Thursday, May 24, 2007

Last Post?

Dear blog-readers:

I wanted to let you know that I am going to take a break from the Tae Kwon Do Mom blog.

I have loved keeping this blog over the past 2 1/2 years. It's been great to share my story about becoming a student of the martial arts and a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

It's the story aspect of this blog that I've so enjoyed. Lots of people think of blogs as on-line diaries, but I've never thought of Tae Kwon Do Mom that way. It's been a story, with a focus, conflict (peaceful and wimpy middle-aged woman learns a combative sport), plot (will she get a black belt?), and, of course, really interesting characters. There's also been research (those hyper-links and quotes from books, etc.), photos, and your wonderful comments, too.

There have been some side-stories along the way, too--my children quitting TKD, the time Eli got hit by a car, my parents' deaths, and Robbie's rejoining TKD. I've loved having readers to share all that with!

But another thing a story has is a beginning, a middle, and an end.

I feel like I've come to an end with this blog. I'm not sure, but I think maybe.

Getting a black belt isn't necessarily an end for any martial artist, but it does provide some closure to the story of this blog. And my son rejoining this spring brings me back full circle (you may remember that my children started TKD before I did).

Now that I've achieved that closure, some of the necessary tension is gone from my blog's story-line. There are still moments of frustration and puzzlement for me in my training in TKD, but not enough to drive a plot. My blog is starting to feel like an on-line diary. That may (or may not) be interesting to readers, but I'm not sure I want to continue it.

I'm taking a break to think about this. Maybe I'll come back to this blog, maybe not. At any rate, it will stay posted here on blogspot.

I'm not going to quit Tae Kwon Do. I had no idea it would come to be such an important part of my life--I'll keep doing it as long as I can; maybe I'll see some of you at tournaments!

Of course I'm going to keep on writing--my usual free-lance stuff, posts on KarateForums, emails to many of you, my writing notebooks . . . and maybe once the blog is done, another big writing project will arise for me. I don't know.

Maybe I'll even make this blog into a book (or "blook" as they call it).

So thanks for being part of this TKD/writing journey. And if you want to stay in touch through email, drop me a comment and let me know your e-address!

I'll always be . . . .
Tae Kwon Do Mom.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Good things this week

1. I learned how to do a jump crescent kick. It's one of Master Hughes's favorite kicks, and after working on it for a while in class Wed., I had a decent one down.

It's like a tornado kick, but you don't switch legs. Kind of like a fouette turn versus a tour jete.

2. Speaking of ballet, I got a lot of work in on my wheel kick (another spinning kick) and it's improving. My problem seems to be ballet training. As I come around, my kicking leg rotates into turned-out position, rather than staying turned in to kick. Thinking about that helps.

3. Master Hughes said it would be fine for me and Robbie to learn Bo this summer at Kojokan!

Sunday, May 20, 2007


"Don't sell yourself short," Ms. Pryor said Saturday at the end of class. "Push yourself to improve, even when you think you're not good at something."

Ms. Pryor's inspirational words at the end of class convicted me, as we Methodists say. That means the words spoke to a lack I feel deeply in myself.

The past few weeks, I've been enjoying my workouts at TKD. One reason I've enjoyed them is that I haven't had to do things I don't like to do, namely: board breaking. When we practice breaking, I just sit quietly, or make sure the children get a chance to practice. My excuse: I don't have a test coming up, so I don't need to practice.

I also have been neglecting some kicks that are hard for me, namely: wheel kick. Ugh--I have such trouble with that one!

But this week, I'd been thinking that I need to get working on the parts of TKD that give me trouble.

And then Ms. Pryor had those words of wisdom to back up my hunch.

It's not really right to be a martial artist, but be unbalanced in one's practice--to just be good at forms, and not do sparring. Or to skip board breaking. Forms and sparring come easier to me than breaking, and regular kicks come easier than spinning kicks. But I need to work on it all, and not shy away from what's difficult.

This past week, I've even considered buying a rebreakable board

or tile,
just to get in some breaking practice at home (if I can find holders). Robbie will be able to use it too.

Any thoughts about this equipment?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Teaching Sparring to Kids

After a good class, but a frustrating sparring session for some of the children Wednesday, I began to wonder about the best way to teach sparring to children.

Then I suddenly realized there was a forum for questions about martial arts--Karate Forums! I love this site.

This is the question I posted. You can find it and a few thoughtful comments at Karate Forums, Instructor Central. And if any of you has any ideas about teaching sparring, please let me know.

My Post

Anyone have any ideas on how best to help children learn to spar?

Last night in our "all belts" class--which has a mix of belt levels and both adults and children--we sparred. My son, who's a green belt (and has just returned to TKD after a hiatus of 2 years), said "I don't like sparring. I don't learn anything."

A girl in the changing room complained, too. "I hate sparring. I don't think I'm good at it."

I find that children don't really seem to understand sparring. They just flail away, and don't even look at the target. If they spar with other children their size, it's chaos. If they spar with adults, they're outmatched (usually, just because of size and experience).

If I spar with a child, I end up not getting a good workout. I'll spar for just a while, then I do some teaching ("Here, try this combination") Since I'm a black belt, I teach sometimes, so I'd appreciate any ideas about how to make sparring a good learning experience for all involved.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Behind the Belt

Does anyone out there get Blackbelt Magazine?

I picked up a copy at the library today, and read an article that I wish I'd written! (That happens to writers sometimes.)

The article was "Behind the Belt," by Jim Morris, who's a freelance writer and martial artist (Karate), and it was in the March 2007 issue of Blackbelt Magazine. I wish I could provide you an internet link, but I can't find it on the mag's website--perhaps they don't archive all their articles.

In the article, Morris addresses questions that people often have about martial arts. Most people have odd notions. Morris says early on:

. . . when I tell my friend I'm taking karate, he mocks me. He assumes a karate stance, gets a kamikaze look in his eye and "karate chops" me, complete with a banshee yell.



Morris goes on to answer some questions people ask, like whether he could "take" a 280-pound ex-con who lives on his street. Morris's answer--no. "I'm not learning karate so I can beat people up." When pushed, he points out that even a thug has tender shins, eyeballs, and ears that could be attacked if necessary. Karate isn't needed for street fighting!

Another question: "Even if you're good, what are you going to do against a gun?"

First Morris points out the way the media tends to overplay the danger of violent crime in an ordinary person's life (a theme I've written about before, too). Then he says:

I took up martial arts for one reason: physical activity, but stayed for a host of reasons. People have noticed a difference in me, too. Several friends have said, "you seem different." I ask them how.

"Just more . . . relaxed. Calm."

I so enjoyed this article--it was a nice contrast to so many of the magazine's other articles--about MMA, "survival fighting," and phrases in ads like "transform any man into a walking, breathing weapon of mass destruction." (really) To its credit, the mag also has some reasonable columns and good advice about martial arts . . .

I hope you have read this article, or will read it--and I hope you enjoy! If you do, let me know what you think.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


A man I didn't know was hanging out at the dojang Saturday. He wasn't one of the dads, and he wasn't a student. He must have come in sometime after class started, because at some point, I saw him watching our class from the hallway.

I was teaching (Justin had asked me to take over because he wasn't feeling well), so during a break, I went over and introduced myself.

(As the teacher, and as a black belt, did this for two reasons: to extend hospitality, and also to find out who he was--for the safety of our students and our school.)

He told me his name--Ron--and said he was just there "working out" in our weight room. "We were here a couple of weeks ago, too," he said, and I remembered seeing two men working out then, too.

As I organized the small group of students into a rousing game of noodle hockey, Ron came into the gym itself and worked out with the heavy bag--punching it, and then kicking it with some nice side kicks. He also swung some num-chuks. He was good!

After he worked out for a bit, he sat on the floor by the wall and watched. By that time, I was having the students work on combination kicking.

When class was over, we talked again.

"You're obviously a martial artist!" I said.

"I trained with Mr. Hughes back a long time ago," he told me.

"You're not doing martial arts now?"

"I've been doing some boxing," he said. "But I might get my grandson to some classes. He's six."

I gave Ron a newsletter and encouraged him to bring his grandson.

"And feel free to come in and work out with us if you want," I said.

"Maybe I will. Or I can help out anytime, if you want."

I think I understand a bit of where he's coming from. He needs to watch and see what it's like before he commits to coming back (or not coming back). He obviously used to be good at TKD--so it might be difficult to come back. Even though he knows the basics, and his muscles remember the important moves, he's probably forgotten some things. So he needs to think about it.

I remember when I started TKD. I started out as a watcher, too, watching my kids do it, when I'd always been intrigued by martial arts and part of me wanted to join in. It took a while before I let myself take the plunge! I didn't know if I wanted to make that kind of committment, or if I maybe wanted to channel my energies elsewhere.

Watching for a while helped me decide.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Indomitable Spirit

"Mom. Have you decided if you're going to Tae Kwon Do tonight yet?"

Robbie's been bugging me for the past two days. I told him I wanted him to go 3x a week, but I'm not sure I'll do that, too.

Finally I decide to go. He's pleased.

Often Robbie and I are doing different things during class: I'll be up with the black belts, and Robbie will be elsewhere. So I don't always know what he's doing.

At one point, he comes up to me and says he's hurt his elbow. "I fell on it," he tells me.

"Ow," I say. I don't want to show too much sympathy. He's got to learn to suck it up.

Later, when we're sparring, I hear someone saying "Robbie, are you OK?" I look over at him. Robbie has stopped sparring, and looks back at me with a red, angry face and tears starting in his eyes. I found out later that he got . . . uh . . . kicked . . . But he continues on.

In the past, he might have gotten angry enough to yell and stomp off--yes, angry about an accident: it's always been his way of dealing with things. He gets excited--good or bad excited--and his temper gets short. Anything can tip him over the top, even an accident. But we're working on that these days. It's part of his "Jedi Training."

He's angry now, but he's not exploding; he's not giving up.

At the end of class, Master Hughes calls on students to recite the student oath. Chris can't remember it; neither can Ashton. Robbie does. He's called on at the right time. "Self-Control. Indomitable Spirit," he says.

I know those are hard for him. I'm glad he's doing better.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A New Challenge

In my last blog post, I told you about writing to the Kojokan sensei about learning bo at their school. Well, I got a reply today.

He remembered me ("I remember you well, since you initially became interested in martial arts training after watching one of our shows," he said) and he encouraged me to come down to the dojo and try out a class. Bo classes are Saturday afternoons.

His suggestion is that I begin with some lessons this summer, and come when I can during the year to continue my practice. "To be truly proficient with a weapon requires regular training, becoming one with a weapon will not happen on an infrequent basis" he said. I agree.

To me this offer sounds perfect. I was thrilled that he was willing to take on a student from another school. I will let Master Hughes know about this--my guess is that he'll encourage me to try this new challenge.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Too cold and wet

Despite looming clouds, we drove over to the Renaissance Faire today. The newspaper said it would be sunny and warm, and that the rain would hold off until tonight.

The newspaper was wrong! It started drizzling as soon as we got to the Faire, and didn't let up all afternoon. In fact, it poured!

We didn't want to wander out to the encampments, or do archery, so we went with Bonnie and Jacob to some of the vendors. Here are Robbie and me in one tent, hiding from the rain.

We also really enjoyed watching this glassblower. We hadn't seen him before at a Faire, and it was nice to stand by his kiln! He made some cool creations.

I was sorry not to be able to hang out with Kojokan, the samurai arts school which always has a demo team at the Faire. I did see the sensei briefly, and said hi.

I sent a message from their website to see if it would be possible for me to come down and learn bo. . . we'll see what comes of it!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Clothing makes the Person

Robbie took these photos of me today in class. I wanted to get a nice "TKDmom the blackbelt" photo--maybe I'll put it on the top of my blog.

Vote for your favorite:

I like wearing my new red "black belt club" uniform. It's nice to have a new uniform, one that's still crisp. And of course, the black belt. I'm feeling its meaning more strongly every time I put it on.

In the afternoon, there were graduation festivities at the college. I went over for the Phi Beta Kappa initiation (it's an honorary society) and Baccalaureate. Here's my other "uniform" for those sorts of things.

I'm wearing my Dad's mortarboard here. I almost wore his doctoral hood (that's the colorful thing), but it's for engineering . . . my degree's in English. The colors of the hood symbolize your degree and your university. Dad's has a brown interior, while mine is "old gold." Still, maybe I'll just wear Dad's anyway next year.

It was fun when we processed into the big chapel/auditorium where they held the ceremony. The grads-to-be went first, and as we faculty came in behind them, I heard people say "oh--here come the faculty!" Everyone turned around to see us in our ceremonial robes and colorful hoods!

Something about wearing these two "uniforms" is very special to me. They certainly do symbolize two important parts of my life.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The story

TaeKwonDoMom is ready to take her grades over to the registrar. She's spent the past few days grading papers--about 120 individual projects, she's figured out with the help of a calculator. Her brain is fried.

She sighs, turns off the radio in her office, and glances at her desk, covered with papers, folders, and books. She decides to ignore the mess, for now.

At the registrar's office, she says hi to the woman behind the desk. Is her name Kay? Or is it Esther? She can't remember.

"Are you done then?" the woman asks her, taking the grade sheets.

"Yes. I'm done. And ready for summer."

There's such a nice rhythm to the academic year. Though scholarship, study, reading, and writing are never-ending, classes have a definite beginning, middle, and end, just like a good old traditional novel. TaeKwonDoMom likes this aspect of her job.

After she drops off the grades, she heads to the movie rental place. She goes directly to the movie she wants and signs it out. Driving home, she turns on the "oldies" station and sings along to "Deacon Blues," a song that was popular when she was in high school.

At home, she makes herself a lunch and takes it out to the living room. She pops in the DVD and turns on the TV. She's been wanting to see this movie for a long time--even signed it out one weekend . . . and then didn't have time to watch it.

I love the end of the semester, she thinks.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Another conversation

A conversation at my department's end-of-the-semester lunch:

Mary: What's that bracelet say? Black . . . ?

Jane: Black Belt.

Mary: Oh! Are you a black belt now?

Jane: Yeah, I am. I tested in February.

Mary: I didn't know that!

Jane: That's why I was so fit . . . and TIRED during February--I was training six times a week!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Four Conversations

First conversation:
Jane: Good to see you, Justin! We missed you in class Saturday.

Justin: (shaking hands) I was in Des Moines with friends. Haven't gotten much sleep. Hey, who's teaching?

Jane: Now? You are! You're senior.

Justin: Oh great. . . I'm feeling grumpy. Well if I'm teaching, we're going to spar.

Second conversation:
Jane: (as we're working on some excruciating leg exercises) Doing OK?

Robbie: I don't like this.

Jane: It'll be over soon.

Robbie: I don't like Justin's workouts!

Third conversation:
Justin: I want to do a flying side kick over these pads. (He gestures to the long gymnastics pads folded up along the side of the dojang.)

Jane: Longways? You're going to have to work up to that. Robbie's been practicing his flying side kicks.

Robbie: I can jump over five of the blue kicking pads!

Fourth conversation:
Jane: (on the way home) So what did you think of noodle hockey?

Robbie: It was OK. I just played defender the whole time.

Jane: That game doesn't have positions! You just chase the ball like a kitty and do lots of body checks. That's what makes it fun!