Wednesday, August 22, 2007

At least it was Fun Week

This is my last week of TKD...but not forever! Heck, I'm too close to that black belt, darn it, to quit now! But since Boot Camp is still next week (our boot camp is where you cram the whole summer's worth of curriculum in one week), this week and next week are Fun Weeks, thus no curriculum. Yay! Well, we still get elements of it, but nothing where we are learning forms or anything like that.

So this morning's class was actually a pleasure. We had Sandy and myself, both being called "the black belts" even though both of us are 1BR, as well as two new ATA moms that were joining. One, T, has a son who's been there for a while. I'm not sure what belt her son has, whether it's black or at least high level color belt. The other one, S, has a son that I remember I helped get her set up last year, and now her family has joined up, including herself. Well, by a strange coincidence, it turns out that Sandy and S knew each other in college, and that was 17 years ago and in NC! Small world, huh? I think because the 50-somethings weren't there, it was a fun class. Sandy and I watched our Ps and Qs to set a good example for the new students, and since it was fun week, we didn't have to really be learning anything in particular. We did some drills, and I did start to learn the beginning of the 1st degree weapons form, which is single SJB, as Sandy is learning it so she can compete with it in September. I'm still not sure if I'll be going to that DE tourney or not, but at least I'll know it if I should go to the tourney in November, and by that time I WILL be a black belt. We'll see. So that was fun for the most part.

Tonight's class was a similar tone. Since there were some kids who are still new to the instructor level of classes, she reviewed some information and how to teach it, giving each kid a different section to remember, and then each had to direct the group. My "part" was the bow in and bow out part. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. ;-) In the end, however, once we reviewed the whole form once, I had the whole thing down, so I'd coach the kids in what THEY were supposed to be doing or saying. We then worked on the BME, and parts of the BME form, as certain moves are also part of my drills I have to learn as a 1BR. So it was good. At the end of class, I received this:
1st place weapons certificate
State Champ Certificate

So it's official. I am now truly the state champ for now. You'd better believe that this is getting framed!

SW asked who was serious, at least in the next semester, about moving up for instructor rank. I'm not sure. On one hand, I'm sure if I cram and practice the first three forms and one steps backwards, forwards and inside out, I could certify easily. I understand LifeSkills information very well-- heck, I sell it for her in getting people in the school. In many ways, I could be ready by December. But in some ways, I'm thinking I should wait a little longer, maybe until Spring when my life settles down a little bit more. I think I just have cold feet more than anything. It takes a long time for me to feel that sentiment of "Yes I can!" before I truly believe it. If you look at old posts here, you'll see that for a long time, I truly questioned what I had gotten myself into not only with doing TKD, then moving up to Masters, but especially moving up to Leadership and taking these instructor classes. I've now gotten accustomed to classes, and don't feel as overwhelmed. But at the same time, I still feel like the dumb ol' blonde, the ADD/SID person who is overloaded with information that she chokes before she learns it. It's terrifying. So I don't know what to do. But that's for another time to worry about that.

I'll be off on vacation for an extended week down south. We'll be driving down to SC starting on Friday, and not returning until the following Sunday, so that should be a sufficient break from life in all respects for a while. But I will bet you that between the pool, the ocean waves and beach, I'll probably be practicing forms anyway at some point. ;-)

Until then, my friends....

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

One step closer

Tonight I had my midterm as a 1st degree black belt recommended. Considering I hadn't done anything since a week ago, well...I wasn't exactly nervous. I was fine for the most part. The only part I was a little concerned about was the board breaking, considering last week was the first time that I had done the double break together.

But first things first.

It was a very small testing. We were in and out in an hour-- actually a pinch less, which was good. Two people advanced to new black belts-- one 1st degree, and one 2nd degree, which is cool. There was one new kid who was a white belt going for his first testing, and he was a good sport and did well, so that was good. It's funny when the color belts who are advancing get happy because when we have to line up by rank, the highest ranked is in front, and lowest in back, and when you get to move up a row, it's celebration time! Other than the kid who promoted to 1st degree decided tonight, I was the next highest color belt there, so it was kinda cool that I'm finally closing in on the black belts, at least where I stand. At the beginning, we all go by height, and I'm the tallest woman, and I was the 3rd tallest person there, by only an inch or so. Eek.

So, I get called up, and fortunately, I didn't have to do my form alone, as the other 1 BR had to do it too, and for once, he didn't rush through. I think I put the ki-haps in the right place, and it wasn't perfect, but I think it was as good as I've ever done it, bad knee and all. (And I should note-- I didn't wear my knee brace tonight just so I had full flexibility for at least one night.)

Next was weapons with the ssahng jeh banhg (aka numchakas). Generally that went okay too, until near the end. It's just a set of drills--1 set of striking lines, then 1 set of 3 triangles, 1 set of Vs, 1 set of 3-360s,and 1 set of figure eights. Well, I got through everything fine until the figure eights. With the very first manuever, I messed up and hit my glasses. It flustered me a little, but I kept moving, and the rest of it was fine. Bleeh. I don't know if she was paying that close attention, but otherwise, it was flawless, and the recovery was good.

Sparring was not much to speak of. I had to spar a 9 year old brown belt. He's been getting better, but there was a point where I actually had enough balance for a moment where all I did was stand there and do roundkicks at him, and I could swear I threw at least 4 kicks at him before losing by balance and he didn't fend them off. So, the sparring was a wash, and it was just a formality in the end.

Then, the dreaded board breaking. And of all the people that had to do it, guess who had to go first! DING! DING! DING! That's right, you guessed correctly. ME. Oh crap. So, I go up, and set up my boards. The problems are a) I still have a hard time with judging the distance for the kick coming out of the elbow break, b) my flexibility changes day to day, and c) I'd only done this double break together for the first time last week. You have up to three tries to break the boards, and it would be my luck that they'd have to be plastic. If it had been wood boards, no problem. Damn. I really wasn't nervous, but more...just wanting to get it done, and wishing I could have more warmup than I had, since I still didn't have the rhythm, I really didn't panic or get nervous. So, I set up, bow in, and do the elbow-- nothing. I move onto the jump kick, thinking that will be done. Nothing. CRAP! So I reset up, practice again, bring the kick board in a pinch closer, bow in....I get the elbow, but no foot. DOUBLE CRAP! Well, at least I got the elbow in the second break. Now the pressure was on, and like I said, I wasn't nervous, but really pissed at myself. Why didn't I go to board breaking class last Saturday? Damn. Well, with only having to do the kick, I could set up a little better, but she decided to put me on hold for a second as she set up the other 1BR for his breaks, and with wood and being a teenage football player, he's got the power and strength to pop those things pretty easily, and he was doing the same breaks as I was. Damn. I mean, I was glad for him--he had a good night, but still... So, it went back to me, and SW is saying, go ahead, just set it up, no practice, and then it finally popped. I was so glad. I knew if I didn't make it, I was going to fall a cycle behind, and it would be a disaster.

Now, I understand that there's a point system, and you need so many in order to get that black belt. Well, because I couldn't make those board breaks is fewer tries, my points are LOW. That means that when I go to test for rank next time, everything has to be FLAWLESS. First of all, that's difficult with a bad knee. I can't get my stances consistent as a result. I try, though. I can't have nice balance as a result either. Yes, I'll have more time to work on those breaks and I'll be able to do it on wood, but man, there will be more pressure. I'm sure my family will be coming, so if I fail, well, that would be letting them down and wasting their time for coming. Man, I didn't need this. I broke them, at least, but it wasn't good. Bleeh! I guess I have to talk to SW about it, and get a better assessment of the damage done.

At least I can say this much. She didn't yell at me tonight, and get me rattled before having to do this before so many people. To be honest, I tuned everyone out, and just treated it like it was just classtime. No, the more I think about it, I really wasn't that nervous. I've been more nervous before this. If anything, I'm just really angry at myself, and I don't know how to make myself feel better. I'm still burnt out, but now I am SOOOOOOOO close to this black belt that I can taste it. It's only 2 months away (give or take).

Now, the pressure is really on. It's crunch time. :-S

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Um, how much for the left leg upgrade?

Not only is my knee bothering me, but most of my left leg is bothering me today. I don't know if it's due to A/C, or the heat, or I slept on my left leg funny-- no matter. Between that, and the fact that I realized tonight that my feet still haven't completely recovered from the high heel debacle, it wasn't an easy class tonight. I do think the hazardous heat has something to do with it. Maybe I'm in denial about arthritis or something. I don't know.

Since SW is doing camp this week again, RA taught class. It was pretty much a regular class, with the exception of JK leading us in a warmup of Songham #1, 2 and 3 forms, as he's studying up for his certification. I'm not ready for it. I supposed I could go-- I'm somewhat eligible. I just wouldn't be able to get my next collar until I get my black belt. I somehow remember S#1 the best. It's almost second nature to me, and that's despite the fact that I didn't even start with that one when I started training. No matter, I was able to get through the drills. I worked on forms and weapons next. Again, most of it is just all reviewing everything for testing next week. Again, I needed to work on board breaks. It was the first time I set up for both breaks. I think I still need to work on the distance for the foot break after the elbow break, but I was happy with my overall results tonight, considering it was the first time I set up for both. I got the elbow break in the first shot, and the foot break in the second shot. Still not too bad. So I'm not worried.

With my knee bothering me, I opted out of sparring. EL did too, but then she was bending my ear looking for sympathy on the fact that she wants to go to the regional retreat, and doesn't have much in the way of transportation. A big part of the problem I have with EL is that sometimes she doesn't know when to stop talking, or looking for the sympathy card, but a big part of it is, well, she's fairly immature. She's in her twenties, and granted she has special needs, but still, when you get to be that old, you need to be more independent. I've seen that with PS, and I do think she's more mature because she can take care of herself much better. But EL was going on and on, and I was starting to wish that I was out there having a heat stroke and destroying my knee instead of listening. I know I have a big mouth, but I think I start to get the hint a little bit better when I need to shut up. Unfortunately, between her, and this one kid, JS, oh, they were bending my ear a bit too much tonight. I've been told I'm too nice about it sometimes, and I supposed I am. I guess it's just because I know when I want to be heard, I want to make sure I have someone's full attention too.

So, a fairly quiet night, nothing special. Next Wednesday is graduation/testing. I'll probably try to go to at least board breaking class on Saturday, since I feel confident with weapons, and forms doesn't have to be 100% perfect. With this bad knee, I think my form is in pretty decent shape, all things considered. Just have to get the physical spacing between the boards figured out, and I'll be good to go.

Since testing is the day after my birthday, maybe somebody would like to give me a leg upgrade for my birthday present?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

There's a reason Martial Artists don't wear high heels

Now, I'm sure John at Martial Views could find a whole history and precidence for wearing high heels or high shoes in some form of martial arts, but I do have to say, I'm glad it's not required for any of the styles that myself or most of my readers practice! I'll explain why in a moment.

I haven't been posting all that much lately simply because, well, there hasn't been a lot to post about. My main concentration in the last few classes I've been taking has been board breaking. While I don't have to get my board breaks in the first try for this testing (you still get points for the 2nd or 3rd try, just less of them), the better I do them this time, the less I have to worry if I mess up on something else. The more points overall, the better in each thing-- forms, weapons, sparring, and board break. If I mess up on any of them, it won't be a total tragedy, but it'll be more pressure when I go to the following testing for my actual black belt. So, the more I get the technique down now for the midterm, the more relaxed the BIG testing will be.

My form is fine right now. The only things I really need to work on has to do with nit-picky things, like where the ki-haps go, making sure I am more consistent with stances (which is hard with a bad knee, but as long as I maintain a constant half bend that's at the best of my ability, that helps), where my head looks during or before a move, etc. Nothing that can't be fixed quickly, or completely by the time big testing comes around. Weapons, again, got the routine down. Piece of cake. Sparring-- I just do it, and have been using moves that were at this level for a long time, so not worried about that. So, it's been the board breaks that I've wanted to work on, since those have hardly been touched in all these weeks.

My jump-front kick is fine. I only have to work on making sure I have a full chamber in the kick before I actually extend for the kick. I also have to get a better judgement on distance. It's hard being a 5'10" woman with long legs who has a hard time judging the distance of how close or far she should be compared to others who are generally shorter than her (men included!). But those are simple tweaks compared to me getting the hang of the back elbow. Last weekend, I went to board breaking specialty class, just so I could work on it. I didn't feel I was getting very far, as WS was trying to advise me (she's a 2nd degree, but she's not in leadership thus not trained as an instructor in any way), and she was giving me wrong advice. Ben and Jason, who ARE instructors, were having a hard time getting a word in edgewise with her yapping her mouth. Well, I was starting to home in on some points, like it's an elbow straight back, almost against my body, vs. just a swing backwards.

Because I felt like I was getting nowhere fast, I made sure to tell SW in my morning class I had this week, and told her that WS was telling me stuff, and she said don't listen, and I responded that I took it with a grain of salt, but that's why I was asking her directly for help. Turns out that we got part of it right last weekend, which was the arm positioning-- at least Ben and Jason got that part fixed. Turns out that the biggest part of my problem was distance and stance, especially stance. I didn't understand that when you do the back elbow, you are stepping into a deep back stance, and thus having to turn your foot out. So my natural ballerina instinct to turn my foot out is actually allowable in this instance! :-) Then, the way to figure out the distance is to set the board up with me IN the back stance, and then take the step up to the ready position. It's that simple. I can actually be a little closer than I think I should be for the break.

Having learned those big tweaks, I went to board breaking class today. I spent most of the class just doing nothing but working on the break against a pad, and MZ telling what tweaks to make, like come a little closer, that time the arm went out instead of straight, etc. If you do it enough times, like with anything, you start to get a rhythm, and you start feeling the difference when you do it well, and when you do it just okay. I took a break to help hold board for a kid going for his 2nd degree (I think he's going for his 2nd degree) who's doing the running jump side kick over 2 obstacles. Yes, I actually don't have a problem holding for that, believe it or not. I've done it enough times. You just hold the board correctly and tightly and turn your head away so you don't get kicked in the teeth, and you're fine. Sure, I've had a few bruised fingers sometimes, but not today. So then, SW and MZ held for me. The set up the board, I lined up, and took a deep breath, making sure that I remembered to do it straight behind me, and get that deep knee bend in. CRRACK! The board broke (plastic, mind you, too, so it had to be exact)! Right there on the first try! OH I was so happy and relieved. SW is very good at fine tuning something like that and giving direction. She's never steered me wrong with a board break yet.

Now, the problem with high heels, that I was afraid of dealing with in any breaking-- or class circumstance. On Thursday, I had two interviews at the local university. Okay, Princeton University. Anyway, I went to the interviews as I should-- nice suit, looking like the professional I'd like to think that I am. However, the pair of heels that I had are very old. Like more than a decade old. (I know that I had them before meeting my husband, and I met him almost 11 years ago.) While they looked great on the outside still, they were rather worn on the inside. Add to that, these days I'm not used to wearing heels, but I can usually manage. It's not like they were super high heels-- only 2", as again if I wore anything higher, they'd be recruiting me for a basketball team. Anyway, I was trodding around campus, and along the main street in front of the campus for a good portion of the day, on one of the hottest days of the summer, to boot. The shoes just were not working for me. I could feel the pain get worse and worse. I would sit down now and then, and even at one point I was walking down the street in my stocking feet, as even THAT felt better as long as I didn't stop and burn my feet on the pavement. I did try to stop at some shoe stores. Found some really comfortable heels, but they were $200. Now, if they were $100, I would've splurged, but not for $200. Found another store, but my choices were ballerina flats or 4" heels. I can be a glutton for punishment, but not for that. I got the flats, so they protected my feet, but my feet were still in bad shape. Needless to say, I did switch back to the heels just for my second interview, and then switched back to drive home. As soon as I got home, I changed and went straight into our pool, especially so I could cool off my feet! Damage done: a popped blister on my left "ring finger" toe, a popped blister on my right Achilles heel, and two blisters starting to form on the balls of both feet, especially my left one. And near blisters-- just very sore toes-- on both feet. I really didn't know how this would fare for me trying to do TKD, so natually I put bandaids on my blisters to protect them, and have worn nothing but my comfy Teva Sandals (highly recommended!) since, and that's helped tremendously. The heel and toe blisters are still healing, but they haven't affected my board breaking or TKD yet. The muscles in the arches of my feet, however, are also still healing, as I would tense up my feet as they were hurting that day it happened, and I just try to stretch them out again. I can walk fairly normally again, but still, they hurt.

Thus, if you wear high heels, make sure they are comfortable, so you can do martial arts later! It's a hard lesson to learn! ;-)