Thursday, April 26, 2007

Mom Teaching

Since Robbie started back to TKD, several people have given me well-intentioned warnings about trying to be my son's teacher. It's not good to teach your own child, your child will try to resist your teaching, let others do it, that kind of thing.

I certainly am very glad that I don't have to do all the teaching. It's great for Robbie to get instruction from some of the best instructors I know--Master Hughes and Ms. Pryor. And I'm glad he'll be around our large corps of black belts, all of whom know him at least a little, and want him to do well.

All those people are going to be such great mentors for Robbie. All of us, but especially young people, need to be around people who care for us, and want us to grow and learn--people who'll help us to do that.

But I've also been teaching Robbie a bit. And--this may be surprising--he takes my instruction very well.

People who know Robbie might find this surprising. He's very strong-willed and he's got this high-energy (ADHD?) thing going on, too.

But in the past few years, I've noticed that he really listens to me and is willing to let me teach him in many situations.

I'm the one who has helped him with music since the summer he took keyboard lessons (we didn't yet have a piano). When I asked him to practice, he usually did. And he worked with me on some simple teacher/student duets, going over tricky spots at my suggestions. Same with his trumpet. I'm the one who gets him to practice, and I helped him rehearse for his contest piece. Parts of it were tricky, and required me to have him stop and play it over several times. But he did well; he got a "1."

So it hasn't been a surprise to me that Robbie will work on his form and kicks with me at the dojang and even here at home. I give him praise and corrections in the way I give them to the other students. And he's fine with that.

I think it'll be OK to be the mom teaching--especially since I'm not the only one teaching.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I was curious about Master Kim's tournament. A handful of our students went on Saturday, and I wanted to know how they did!

Clearly, they did well. Here are some of the winners with their trophies. Our school was given that plaque recognizing our achievements at the tournament over the years.

Despite the trophies, not everyone was pleased about the tournament.

"I heard the judging was biased," said Ms. Pryor.

"But isn't that the way with all tournaments?" I asked.

"Let's put it this way," she said. "When you go to tournaments, why do you go?"

Hmm, cool question. "Well, I like training for tournaments, and getting my form to be the best it can be, and I like performing and showing everyone what I can do, and I like being there with you guys, and sparring with new opponents . . "

"But when you go, you go to win, don't you?" Ms. Pryor asked."

"Oh. Yeah. Yeah, I guess so." I felt kind of sheepish, like I'd answered the wrong way. "I did like winning firsts."

Later I realized that we were viewing TKD in two different ways: TKD as an art vs. TKD as a sport.

I tend to see TKD as an art. I've never trained in any sport, but I've trained in music and dance. So I see TKD as like those things: you train so you're ready for a kind of performance. Some people will like it, some won't.

On the other hand, some people see TKD as a sport, usually people who've trained in sports and like sports. You train so you can be better than your opponent in a competition. In sports, there are (usually) clear rules about how to win, so if you do it really well, you'll win.

If you think of TKD as an art, a tournament can be fun, satisfying, enjoyable . . . but only if you've trained your best and you don't get performance anxiety.

If you think of TKD as the latter, a sport, you'll probably enjoy tournaments where the judging seems more objective, but only if you've trained your best, "give 110%," and you WIN!

I bet most people think of TKD as a kind of combination of these two . . .

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Busman's Holiday

I taught class today. It may be the first time I did the entire class by myself.

"You're a good teacher," Brittany said to me during one of the breaks.

"Thank you," I said. "Teaching's kind of my thing."

Both teachers were gone today--there's a tournament at Master Kim's. A handful of other students went to the tournament as well. And it seems like lots of people had other things going on. So I said I'd teach.

I'm used to handling a class, so that part was fine. I did write down a list of what I wanted to do--didn't want to blank out in the middle of it! The class ended up doing a bunch of ballet-inspired exercises: working in front of mirrors, for example, and foot limbering exercises. And of course we did the usual forms and combination kicking.

Everything went well, thanks to some helpful black belts: Patrick, Raiden, June, and Brittany. I got home tired and satisfied.

Robbie went with me, too! He had a good class--he really can fly on those flying side kicks!

Friday, April 20, 2007

An injury

Not my injury this time, Brian's. He's hurt his back, and now I'm without my trusty workout partner.

His injury is something called a "herniated disc" and it mostly takes time to heal--several weeks, I understand. My friend Karen says she spends a weekend lying in bed on ice packs when her disc problem bothers her.

I hope I can stay motivated without Brian on the floor saying "let's go through our forms." And I seriously hope he's better very soon.

Any of you readers have any advice for Brian? I'll pass it on to him.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Our belt ceremony was yesterday evening.

It was great to see Annette and Vince, two adult students, get their yellow belts.

We were all proud of James, Kevin, and Ashley for getting their black belts.

There are a lot of black belts at our school--here we are!

and here's our trusty photographer, Brian A.

But the best thing was that Robbie was there--as a student again!

He decided to start TKD again. About a week ago, in response to some problems he's had controlling his temper, he told me "I need Jedi training."

"Jedi training is available," I said. "Do you want to start tae kwon do again?"

"Yes," he said.

I'm glad to have him in class. Yesterday, we stuck together, and went through Chun-Ji and basic movements. He takes instruction from me pretty well.

I also look forward to my fellow black belts helping him learn--not just the moves of forms, but also those tenets of TKD: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverence, Self-Control, and Indomitable Spirit.

As I said to someone at a TKD party the other day "it takes a village."

I'm glad to be part of this "village" where we all care for each others' children.

Monday, April 16, 2007

On my own

I had a dream last night that I was at the dojang working on forms during class, and I was almost completely unable to do the forms. Each time I'd start a form, my arms and legs would just get weak, my moves would get sloppy, and I'd forget the moves.

I think that dream was a sign. I haven't worked out since Monday's class.

So I went over to work on forms by myself today.

I don't like to work out alone. It's hard to get a good workout when there's no one to push you! But Brian, my usual workout partner, had a meeting, so there I was, alone. I didn't feel completely sloppy and inept--the way I did in that dream. But I know that my strength, power, and precision are just not what they were a couple months ago. My stamina is lacking, too. By the end of the workout, I was just walking through the forms, too tired to put everything into it.

Maybe this is going to be a new challenge in my martial arts journey. People have told me before that it's harder to stay focused on improving when you're a black belt. We black belts need to help teach, and we don't have the constant pressure of tests to keep us going. My next test is in 10 months!

So here's the question: How can I stay focused and fit and continue to learn and grow as a martial artist over the next few months? I have a goal of doing all my forms once a week, but I've done poorly with this goal. I also want to work on sparring, but I can't make it to Wednesday's class for a while, and that's when we practice sparring.

How do you other black belts out there manage it?

Sunday, April 15, 2007


I got this great belt holder for my birthday/Easter. Maybe you've seen them in catalogs, but this one was custom made for me by my brother.

I didn't know if I'd have a black belt to put on it--I figured I'd be WEARING my black belt. But I did get an extra black belt. As you can see, I tied it on the top (the "roof") of my rack.

All this is in our living room, up on top of one of the bookshelves, a kind of TKD shrine. You can see my trophies and medals there, too.

But I'm going to be getting more. I'll get a certificate soon, and I have that beautiful sword that I should display as well. All my TKD stuff could really take over the house . . .

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Not testing at the Test

Today was the first promotional test when I didn't test!

Black belts are expected to come to the promotional tests dressed up (i.e., not in our uniforms), and be ready to help.
Up at the front is the judges' table; about 7 black belts sit there to judge the students who are testing. I didn't expect to judge since I just got my black belt. Instead, I sat at the side, watching for ways to help.

Kevin, Ashley, and James were all testing for black belt. They were all ready.

After the test, most of the black belts went out for lunch--I couldn't join them, though. I'd gotten a babysitter until 2:30, thinking that would get me through the test (11-12:30 or 1) and part of lunch. But they couldn't get a table until 2:30, so I came home. Kind of a bummer.

At the test, I was talking to Justin about forms. "I had planned to do my forms once a week," I told him. "I'm not keeping up!"

"Last time I did them was when you came up to visit!" he said.

It's hard to stay on track when you're a black belt--lots of people have told me that. You don't have regular tests. You spend time helping the newer students instead of working on forms.

For me, one hard thing has been having to cut back on workouts--to just 2x a week. I'd love to go 3x a week, but it's hard to fit that in. Maybe this summer.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Hockey Fan

I wanted to write a post about hockey.

Last Saturday, I went to my very first ever hockey game with my family. It was Bill's idea--he'd read about our minor-league team online somewhere and decided he needed to see it.

Well, I'm always up for something new! Bruce and Eli stayed home (both feeling a bit tired), but the rest of us went.

It was more fun than I thought it'd be. The game was fast-paced, easy to follow, and BEAUTIFUL to watch! The players are young, and they seem to have no sense of mortality or "what if I get injured?" They went at full speed: turning, dodging, weaving, skating forwards and backwards. And then BAM into the boards! All-out play.

Most people think of hockey as "that violent sport." There certainly was some rough stuff. Players would shove or punch each other, but then they'd move on--no brawls, and everyone seemed to get over it quickly.

That is, until the 3rd period. Then this really odd thing happened, twice. After a face-off or stop in play, two players would suddenly throw down their helmets and gloves, and stand in Fighting Stance. Others would clear away, and the refs would just stand by, eventually separating the two players, after they hit each other with bare knuckles and attempted to pull each other to the ice. Then, the refs would send the 2 fighters to the penalty box.

It was so odd--like it was planned!

I asked Brian about it--he loves hockey. "Testosterone," he said. Well, yeah. The whole thing was pretty testosterone-heavy. But I'm still puzzled about those little bare-knuckled sparring matches in the middle of the game.

Oh, our team won! But it would have been fun either way.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


At TKD on Monday, Ms. Pryor was teaching. That's always good.

Well, it's always good at TKD. I love the way our two teachers' approaches are different--we learn different things and in different ways from each teacher.

About mid-way through the class, Ms. Pryor said "let's have some of the men black belts up here. The bigger ones."

She had six guys stand in two rows facing one another at the front of the room perpendicular to the stage. They linked arms with the guy across from them.

"OK, Jane--go up on the stage."

I did, and I knew what was coming next. I went and stood on the stage in front of the guys with my back to them.

"This is all about trust," she said--to me and to everyone. "You have to trust the people you work with enough to know they'll catch you when you fall. Go ahead and fall back."

I did.

They caught me.

"Were you scared?" said Jason, incredulously, when I joined the rest of the class.

"Not really," I said. "I trust them."

"I can't believe you weren't scared!" Jason continued.

"Well, I've actually had a lot of practice with that sort of thing," I admitted.

As one of the smaller people in any group I was in when I was in my teens, I was often the one chosen to do the "trust fall" or to be lifted up by my youth group cohort (with only their index and middle fingers . . . has anyone done that?). I was the one who got picked up and tossed around during playful gatherings--thrown into snow, pools, other people's outstretched arms.

Well, maybe it was that. Or maybe it was just that I trust those guys.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter weekend in Iowa

Here are a couple pictures from my family's visit to the dojang on Saturday. Here's 11-year-old Gabi breaking a board. That's my red leg in front; Master Hughes had them mirror me so they could get the kick right. That was a great teaching technique. I'll have to remember it.

Oh, did I mention I got a new uniform? The red uniform is our Black Belt Club uniform. I joined--it makes sense to join if you plan to test for Black Belt and First Degree.
And here's 9-year-old Maggie. Watch out, board!
Someone will have to send the photo of 13-year-old Anna breaking!

Here's what Justin found when he stopped by at our Easter dinner.
Martial artists have to eat, too!

Family Dinner

"Hey, someone's coming to your house, Aunt Jane!" Maggie says.

We're in the middle of our Easter dinner, squeezed in my tiny dining room, eating ham and noodles and gingered carrots.

"Yeah," says Anna. "It's the guy we met at Tae Kwon Do--Justin!"

It is Justin. He's stopping by to say hello before he heads back to the university. I invite him to join us. He's just been at two Easter dinners, he says; his family's and one at another TKD friend's house. But he joins us at the table to chat.

We talk about college life, the weather, other things. When Justin has to leave, I give him a hug, tell him to get his dress shirt ready for next Saturday's test, and tell him I'll see him next weekend.

"Your Tae Kwon Do group is like a family," my brother-in-law, Ken, remarks after Justin leaves. "Master Hughes does more than just teaching. He's doing a social service. He brings people together of different ages and has social events for everyone so you can be together."

I'm pleased to hear this insight. I'd hoped this weekend that my family would be able to see what has drawn me so deeply into this group--this group that really has become an extended family for me.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter TKD

I should be at the Easter service now, but when we got to church, Eli declared "I don't feel well." Normally, I would ignore this (Eli often "doesn't feel well"), but what with all the stomach maladies going around our family, I took him home. It turns out that he's having a recurrance of the croupy cough he had last week, so he's up in bed with a vaporizer.

Ah, the life of a mom: skip Easter celebrations to be with a sick kid.

But now I have time to tell about some of the weekend's festivities!

My brother and sister and their families came for Easter weekend. I had suggested it after Dad's funeral. I didn't want Bill to be home, NOT celebrating with Mom and Dad. Plus, Ellen and Ken are still living in an apartment--they needed a nicer place for Easter.

So they all came out here: my brother and his two girls, my sister and her husband and daughter.

And yesterday, we all went over to the dojang.

I'd suggested it, hoping they'd be curious enough to check out a class. The adults mostly wanted to watch and take photos, but my nieces all wanted to try it out. "I love trying new things," said Anna. Maggie has learned some caporia (sp?) at school, and Gabi has taken dance and drama, so they were ready. I dug up a bunch of TKD pants and t-shirts and they joined in.

It was a fairly small crowd, probably because of the holiday. But Master Hughes was there to teach. He's great with kids, and my nieces really enjoyed him. They learned some kicks, got a bit of a workout, and even broke boards. That made them especially proud!

At the end, we even had two birthdays to celebrate: Georgia's (she's 12), and Justin's (he turns 19 on Tuesday).

I brought boards so I could show my siblings that their "wimpy" sister can do amazing things--it took me a few tries, but I broke my usual 3-board combo. I believe the girls did better than I did!

Pictures will follow in a later post--my camera got left at the dojang. And I'll report on the hockey game we attended, too.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Women Black Belts

I was thrilled when I got a catalog in the mail with images of a WOMAN black belt on it!

Black Belt magazine is pretty good about featuring women martial artists on the cover, but the ads are mostly men . . . I don't know how the other mags are.

So when I got this catalog, I thought--"she's like ME! The ponytail, the slender frame, skinny wrists!"

But after I thought about it, I realized there is one big difference.

I'm probably 20 years older than this model!

It sure would be cool if a martial arts picture featured a middle-aged woman (or maybe one of those gray-haired woman black belts!)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Exhaustion and Celebration

Monday's class was a Classic Ms. Pryor Class: an awesome workout--and completely exhausting! I came home feeling stiff, sore, and wiped out, like an old person. I lay down on the bed while the boys were getting ready for bed, and practically couldn't get up again!

I loved it. Really. It was "a good tired."

But there was reason for celebration, too--Brian's birthday is this week and we celebrated in the usual TKD way--the singing, the gauntlet, the teasing, the treats (Brian brought Gatorade).

I gave him a special present: "the good stuff."

I tease him because he drinks some kind of lame beer--oh, I don't know, Micholob Lite ("Lite"!!!) or something--and calls it "the good stuff." This is not even Beer to me! So I bought him some Real Beer from a local brewery.

"You won't have to drink a six-pack to get a buzz from this," I warned him. "One bottle might do it." I think he's gonna love it!