it's a male dominated sport. But here, I was surrounded by female martial artists who are about my age, and many of whom were really, really good. This was exciting.

Actually, the tournament was much more competetive than the one I went to before and the one I watched. There were just way more adults in general. I liked this.

We split into 3 groups, and begain with forms competition, which I won! This surprised me because I'd left out an entire movement in Hwa Rang, the slow hammer fist--one of my favorite moves! But I guess they weren't watching then.

And in board-breaking, I also did well--broke all the boards with my standard palm strike, back elbow, turning side kick. Unfortunately, the last board took two tries, so I didn't medal--hey, it was a subdivision of 9 women!

If you get 1st in forms, you get to compete in the Grand Championship for forms. That was after breaking. Everyone at the tournament who got a 1st got to compete. At this tourney, they divided the group in half: children and adults. Each group had one winner--the judges narrowed down the field three times to determine the winner.

It was weird being out there doing my form with the group of other martial artists.

I made the first cut, which was cool. They eliminated 2/3 of the competitors after we did our forms once, and I was still standing! It would have been cool to make the two next cuts and come home with an enormous trophy . . . Still, it was exciting and satisfying to be able to compete.

Sparring was last. My first competitor was small and fierce. She kicked hard, but I beat her.

For the last round, I went against Laura. We were very evenly matched, I must say. Her sparring has improved since last time, and she was really "on" that day!

We went into "sudden death," and she won with an awesome shot to the head. Despite the fact that I lost, I enjoyed sparring her more than the 1st opponent: it was more of a finesse match than a beating.

Black Belt Sparring
Black belt sparring followed. I was a bit nervous, worrying that Justin might get hurt again, but hopeful since they'd emphasized "light to no contact." He borrowed my helmet, and I sat on the bleachers next to the ring.

Unfortunately, Justin had to spar one of the big aggressive guys 1st, the one who'd injured him at the last tourney. And sadly, that guy was just as crazy as last time.

I had no more film in my camera to take photos, but there was a lot of kicking below the belt, and very hard kicks everywhere. The guy got warned for those and for punching toward Justin's head, but was never really disciplined. Luckily, Justin is tough, and he actually gave the crazy guy a run for his money--they ended in "sudden death," which the guy narrowly won (after the judges failed to see a beautiful wheel kick that Justin landed--with control--on the guy's head . . . )

Justin sat down by me after the match and nursed an enormous goose egg that was growing on his knee (he'd taken a bad fall due to the guy's overly-aggressive kicks). We were sorry he didn't win, but I thought about two things:

1. Justin came much closer to winning this time than last time, and
2. Everyone around saw his control and ability to fight within the rules.

The guy came up and talked to Justin after the match. I should have talked to him, too, but I was worried my sharp tongue would cause me to be discourteous. I did not make eye contact and walked on ahead. Justin, on the other hand, was remarkably cool and polite.

All in all, it was a great day. I'm still puzzled about light-to-no contact rules. But the two of us made a good showing, and we had a good time. I hope Justin will post his thoughts about the tournament, too. And if anyone wants to weigh in on the beard, feel free! :-)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Tired and Happy

Justin and I returned home after the tournament pretty late yesterday, about 9:30 p.m. We'd left that morning at 7. We were tired and happy, or at least I was.

I don't have pictures yet, so I'll just share this: we both got two medals at this very competetive tournament. Justin got 3rd in forms and 1st in breaking. I got 1st in forms and 2nd in sparring.

We both had very competetive divisions--the "senior women colored belt" class consisted of 19 women! We divided up, but my sub-division was still 8 or 9 women, all of whom were solid martial artists. It was fun to visit with them and compete with them.

Justin's division consisted of very competetive--and aggressive--martial artists. The two who stood out had been at the last meet, the ones who'd pushed the sparring rules of "light to no contact" . . . so I was glad that Justin made such a good showing with his control, power, and great breaking. I hope those two guys graduate to the "senior men" division soon.

All in all it was an enjoyable day. Pictures soon!

Friday, November 10, 2006

New Camera

My digital camera still hasn't turned up after it got lost at the TKD Halloween Party. I fear that it won't now.

If it weren't for this blog, I might just go back to my point-n-shoot film camera, or my nice SLR. But I like having an easy way to get photos on my blog. So I decided to buy a replacement.

This time it'll be a cheapy.

I bought this little digital camera on line for a whopping $9.95 (plus shipping of course). It takes web-resolution photos, can store up to 20 photos, and can do "continuous shooting" which is nice for action shots.

It doesn't have a screen on the back to preview pictures, but that's OK.

We'll see how the photos turn out. And maybe my other one will turn up.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Good Students, good classes

"I wanted to tell you guys that you're lucky to have a class like this," Ms. Pryor is addressing us during class. "I went to the hip-hop workout that they have at the Athletic club, and when the teacher shouted 'is everyone ready?!' nobody answered!"

Bored and unresponsive students are certainly not likely in a TKD class. There are too many times when responses are expected--like when the teacher gives an instruction ("Yes, Ma'am!" or "Yes, sir!") or asks a question (we're expected to give an answer, followed with "ma'am" or "sir.")

And we cheer each other on, too, during sparring, board-breaking, kicking . . . and the occasional game of Tae Kwon Do tag!

It's certainly not a boring place with everyone participating with actions and words. And more learning gets done in an environment like that; I'm sure of it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wednesday Night

Here in our town, Wednesday night is Church Night. Soon after we moved to town over 15 years ago, people informed us that every Wednesday night, the churches in town hold confirmation classes, bible study, meetings, and children's activities.

"Schools aren't supposed to schedule practices or rehearsals on Wednesday night. It's Church Night," we were told.

I'm not sure that agreement still holds between churches and school still holds. But lots of churches still do Church Night. I used to regularly skip Wednesday TKD class to attend a Bible Study; this year, I've decided to attend TKD on Wednesday. It's one of those tough choices I've had to make to pursue this martial arts thing. . .

But tonight, our church's youth group was responsible for making dinner at Church Night, and as a parent of a youth group member, I wanted to help out. Robbie's really just a marginal member of the youth group. At 11, he seems a bit baffled by the group dynamics, especially between boys and girls, but he does enjoy some of the group's activities. I had volunteered to help with the pancake supper (the kids' choice of menu), and had planned to skip TKD.

But when I realized this would be my last practice before the tournament Saturday, I decided I needed to do TKD.

So I helped prepare the meal, supervising pancake-flipping and setting up fellowship hall. It was fun to be with the high-spirited youth group in the kitchen. They laughed and teased each other and worked hard. Many of the youth I remembered from when they were little ones--my guitar and I used to do music with the little children on Church Night. I served the pastor his meal, and remembered the wonderful discussions our Bible Study would have on Wednesday night. But I left before the meetings and activities, skittering in to the dojang right before class started.

It was weird to leave church before things really got started, but I'm glad I got the extra TKD class in. We worked on advanced kicks: reverse tornados and good sparring combinations (roundhouse, reverse hook). Then we got in a good amount of sparring practice, something I really needed!

After class, I asked Brian A. to watch me do my form. He's a good critiquer--knows all the small details, like where to hold your hands, which direction you should face, etc.

"You're really starting to show a lot of power in your form," he told me. "And your middle knife hand is much better. Your wrist is straight."

I was as pleased to hear these words of encouragement as I was to have him help me on some tricky parts. Getting power and snap into my forms has been a goal of mine over the past couple of months. Ms. Pryor says that as brown belts, we need to make these forms our own; not just do them, but perform them.

It was a busy Wednesday night. I wish I could always do both: Church Night and TKD. But there's only so much a person can do, and you can only be in one place at a time. Whenever you say "yes" to one thing, you're saying "no" to another. As a busy person with lots of interests, I often find that a hard truth to keep in mind.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Learning to Teach

I wasn't sure what to expect when Master Hughes said he was going to start a "leadership class" for brown and black belts on Sunday afternoons.

He emphasized that the classes would mostly help us learn how to teach.

"When I'm not able to be here, I still want classes to be taught the way I would teach," he told us.

I arrived a bit late to the first class, today, to find a small group--some kids, some adults--working on a communication exercise. Ms. Pryor paired me up with Jessie. We sat back to back. Ms. Pryor handed me a sheet of paper with a simple drawing on it.

"I want you to describe the drawing so that Jessie can draw it without seeing it."

Cool exercise! It made me be aware of how precisely you need to describe things for people to be able to know what you're talking about. As a writer, I relied on metaphor ("It looks kind of like a pie, or a clock saying 7 p.m.")

We moved on to discussion of other issues: different learning styles, how to teach new white belts, how to challenge brown belts, our responsibilities at the dojang, and loyalty.

"How do we teach students loyalty?" Ms. Pryor asked.

Hmm! Kind of like "how do you teach good attitude," a question I have to wrestle with as a Mom all the time.

My classmates had some ideas: through example, by telling stories about why we need to be loyal to our school.

"How about you, Jane," Ms. Pryor asked me. "When you started, I remember you saying you weren't sure you'd stay to be a black belt."

It's true. You might see some of that attitude back in my March-April 2005 entries. I was just going day-by-day, enjoying martial arts, but making no commitments, no promises.

"I think for me, I didn't have loyalty to the school at first. If I had, it would have been cheap loyalty," I said, kind of thinking aloud. "But seeing how much the teachers will do for Tae Kwon do and for me, and how much my classmates will do for Tae Kwon Do and for me, and how much we all love this school--all that helped my feelings of loyalty to the school grow."

I'd never really thought about that until I was called on to speak about it.

We were also called on to speak in another way--we were all asked to tell a short story, something that would motivate students, maybe after a hard class.

Wow, I have tons of stories to motivate writers, mostly stories about difficult parts of my life as a writer. But it was hard to think of a story . . . about martial arts! My life in martial arts has been so short.

Still, I liked that Ms. Pryor did this. It gave everyone a chance to hear their own voices, and be part of the class that day. It made us accountable. It was a bit of experiential learning. I bet everyone has now thought of another story to tell (I have!).

I think I'll enjoy these classes. I'm all about pedagogy in my professional life--I teach and I've taught teachers (see my June 2006 entries about the faculty workshop).

A colleague at the college said to me this week, "One mark of a professional is that a professional doesn't just do something, a professional reflects on what he or she does." It seems like Ms. Pryor is making us reflect on and think about what we do.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Great for Children

"Oh, do your children do tae kwon do, too?"

This is a comment I regularly hear from people when I tell them I'm learning TKD.

Somehow, TKD in the US is often seen as a children's activity. Kind of something that parents sign up their kids for when they're not doing soccer, swimming lessons, and scouting. Not that there's anything bad about kids doing TKD. It can be wonderful exercise, it teaches discipline and perseverence (self control, indomitable spirit, etc. etc.) I wish my boys still did it!

Still, it's a serious martial art. Adults can learn it at a different--higher--level than children can. And I would see it as a life-long pursuit, not just something to try out when a child and then drop when one gets bored.

Master Hughes said that many people warned him about having too many classes for children (he has classes even for 4-5 year olds--he was the first in the country to offer them to children that young). "You'll just be babysitting," they said. But he thought that having classes for younger ones would bring in the older students--older children, teens, and adults, the people who'd really stick with it.

In general, martial arts at our school isn't child's play. We have classes for children (where working on forms and sparring is broken up by games of tag or noodle hockey). And children can test for a junior black belt, which is not as difficult as a regular black belt. But in general, it's serious stuff. Come to an All-Belts class, and even if you're a kid, expect to work until you're drenched with sweat.

We know TKD isn't kid stuff. But outsiders still have this misperception.

I wonder if this is a misperception that people have about other martial arts. Do people consider karate a children's activity? Or Judo?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Plans for a Tournament

When I looked at my November calendar, I noticed that the Ankeny Tournament was not written in. I'd been planning to go, and had even discussed it with Justin, who'd also like to go. The Gaylords are intersted, too.

But I hadn't written it down yet.

I think that was to give me an "out" if I wasn't ready. I don't think I was completely ready to commit.

We just started learning our new forms after the October test and promotions. My new form, Hwa Rang, is awesome, but I'm still learning it. There are several times during the form when I have to stop and think. Plus I was sick for a couple weeks, which slowed me down, and I missed Wednesday class and will miss next Wednesday's . . .

Will I be ready for a tournament November 11?

I contacted Justin againa to make sure he still wanted to go. He hasn't been down from the University in time to practice with us much, though he's come back for some visits.

But Justin, unlike me, was ready to compete. And he encouraged me to learn Hwa Rang: "It's a good tournament form, so I suggest you do it." He suggested I go to the forms class on Friday and get in extra workouts.

OK. I'll go to the tournament. That means I need to work extra hard. Maybe I can get over for the Friday forms class--I'll have to take the kids with me, but that might not be too bad.

This performance/competition opportunity might be just what I need to turn the heat up!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Jellicle Cats Love to Dance

Costumes were optional at ballet yesterday (Halloween). I took my ears, tail, and mitts. Then Mike showed up in full Cats costume!

"Which cat are you," asked Brenna, our teacher that day.

"Mr. Mistopheles," replied Mike.

"Oh no, I never--was there ever a cat so clever as magical Mr. Mistopheles?" I sang.

I was glad Mike came--he's not crazy about Brenna's teaching style. I like it.

Brenna's about 20-something, and trained in ballet and modern dance at a "college of the arts" out on the west coast. As a high schooler, she studied at Interlochen, and taught dance there later.

She really makes us work, in a different way from Suki. "Get up on top of your legs!" she says when we're doing tendus at the barre and sinking into our standing legs. And, when we're doing petit allegro, "You're jumping down! You need to jump up!" And "You need to pull up before you cambre back!"

By the end of class, I know that I have core muscles (abs, back muscles, etc.) because they're tired!