Thursday, June 29, 2006

The gauntlet has been thrown down

I will explain the...challenge in a moment. First, a recap of the night.

Actually, most of it was nothing extraordinary. MZ was teaching tonight, and I get along with her a lot better than most of the other younger instructors. But then again, I think the only one that I have any REAL issues with is Victoria. Victoria is a nice kid, but as an instructor, I don't always like her methodology with adults. MZ is a little better, and so are most of the other kids, because they understand their place as an instructor, yet still respect me as the adult. Anyhow, we went over the form, and I was with Matthew, who is now my "partner in crime". His mother Julie seems very grateful that I make a fuss over Matthew and help him out. Matthew is a good kid, Downs or not. And while my son's special needs are not as severe as Matthew's, I can certainly appreciate where he's at, and how to redirect him, and keep him on task, and treat him like a normal person. I think that's part of the reason that my son has done as well as he has, and that's why Matthew is doing really well. I'm challenging him a little, but not so much that he can't keep up. So, anyway, we reviewed the form, then we did board breaking. Another first-- I attempted my first knifehand break. JZ (aka Jodi) felt uncomfortable showing me it, as she admitted that even as a 2nd degree, she's never done a knifehand break. That's understandable and I respected that, and she recommended that Mr. A or Ma'am show me. Well, sure enough, Mr. A is taking a quickie break from his Aikido class (they share studio space with us on some nights, so Mr. A takes that martial art too), and he came over and showed me how to do it. Once he explained it, it made sense. It's essentially the reverse or kickback from doing an elbow strike, so if you were to do an elbow strike, then the reflex returning back would be the knifehand strike. That made sense to me. Didn't do it on the first two attempts, and then Mr. A recommended that I try it with a closed hand first to get the hang of it. On the second closed hand attempt, I got it. Hooray! I even got cheers from Julie and Matthew. :-) Sparring went on as usual, and then we bowed out for the Basics, and two of us just practiced weapons for a bit. I didn't need much practice, and MZ and I ended up chatting about Worlds and tournaments and such. Ironically, she said that when she competes locally (in our region), then she never places, but at Worlds or Nationals, she always places. She got 3rd in forms at Worlds, which is still pretty great to me. Anyhow, that's when it happened. We were talking about ATA Xtreme (aka XMA a la ATA), and we were talking about how Drew loves the Power Rangers, and the original Blue Ranger is the one who developed it. She said that she's done it, and she said, "Hey, why don't you?". I explained that I'm way out of shape to be doing it, and I think I should probably have a class or two under my belt or watch it more or something. MZ knows I have a big dance background, and that I am fascinated by it. She told me the age breakdowns are much different for ATA Xtreme, as for women it's something like ages 17-34, then 34 and up. Of course, I'd be in the latter category. And she said when she did it, it was just a friend at the tournament said, "Why don't you try?" and she just said, "OK", and she said she only had two other people competing against her. In my age range, there's next to nobody. And even at the time she did it, she had never seen or been to a class, and she made it up as she went along. All I need is 3 minutes of music, and just, well, go to it. Hmmmm..... this is getting me to thinking. She's right-- why not? I have almost 20 years of dance background, and being that I'm a purple belt and have taken just a pinch of a class during that big workout with the Chief Master that one time to have an idea about it (and I've watched it a little too), what's stopping me? I don't necessarily have to do the gymnastics of it that much. A couple of well placed jump kicks, a little dramatic flair, and a lot of yelling, (I can do that!), maybe I could actually get away with it. I have to think about it, and maybe ask Mr. A what he thinks (since I've hardly heard or seen from Ma'am in weeks). I feel like although it really wasn't MZ throwing the gauntlet down really, and she wasn't exactly daring me or challenging me to do it, it was a mild encouragement to try it, and I don't think she'd suggest it unless she meant it. She's not like that.

So I have to think about it....and see if I can find 3 minutes of music that will get me pumped up enough to move for 3 minutes straight and inspired to try!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Lazy night, but sweet success!

It was generally a lazy class tonight. I was the only color belt, albeit it's leadership class, but usually at least Alex V. or someone else might be in there, and tonight, I was the only one. Oh well. Mr. A was told to just run class pretty much like usual, which generally he did. We did some drills on the kickpads to review certain sections of our forms, depending on what our forms were. Then we worked on them. There were more 1st and 2nd degrees there, so I didn't get that much attention to what I was working on, but I did get help on what I've learned so far, and got a sneak peak at the next section. Mr. A knows that I'm trying to cram this whole form in quickly so that I can use it for the tournament in a few weeks. I just have to practice. While the black belts worked on weapons, I continued to work on my form instead. I've got my weapons form down pretty much, so my regular form needs more work. Then, it happened. :-) I was told that since it's a review week, and now that I'm a purple belt, I will need to break a board using a hand strike in order to graduate to a blue belt. Great. So my choices are, knifehand strike, palm heel strike, or an elbow strike. I don't know how to do a knifehand, I'm not so great at the palm heel quite yet, so I opted to work on the elbow, since I haven't done it in a while. So I did a few warmups on the side, then a few with the board, and happened...... Mr. A and Mrs. Dr. Phillips held the board, and WHACK! My elbow went straight through on the first try. OH you can't imagine the joy I had! Now, I'm not sure if my plastic board is starting to go too, but heck, I don't care! I did it! On the first try! I worked SO hard for months to get this strike down, starting with pads on my forearm, getting major bruises on my elbow and everything. Not this time. WOO HOO! In Blue Belt, it's a foot strike, so that will be easier, as I'm much stronger with my foot breaks. We had sparring, but it was one round, and I still have to watch it with the "windshield wiper" blocking. I am really determined to do better in sparring for the tournament. I might not rank in sparring for the state, but I want to be able to hold my own better, that's for sure, and when mentioning that to Miss Chunko, she agreed that mentality was the better way to go. Nina asked me if I was going to the Tournament in September-- I had heard there was one and thought it was local (meaning in NJ) and said yes. I found out tonight it's in Newark, DE. Heh, I'll still go. It's about an hour, hour and a half away, so that's still relatively local, and it'll give me the opportunity to rack up some more points if I can.

I am determined to do better this year than last year. OK, so I just joined the "circuit" back in April and caught the tail end of it, but I still ended up 3rd in the state in weapons. Who's to say with an earlier start and more practice, I couldn't at least be #2 on all fronts? It's worth a shot.

I also got a little bit of news from the World Championships. I talked with Emily, who only competed as a Top Ten finisher. She got #1 in forms and #3 in sparring. Not too shabby. That's in the WORLD for special abilities women, all ages. She also told me, which I didn't know, that she is on the World Demo team, so I DID see her during that internet broadcast of the opening ceremonies. Sweet. I also heard through the grapevine that Ma'am got 4th in sparring (she is also a top ten finisher for her rank and age group in the world) and missed being 3rd by one point for the year. I also heard that in some session, she was judged by two masters and a 3rd degree. The Masters gave her higher points than the 3rd degree, and that might have cost her that placing. But to know that Ma'am in ranked 4th in the WORLD for 4th and 5th degree women-- I'm still proud to be her student, and that's considering I know her shoulder has been really a big problem for her. It'll be interesting to hear the results of other stuff regarding our group coming back.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A few more details, and a good, but tiring Saturday (long entry--be forewarned)

I didn't write until now (Sunday evening) since Friday as I had a pretty full day yesterday, and by the time I got the time to write here, frankly, I was tired. I'll explain in a moment.

So, more on the opening ceremonies. Like I said, very theatrical. The national anthems (both for Korea and the United States) took forever. I don't know the Korean national anthem to say whether that was very long, but man, the American one was. I was told later that there are 5 verses to it, but no, they didn't sing all 5 verses, but rather dragged out an embellishment at the end. Man, they take a shorter time singing that one verse at the Super Bowl, for goodness' sake! But I get the impression somewhere that the Grandmaster likes all this high drama stuff. Anyway, the theme of the event was "The Legend of Baogh, the Flying Tiger". (Baogh is pronounced "bay-oh", FYI.) The World Demo team did this whole thing at different times during the course of the evening where they showed skills but acted out parts of the story like improvisational dance. (That always works for me!).

The story basically goes that in a jungle far away was a land of jackals and tigers. Long ago, the jackals had lost a battle for territory, and the tigers were the leaders of the land. This was achieved due to a flying tiger who had stopped the war. Within the ranks of the tigers, there were "castes", per se (my words, not theirs), of the 3 striped tigers, 2 striped, 1 striped and no striped tigers. The 3 striped tigers were the leaders, and the no striped tigers were just above the jackals in the lowlands and were the servant class. There was a young cub in the no stripe clan named Baogh, and he questioned his mother as to why he had to be a servant when he knew that he had much more in himself that to be forced to be less than he was. His mother explained that that was just the way it was, but also told him the story of the Flying Tiger, who supposedly was once a no-stripe tiger too. Baogh decided to go into the jungle, and find himself, and see what he was worth. Along the way, he met an old tiger, who saved him from some jackals in how he presented himself-- strong, fearless, and merciful. He took Baogh under his wing, and trained him with all the skills to build his strength and knowledge for a long time. One day, the old tiger put Baogh to the test. His challenge was that Baogh had to jump across the width of the running river. The old tiger assured Baogh that he had the skills necessary to do it. Baogh tried, but made it almost halfway, and fell into the river. He felt defeated. The old tiger told him to try again. Again, Baogh fell in. He was frustrated and feeling defeated. The old tiger told him, "You are not doing it because you don't BELIEVE-- you have to have faith in yourself that you CAN do it.". Sure enough, Baogh tried one more time, and will his determination and faith in himself, he made it across. Upon landing on the other side of the river, he was happy with his success. He discovered that out of nowhere, he had gained a single stripe on his fur. Before he could figure out how that got there, another older no stripe tiger was across the river and was being attacked by jackals. Baogh leaped across the river again with ease this time, and understanding his power, that he didn't necessarily have to use it aggressively, made his presence known and scared the jackals away, saving the no stripe tiger. "Thank you so much! I didn't expect to see a two-striped tiger in this part of the woods! I am indebted to you!". Sure enough, Baogh had sprouted a second stripe. Baogh assured the no stripe tiger that he too was a no stripe, and had only learned the potential within himself to do more. The other no stripe explained to him that things were bad where they lived, due to a pending jackal revolt. The 3 stripes were unaware and not really paying attention that the jackals were coming to upset the balance of things and take over, ruining their life, and sought Baogh's help. Baogh went to help. He encountered his mother and other clanstigers, who were amazed at the transformation. He only explained that the difference between them and him was that he knew he had a lot more to offer, and was able to find and learn how to live up to that potential. His mother was proud, naturally. It was just at that moment the jackals came to attack. Lots of snarling and growling about, but Baogh led the way, but not fighting, but maintaining his presence and essentially being diplomatic and putting the jackals in their place without shedding blood. In standing up to opposition, being true to himself, and while having the strength and power using it wisely as a true leader, he was able to make a peace with the jackals again, and proved that you can be someone in how you develop yourself and participate as a leader in your community. It was a good story. Oh, and Baogh got a third stripe too. ;-)

So, in between all that, they had the ATA Xtreme group competition, presentations to civic leaders, and they did the testing for those trying to promote to senior masters, their mid terms, and one guy testing for chief master (7th and 8th degrees respectively). Then they did the end of the Masters Ceremony, which is the culmination of training, fasting, and other symbolic stuff. Becoming a Master is becoming an Instructor of Instructors, as is becoming a Senior Master. Interesting ceremony, steeped in tradition and symbolism, etc. Pretty cool. There were several people that I knew or had met along the way. Some I had not realized were already Masters, and as I mentioned in my last post, had I known, I wouldn't have been crying in front of them when I went to that seminar, as they were coming up to be Senior Masters now!

In the end, it was a 3 hr. extravaganza, and very interesting to watch, and certainly encouraging and inspiring at time to keep working at it. Thank goodness it was on the Internet that it was being broadcast, because it was a little after midnight when it ended, and I was tired, so I could just go to bed, while all those people, who granted were an hour behind me, still had to leave the arena, get back to wherever they came from before they could get to bed, and some had to compete the next day!

My next day, Saturday, was my first attempt at the new schedule that Ma'am has instituted for the summer. She is breaking down each half hour into concentrations where you can work on one aspect of what we do for the full half hour. This is especially important to me as I want to improve and be able to get some individualized attention to help me improve, especially in light of the tournament next month. So, I hit EVERYTHING-- sparring, weapons, forms, and board breaking. Yes, it was 2 hours, and it was nonstop. We'd take a quick break to bow in and out of each session, but otherwise not much of a break. I think after sparring and before weapons, I was able to peel off all the gear and guzzle down some water. I think all the sessions helped in some way. I certainly need all the sparring practice I can get. Knowing that I'm a little more assertive in how I spar than most women at my age and rank, I'm getting more confident. Due to my height and age as well, I actually would prefer to spar with the teenagers and the men, not so much most of the women my age. Not that many of them show up, but many of the teens, again mostly the guys, and the adult men are more of a challenge. I always say, "Go easy on me", and they do at first, but at least that way they can better gauge what I can do. It's not unusual for me to go up against someone who is a higher rank than me, either by a little or a lot, and if they can help me learn something, I will stop and ask how to do something in the middle of a sparring session. It's all about the learning after all, isn't it? I haven't had anyone not oblige me if I ask questions or offer advice. I also try to challenge the littler kids too. It gives me a break, but then I also try to make them try and not be afraid of coming up against someone bigger than themselves. It helps give them confidence and learn and try some new things too. After this sparring session, I was exhausted, and could feel the sweat dripping down the sides of my face. I think I must be getting a little better. I still tired out sooner than everyone else, due to the asthma mostly, but I felt like considering that I made it through that class, and I hadn't had a heart attack (or felt like I was going to), that was progress. Weapons was easy. Paul, a young boy who is in Leadership and was assisting, was having a hard time remembering how to start a practice, so I'd prompt him a little bit. I tried to help him more like I wasn't taking over the class from the background, but telling him that he had to lead, and you tell US when to start, etc. He didn't remember the form, but naturally I know it by heart, but we had a chance to really review it step by step. The Charters sisters were in that class, so they were glad I was in there to help them review and learn the last part a little bit. Weapons is SO easy right now. We did some good warmups to really get our arms ready to do the moves for the weapons form. Dude, by the end of next month, I should be MORE than ready for tournament in weapons, and should kick butt! Forms were good too, as we could slow it down a little, and get some of the smaller details down. While I have the next section down in my head (and I think in practice), I know getting the little details are what make or break in tournament. Again, I want to kick butt with that. I think I'll be more ready for sparring for tournament too. When that tough chick from VA comes along again, I'll be ready! She won't knock ME over any chairs like she did some others. PHEAR ME! :-P Board breaking, while not required for tournament, is something that I need to work on in general. I'm not sure if I have to board break for my next testing, so I can use all the help I can get. This class, I think, I got the most information from. We did a lot of drills without the boards. All of us, whether it was in our form or part of what needed to be done for our board break, worked on some form of side kicks. I worked on the basic side kick at first, but then, since the kid I was working with was working on reverse side kicks, I asked Mr. A if he'd show me how to do them. They really weren't that hard to do once I got the hang of them. And after all the drills in front of the mirror and on the bags, we finally got to the boards. The kid who was working with me held my board with Mr. A, and it was his first time holding a board. I think because of my slight hesitancy due to the boy, I pushed the first time, but did separate the board a little. Mr. A banged it back together and I had another try at it. BAM! In that second hit, it came apart. SWEET. I think this dreaded side kick is finally coming together. I am hoping that the next time I have a chance to work on it, I will be able to warm up a little first, and have two capable board holders, and I will get it on the first break. I've done that with a front kick, but never a side kick. Believe me, I will be so excited when that happens. And I have to make that happen, and like in the story of Baogh, I have to have faith in my abilities to make it happen. I think I've seen too many kids get so nervous that something they should be able to do with the board breaking is they just stop short and don't follow through. I need to have the confidence to get the job done, or as they tell us when we test, "Bust 'em up!". I was thoroughly exhausted both physically and mentally after that (more physically), but it was a worthwhile 2 hours, and I think this is going to be my Saturday midday thing for the summer, if not for a long period of time. I am quite determined that this coming year, I will be at least #2 in all respects in the state, and I will work to make that happen.

In the meantime, I'm going to rest a little bit!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Late night thoughts

A few minutes ago, I finished watching the webcast of the opening ceremonies of the 2006 ATA World Championship. It's really late at night for me to give my full review, so I will save that for tomorrow, but I will say that they really know how to put on a show, and there is a little bit of overkill of pomp and theatrics. But hey, why not? There were several dignitaries that were pointed out very early in the ceremony being the most high ranking masters of the organization. I can say that I've personally talked with CM I. H. Lee, Senior Master DiLegge, and a few others who were being promoted to either Master or Senior Master level. Most of that was at that Leadership workout that I went to a couple months ago. Cripes! I cried in front of some Senior Masters! How embarassing for me! I mean, I knew being a Master or SM was high up there, but I don't think I understood 100% (maybe 80%) of the importance of their placement in the ATA hierarchy. Crap, crap, crap! Hopefully, if they actually remember me in future meetings, they won't look down on me. It's unlikely they would, but you know... Ma'am instructor, Mrs. C, is officially Master C now, as is another NJ instructor Master McInnerney.

It was also a little encouraging to see that even the Masters and Senior Masters don't always break their boards either and have to have a couple tries at it too at their testing (yes, they have to be tested in front of a very large public audience-- the opening ceremonies!). There were some good messages in the whole presentation, but more on that tomorrow.

I'll also have to write about the connection between TKD and knitting, as I think there is definitely a connection there, considering that I do both and tonight I was knitting while watching the whole thing. Love the WWW.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Wham, Bam, thank you Ma'am

It was a really quick class tonight in most respects, as it was only three students in class, myself being one of those three. It left us to whip through everything we had to do. My other classmates were Malachi, the troublemaker, who was on better behavior tonight, and Matthew, one of the Downs' kids. We reviewed the form and the new section again, so that went pretty quickly for Malachi and I. Then we did our sparring. First I went up against one of the punching bags, then I sparred Matthew, then Malachi. Malachi behaved himself and didn't get too rough, so that was good. I actually got a nice compliment from Mr. A tonight regarding my sparring, which was that I was not afraid to be aggressive/assertive when sparring, as most women I guess kinda hold back when they spar, or don't show much power. The girls go at it, if you watch them in the tournaments, but otherwise, they are not as aggressive as guys. Testoterone factor, I'm sure. ;-) But, hopefully that will work in my favor in the tournament, that I won't be afraid to go for the gusto. We did board breaks next, and I don't know if I wasn't concentrating, but it didn't break right away. My practice kicks were good though. Maybe I was hesitating because of my holders, or specifically one. Matthew offered to hold. It was so cute. I don't think he's ever held, being that he's a Special Abilities student (obviously due to his Downs), so I told him to ask Mr. A first. Mr. A said he could help him. So, Mr. A showed him how to hold once I had done my practices, and he did a good job for a first time. It was so adorable to watch him-- he was so excited that he had helped. Weapons was last, and I just got some pointers on how to make the transitions into the new parts that I learned last night. We bowed out as Matthew is only supposed to have a 45 minute class, but Malachi and I stayed on for the rest of our hour class to work on other stuff. I worked some more on the weapons, and then asked Mr. A to help me remember the next section of the form that we haven't officially learned. I had remembered most of it, it was directional and finer points in getting the moves. I'll have it ready for next week with no problem. ;-)

After class, Malachi's mother was asking me questions about the regional tournament, as Malachi hadn't even done an interschool tournament, and I think he's interested in competing in weapons, but not form and sparring. So, I just explained my experiences, and how it's better to stay for the WHOLE tournament, especially since this is Ma'am's tournament, and it's good experience, even if he only ends up coming as a spectator, so that he can see ATA Xtreme, how higher belts compete, etc. So, I think he and his parents have something to think about. It IS a long day, but you learn so much. Tiny Tigers aren't expected to stay all day, but I'll be there all day simply due to me helping, and I'll be there early because TT start at 8:30 AM, and that's Drew's category. I think Ma'am's schedule is set up to keep things moving all day.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

One step forward, and practically done

Well, that title is a little misleading, but it's not too far from the truth. In leadership class tonight, again, there were very few people, probably due to a bunch of them being at the World Championship right now, and end of school/beginning of summer. It was quiet, but that was fine. When Mr. A teaches leadership, he just reviews the Tiny Tiger forms and one steps, then does the full form of the current one for the color belts. Of course, being a color belt, I'll just go along with directions for now, as I only have maybe the first 10 of 44 steps. Bleeh. I wish I was a little farther along in my form, as I want to have it down early so that I can work on the refinements for tournament. Alex V. was my teacher/cohort in crime for tonight as usual. It wasn't too bad. He'd already taught me half of what I was supposed to learn this week anyway, so to learn the rest of it was pretty easy. I asked Mr. A, while looking at my curriculum book, how many steps were in the next section so perhaps I could get a head start on them. I have the DVD to refer to as well, so that will help. So, he showed me which of the next ones were the next section, so hopefully it will help. Right now, the whole thing isn't hard, but rather it's confusing. Did the sequences for the last forms seem harder? I don't know, I can't say in hindsight. I was reminded that I could do an old form for tournament, but since graduation should be shortly after tournament, I'm thinking that it'd be better just to concentrate on one form at a time, thus stick to this new brown belt form (I'm two belts lower than that.) When we went to do weapons, I found out that I already know 90% of the creative form, so it was just 4 more easy moves (one of which I had done automatically with the bahng-mah-ee already last cycle we were doing this weapon), so it's just getting used to adding the other 3 moves. Piece of cake. Hence, while I'll be struggling with the form, weapons will be a breeze for now. I could stand to have a break with something! Board breaking wasn't too bad tonight either. It was foot week, so instead of doing the front kick which I could probably do with my eyes closed, I decided that I should go back to the dreaded side kick that I've been working on for SOOOO long. The good news is that after a few practices, I broke it on the 2nd kick, which I think is the fastest I've done it. I just have to remember that I don't have to be fast on the setup, only in the kick itself, and make sure I get that little bit of twist from chambering and setting up correctly. So I'm pleased with that. I think I'm getting the hang of it. I think I was reading tonight that I have to do my first break for testing to get to the next belt, if I read correctly and it's probably going to be a hand break, most likely either a palm heel or elbow. I haven't done elbow for a while, so I'll have to work on that a bit too. While I'll be in class tomorrow, I'm planning on being in the new classes on Saturday to perfect different aspects of the things we do. I need help on almost all of it. Weapons, as least this cycle, is pretty easy, since I feel I'm getting a good feel for the bahng-mah-ee for doing it so long. I was hoping Ma'am would say that I'm ready for doubles, but she hasn't been around to say so, so I just go with whatever Mr. A has been putting out for me to do. That's fine. Sparring, ah, dreaded sparring. Mr. A was my first partner, and giving me some good pointers. For example, something that I have to work on is not using my right hand predominantly to block hits and punches and kicks, especially kicks. He called it the "Windshield Wiper effect", and I have to remember to use both hands. So I took note of that. Second round, I didn't have a partner, and nobody was volunteering. I felt slightly hurt, but then again, it's a bunch of teenagers, so it's to be expected. Eventually, Nina ended up as my partner, and that was good. I was ready for a third round, but Mr. A decided to cut us a break tonight, so I was glad. So it wasn't too bad a night. Things are coming along, and I just have to be diligent with my form, I think. So, in that light, that's what I mean by one step forward-- getting additional steps of my form to learn and the 3-4 extra steps in my weapons form, and practically done, as I knew most of that weapons form already, the board breaking is taking less attempts, and the sparring is progressing. I just have to think positively with the progress I've made. There are times that I know I've made progress for sure, but at the same time, I am still not feeling that confident in my abilities. Part of me dreads being in class, as I feel kinda dumb and not remembering, and not having the ability. But I know that with the less attempts it takes to break a board, or the fact that I can hold my own for the most part in getting the job done in other aspects, I must be making progress. I get concerned about training to be an instructor. I can't remember the old forms, even though I did them myself not THAT long ago. It's just so much to remember, it's intimidating. So, I just concentrate on having a good attitude as best as I can, working within my abilities, stretching those abilities when I am physically and mentally able to, and presenting the best front I can. After all, I have a tournament in a month to compete in, and I want to place in it!

And speaking of the tournament, I saw today that since Drew and I are signed up before June 30th, we are considered part of the Competition Team for our school. We are one of two Mother-Son teams within this competition team. The other one is Sharon and Greg, the other people who happen to be from our town, and also two of my other favorite people at the school! I just hope that Sharon and I don't have to actually spar at the tournament, because in class we are always giggling together. I'll have to put on my game face for that!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I don't always enjoy kids teaching me

Tonight, Victoria, aka Miss Plummer, was teaching tonight's class. Now, she's a good kid overall, and I generally get along with her, but I think I've decided that I don't always like her teaching style. But then again, I think I have a problem with learning stuff from teenagers. Now, it's not that I don't respect their rank and experience. On the contrary. But when a teenager starts talking down to me, and putting me through things that if I was their age and about 60 lbs. lighter, I could do, but being an "old" woman and quite overweight, plus having some health issues (exercise induced asthma and very bad knees-- see yesterday's post), I get a little pissed. I mean, come on. I know that TKD is not for the faint of heart, and generally I have the right spirit and determination. While I don't say, "I can't", I'm more prone to say, "I can't do that right now, but give me time," or "I'm unable to do that because I have physical limitations that inhibit me from doing so". Mentally, I'm usually the go getter. Even tonight, we were semi-casually talking about what each color belt means, and me, the next to lowest ranked one was giving answers that were at least on the right track, whereas the room full of red belts were all like, DUH. (The lowest ranked was a boy who just got his orange belt, so he wouldn't know.) Hello, McFly! They all should've been answering before me. I think in time, I'll be a good teacher, but I really don't like that a kid is ordering me around, and not showing respect as an "elder" to her in all areas except rank. I can kid around with the kids, but don't always think that I should be treated lowly simply because I'm a lower rank. That's just not right. There has to be a balance of respect, and I just see that it's not always balanced on the side of the teenagers and younger kids teaching. I respect their authority, but they don't always recognize mine. The more I think about it, I think it boils down to maturity. I think I do have a lot of the kids (both students and teachers alike) respecting me and feeling okay around me because I don't try to pull rank (unless necessary), and I also appreciate their strengths and weaknesses. I know the little boy in my class today felt most comfortable around me, because I didn't boss him around, but acted more as the educated peer, even though he's old enough to be my son. (Then again, almost all of them there were old enough to be my children.) But I let him feel it was okay to make mistakes, and that I was still learning and share where I mess up too, and show him my weaknesses so he can gain some strengths-- namely some confidence and good self-esteem with what he's doing. Because in the end, isn't that what a huge part of learning martial arts is all about? Learning to be confident in yourself and feeling a self-pride in your accomplishments, no matter how you got there and made the effort? That's what martial arts should be about, especially when teaching it to a young kid. This is why it is supposed to carry over into "regular" life as well. But to get a little cocky and not respect your elders as much is annoying.

We didn't do weapons, so I am still not sure what we are doing with that. My board break didn't come as quickly today, but that's okay. I still got it eventually. And I was so exhausted and sweaty after sparring (4 rounds! Bleeck!), that I was literally dripping when I took my headgear off. And that was with the A/C finally working and it now being "Every Day is T-Shirt Day" for the summer. I am physically tired, and am looking forward to my shower and going to sleep tonight. That is, if my sick son sleeps through the night.

I also signed Drew and I up for the summer tournament. Of course, I don't know what I'm doing, but at least I'm signed up, and Drew and I are going to get our Competition Team t-shirts. :-) Ma'am also handed me the sales script that Mr. Bassett wants to use. She said it should be simple for me, but I'll still have to study it. I might even make a form to fill out so that I can fill out info pertaining to the sales calls later. I still don't know when I'll be starting, but I suspect it will be soon. Ma'am mentioned something about them getting into the building, like the lease on the space starting, on July 1st, and probably the actual opening will be soon after that. Drew will be coming with me in the afternoons while I field calls in the afternoons, so that should prove to be interesting. It's gonna be a TKD summer for sure!

Double knee replacement candidate

There is no doubt in my mind that, in time, I will need a double knee replacement. I feel like at the rate things are going, it's probably inevitable.

Last night, class was rather quiet. It was Mr. A., Mr. Dr. Phillips, Dr. Albani, Mr. Uhl, Alex V. and me. Yes, I was the only girl who showed up. Then again, most people weren't there for a reason. One of the young leaders, Tal, was being tested at Master C's for the second time to earn her 3rd degree black belt. She failed the last time as she failed to break her boards. Ma'am couldn't go to the 1st testing, so she and a bunch of others went to support Tal on her second attempt. We did get the phone call in the middle of our class that Tal finally broke her boards, so she passed. This is good, as Ma'am (and I'm sure Tal) had really wanted her to be able to pass before she went off to college this fall, so mission accomplished.

Anyhow, here I was, with these 5 guys. The first exercise that we did was a jump kick, which was a few steps of running, and then a two step kick onto a freestanding punching bag. Well, we worked up to it progressively, but of course, with the exception of Alex who is naturally very athletic and a teenager, they were all 2nd degree black belts, and here I was the lowest ranked there. So there I was, attempting this kick, and FWOP! I fell smack down on both my kneecaps straight to the floor. I shook it off, though, 'cause I'm not going to be the wimpy girl. But they were a little tender for the rest of the night. We learned the beginning of the form. It's easy enough, but I want to get the finer points down ASAP, so Alex was reviewing it with me. OK, got that down. Then we did weapons. And here again, I feel lacking. I have a single bahng-mah-ee, and everyone else is working on doubles or with a bo staff. Mr. A reviewed some defensive moves with the strike lines, which wasn't too bad, but I'm thinking that's not going to do me a heck of a lot of good with tournament in July. I'll talk it over with Ma'am, see what I should be doing, even if that means that I'll be getting a second bahng-mah-ee. Board breaking wasn't too bad. I'm working on a palm-heel break, and I had the right idea, but got a few pointers, and it's coming. I think once I got that momentum with getting the hang of the elbow strike, it started to click for most everything else. So the palm-heel is fairly easy. Instead of regular sparring, Mr. A had us work on reviewing basic footwork, which was actually all new to me. I'd never been shown proper footwork other than shuffling my feet, which came pretty easily to me. This was more the grapevine footwork and learning how to block properly. Mr. A ended up being my partner, which was helpful. I guess I felt a little discouraged and dumb because this is stuff I feel like I should've learned a long time ago, and hadn't, and I'd be more confident and have better form in my sparring if I had learned this a long time ago instead of just being thrown into the fire from day one. Well, at least I got some pointers that were needed.

My knees are still a little out of sort. They aren't sore or too stiff or anything, but they aren't 100% either. (Not that they are ever 100%, but much lower on the scale than usual). I can bend them, go up and down stairs okay, but I'm just feeling a little cautious. I don't want to mess up my already bad knees any worse, so I will take it a little easy tonight. I think taking an Advil before bed last night helped. And staying off my feet most of today should help too. My little one is suddenly sick with a fever and I think he's caught a bad cold out of nowhere, so we are trying to get him well very quickly, as tomorrow is the preschool end of the year picnic at school, and his birthday party is on Saturday. So, no playing outside today, even though it's a lovely day, and he wants to ride his bike and play tennis. Not today, kiddo. Too sick to go to school, too sick to play outside. Need to rest.

I will figure out what to do with my knees tonight. I need to sign Drew and I up for the tournament still, actually, but I have to find out what categories to put Drew in before I go and pay. I don't have the GNO tonight, so I can go to class, and I can go to class tomorrow. Saturday is the first day that we are having the 1/2 hour concentrations on different things. I'd love to go, but with Drew's birthday party, I can't. So I'll go next weekend. Until later...

Monday, June 12, 2006

A Non-post-class!

TKD has definitely been on the brain in the last couple of days, even if I haven't been to class since graduation. I think it's because I see this next cycle as being rather critical, basically due to the regional tournament in late July. This is going to be the first big tournament of the "new" year. (The ATA World Championship is this coming weekend, I believe.) Anyhow, while I'm far from World Class level (I'd have to be REALLY good and attend a LOT of tournaments nationally, which I'm not going to be doing), I do want to have a kick-butt ranking on a state level. After going into leadership and attending my first big tournament, I ended up ranked 3rd in Weapons. Not too shabby. I'd like to rank in all formats, and at least be in 2nd place. Heck, I might even be first if the current #1 happens to age out, but I don't know her exact age, and she might rank out (she was a brown belt in April, so during this year she'd have to be getting her black belt). I think this is my last year of being in color belt, as I might be a black belt by this time next year, so I have to kick butt as this is my last chance. After that, I might have a chance, as I don't think there will necessarily be any other 30-something 1st degrees the following year. But I could be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time I was wrong. ;-)

Related to that, I was thinking about how I can make improvements for the next tournament. I think I need to talk to Ma'am about it a little, when she's in an open and good mood, if she has any suggestions of extra stretching or weight training that I can do that will truly be affective in improving my performance. I started to work out a little on my Total Gym yesterday while Drew and JC went out biking. I think I have to figure out, however, which exercises are optimal for me and what I'm trying to achieve. I was even looking at several books on TKD while on my date with JC (yes, we went to Barnes & Noble and went out separate ways-- some date!), and did find one book that looks good, but I'm hesitant to buy it when I can probably just ask and adapt. Y'know?

Also in interesting reading this past weekend was out of the ATA World magazine was how Chuck Norris actually got his start in the military learning his martial arts from the ATA's Eternal Grand Master Lee. Sweet! I'm sure he's making the rounds in all the martial arts arenas to promote his World Combat League, but was interesting reading. It lead me to look at the WCL website as well as his personal website. I think that what he tries to promote overall is fairly universal to all martial arts, and for that matter, life in general. I can go for that. This isn't to say that I'm a Chuck Norris fan now, but if my son were to pick him as a "hero", he would be making a pretty good choice, and I wouldn't object.

Many TKD reflections, but I think instead of thinking, I need to start doing. I'm just not exactly sure of where to start.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Purple Haze

Tonight was graduation/testing night. I don't think I was totally nervous, but perhaps nervous in a different way. On one hand, I figured, well, if I don't know this form now, I'll never know it. This'll probably be as good as it gets. On the other hand, I felt kind of just numb about the whole thing. I had done it once for my husband before I left. Of course, he doesn't know what he's looking at, so he thought it was pretty good. I think I was more concerned about doing my weapon, the ssang-jeh-bang. I had practiced a few times today, and got some sort of a rhythm going. It wasn't what I wanted, but I figured it was acceptable. The problem wasn't only that I didn't exactly have a completely worked out routine, but also there is a difference when you are practicing in shorts and a T-shirt vs. your heavyweight uniform. Oh, and I'm overly right handed almost to a fault. Well, at least I didn't drop the dang thing like Malachi did at least two or three times (shows what happens when you try to show off too much!). So I practiced a few times before things got started, and just figured I'd do my best.

It was a big group, but maybe because I'm used to doing this, and it wasn't as crowded as other times, it seemed to go fairly quickly. I did my form with two other adult color belts and weapons with just one of them. I did mess up slightly in the form but quickly corrected it. I remembered it all, and I tried to make sure I did my stances correctly when I remembered. It was not my best effort, but all things considered, I think I did okay. Weapons were a joke to me, but later an adult black belt came up to me and exclaimed that I had done really well. I was surprised at that, because I really had winged it to a certain degree. OK, I did follow a form shown to us more or less, made some variations such as doing a simple changeover instead of a triangle changeover, but it got the job done in the time alloted, which allowed me to get other moves I wanted into the routine. I need work on this weapon, but at least I got through. I also need to practice more with my left hand. My figure eights with my left hand were atrocious, and that's what really slowed me down and made it look sloppy. Hey, 'ya gotta give me credit for doing weapons as color belts are not required to do weapons during testing, but it's optional, and I have gone for it ever since I got mine (as a yellow belt). I know of kids who are 3 ranks ahead of me who still won't do weapons at testing. I figure, a) it helps me get used to doing them, and b) helps prepare me for tournaments as well. After all, in the end, I'm not #3 in the state for nothing! Sparring went fine. I had to spar Evelyn, and I don't think she was totally up for it. She got a few good hits in, but I think I was the more aggressive one. She kept backing up and backing up until she was almost at the wall. Hopefully that was seen as a positive, as Michelle was the one who evaluated me for that rather than Ma'am. Ma'am started this thing with the last testing that she would judge the forms and weapons, and when you are done, you go on the back mat to do your sparring with someone in your group. This is done so we aren't there all night. Seems to work to me. I think some people take their time getting their gear on after forms and weapons, however, and that slows things up a bit. But I got it done and out of the way, so that was it. Ma'am seemed fairly cheery when she gave me my belt, which was cool. Mr. Uhl got his 2nd degree belt tonight, which was cool. He did a beautiful board break combination, for sure. BAM! BAM! BAM! That quick through double boards too. Sweet.

Ma'am did tell us that it was too bad that Dr. Albani didn't do his creative weapons routine at the adult session and had done it at the session before with the kids, as it was very memorable. She said that the music he chose was "Be a Dentist" from Little Shop of Horrors, and he had the teeth on the end of his weapons. You see, he IS a dentist, hence the further amusement of us all. She said it was lost on the kids, but our group would've appreciated it. I know I definitely would have!

So, time to move forward again. I have the DVD and the directions for my next form. Again, it's the next one in the series, and it's about 2 belts above what I should be doing at my newly attained rank. This next form is important as it's what I'll be doing at the tournament, more than likely, so I will have to see. It didn't look too difficult, but to be at competition level, I'll have to learn it fast and WELL. I asked Ma'am what the next weapon was, and she asked me if I would ask her again when she wasn't so tired and could think, which was not a problem. I'm hoping it's the bahng-mah-ee again, since I do well with that. Perhaps it might even be doubling up on that, we'll see. But I got through tonight fine.

Oh, and as a side note, Em and Pen were really sweet. You'll have to read the posting on my regular journal for the details, but at the ATA picnic, Drew helped push Pen through a long gravel path when she needed an extra boost, being that she's wheelchair bound, and I had helped Emily. The girls had befriended Drew, and he warmed up to them and they nicknamed him "Bulldozer" as a result. Drew has enjoyed that nickname ever since, and tonight, since his birthday was two days ago, sent me home with a birthday present from the both of them, being a Tonka bulldozer toy and a book about Tonka bulldozers. I let him get out of bed so that he could open it and see it. He was happy about getting the gift, and appreciated the whole gesture, the reinforcement of his "bulldozer" status. That was awfully nice of them. Drew has some big friends now. :-)

Onward and upward now....

Friday, June 02, 2006

Another Graduation/testing practice

Tonight's class was fairly uneventful for the most part. Friday night classes follow ATA Extreme classes, and with the exception of Mr. A, is comprised mostly of the higher ranking (and more capable) teen leaders of the school. It's kinda fun to watch them. And they are really put through it by Mr. Lee, who is an ATA Extreme teacher. He's very nice, kinda cute, but very tough. I have a hard enough time when he's taught regular classes. The last time I took one of his classes, I couldn't move the next day, and I was coughing up a storm due to my asthma being agitated THAT much. But Mr. A took over the class tonight, so it wasn't too bad. I forgot part of my form, or just blanked out for a minute, but I'm sure I'll be fine by Wednesday. I was supposed to practice ssang-jeh-bahng for graduation, but I just skipped it. I did help to hold boards for those who have to break for graduation. I'm not sure if with purple or blue belt if I have to start breaking for graduation/testing or not. If it's a front kick with my plastic board, that's a cinch. That's the one break I can do with my eyes closed. :-) The others need work, but they are coming along. I was looking at part of the Brown Belt form that we'll be doing for the next cycle, and it shows that you have to break, and you have to do either a elbow and front kick break, or an elbow and side kick break. That's an easy one to figure out-- option #1, of course! I wonder if you get more credit doing the other one though? I guess I'll find out when I get to that level for sure. It's very confusing when you are doing forms that are 2 levels ahead of where you actually are, that's for sure!

Anyway, I digress. Sparring is fine. One 9 year old whom I had to spar tries to hard, if that makes sense. He's too concerned about trying to do the fancy reverse spin kick that I bop him in the side or chest in the meantime and can kick him in the head (figuratively speaking) a few times. He's a higher rank than me, so despite my size, he should be able to figuratively beat me to a pulp. From my experience in tournament sparring, you have to just go for it. The judges aren't impressed by fancy kicks or form in how you do it. As long as you make a legal hit, that's all that counts. I held my own just doing a lot of round kicks and side kicks and flat out punches against 2nd degrees just doing that. Granted, I think my repetoire is getting better with some repeat kicks and crescent kicks. I don't have the speed to do spin kicks, and I know it. But this kid has to get that kick. I always notice that he's too caught up in the details sometimes. It's good to pay attention to them, but really. If you don't move up right away, it's not the end of the world. But then again, to a nine year old, it might be THAT important to him. He's also of Indian descent, and not to make an ethnic slur, because this isn't, but Indians tend to have a tendency to feel they have to do everything the best and perfectly, that there's a cultural pressure to have to be the best. I have a LOT of Indian neighbors, and they admit this themselves. I wouldn't be surprised if he had some pressure from the outside as well. Poor kid.

Oh well. Hopefully the rain will let up for us to go have our TKD picnic and watergun fight tomorrow. We'll see. It should be fun should it go through.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Back to Sweating again

Tonight, it was back to business as usual. We started out doing some corner exercises, which weren't too bad. I guess Michelle was feeling like going easy on us. Then we reviewed our form. That went fine overall. It's tough when a) you are the only girl in the class, and b) not only the only girl, but the only one over the age of 25 taking the class. I take that back. Pen was in class too, but she's an orange belt and not working on the same material as I am with a bunch of teenage boys. It wasn't too bad. We did a quick practice graduation, and I goofed up as I was doing it slowly with Matthew (one of the Downs boys), but that was okay. I also goofed up on weapons, so I really need to practice that big time. Broke the board, helped to hold boards, sparred, etc. Nothing especially noteworthy. I do have to say, however, that Em is starting to bother me a bit. She is assisting in the teaching, not teaching. Now granted, she has a lot of experience and probably knows forms better than most people. Throw on top of that that she has CP, so she even knows adaptations due to her being either in a walker or wheelchair all the time. But as Ma'am has mentioned to me, for a woman in her early 20s, she's EXTREMELY immature. And consequently, she really doesn't know how to be an assistant or teacher (of course, that's why she's still a trainee). The first problem is she's a little TOO serious with this. I'd say about 99% of us that attend this school attend for the enjoyment of the sport and the process of learning. While there is certainly some discipline and rule following involved, there's a fine line between being a true teacher, and being a drill sergeant, and a mean one at that. Em doesn't know the difference. Even I could see that was the difference between Michelle-- who is younger than Em and is a certified teacher, and Em. When someone wasn't doing what they were supposed to, Michelle merely corrected them and moved on. Michelle wouldn't interfere with an instructor trainee helping a student unless she was supplementing what the trainee was telling the student. However, tonight I saw Greg Spina helping a student with the corner exercises, and ZOOM! Squeak Squeak Squeak! You hear Em racing across the mats with her walker to interject and puts her 4 cents in (which is twice of two cents) in and take over. I'm sorry-- no, you don't do that to a person. How is Greg supposed to learn how to direct someone if someone is butting in like Em was and taking over? And believe me, Greg is perfectly capable of helping a student (he's helped me plenty of times). The other thing is that Em will bark out orders without making kindly directions first. To be more exact, Em seems to be failing to understand the fine line between being strict and respect for your students. I'm sorry, but she might be the instructor trainee for my class, she might be a 2nd degree black belt, but dammit, I will NOT be bossed around like I'm some West Point plebe by a kid who is 18 years younger than me. I have absolutely no problem with the young instructors who are even younger than Em because they know how to keep control of a class and command respect by equally paying respect to the student. Even with the malicious Malachi who needs a heavy hand, I've never seen anyone get tough with him unless it was REALLY necessary. He doesn't need too much to get him to comply, and Em is barking out orders to all of us when it's only one who isn't complying, you know what I mean? I'm tempted to say something to Ma'am about it. I feel uncomfortable saying something to her, but then again, I think Em would take the criticism more seriously from Ma'am than she would from me.

I did get the next DVD for the form for next cycle. It's for the brown belt level, which for those who don't know for our form of TKD, it's up there-- after brown, it's red, black belt recommended, then black. Oh boy. I mean, I have done the last two forms that were brown, in fact, I'm doing the one before it right now. But this is WAY up compared to where I've been. I haven't done the camo or green belt forms yet, and yet I'm about to be a purple belt and have already done that form-- been there, done that. And this brown belt form is the one that I have to do for tournament in July. Crap. Well, I guess I have a lot of work ahead of me.

As I was leaving tonight, Ma'am told me two things. First, she had talked to Mr. Bassett, her partner for the Pennington ATA, and it's a matter of them getting their stuff together and then figuring out when we can all get together to discuss stuff, so it sounds like things are moving along. The other thing, that made me feel good, was that she told me to say a big hi to Drew for her. I hadn't realized that she actually hasn't seen him for a while, so I think she does miss him, for better or worse. She'll still see plenty of him on Saturday at the ATA picnic. I think that him having a break is going to be good, and even Ma'am says that she'd take a break if she could, but it's literally her business so she can't. Oh well.