Monday, June 16, 2014

It Ain't Her Fault

What do you get when a few journalists together in a newsroom and a poorly written press release about an attempted rape comes off the fax machine?

Lively debate.

Here's the scenario: the police beat reporter mentioned that the release included a comment from the district attorney's office about the party the victim went to the night she was attacked and that she may have - GASP! - actually consumed alcohol at said party. The release said she was asleep when her attacker snuck into her room and tried to rape her. Yep - asleep. Not "passed out." Not "highly inebriated." Not "sloppy drunk." Just. Asleep.

The reporter and I had the same question: why was it necessary to mention that she'd gone to a party and possibly drank the night she was a victim of a violent crime?

Allergic to nonsense...
We saw it like this: had the crime been an attempted robbery and she asleep when it occurred, would the fact that she drank have been mentioned? Honestly, I was surprised they did not mention the type of nightgown she was wearing during the attack.

The other two editors didn't agree. They did not see the terms "alcohol" and "party" as faulting the victim, but only as indicators that she was unable to defend herself. "It just goes to illustrate what a scum this guy really is because he attacked someone who obviously could not defend herself," the desk editor said.

Remember, the information said ASLEEP.  Not DRUNK. Another editor said the wording used probably showed that she was drunk because if she wasn't, she might have been able to fight back. A sleeping person, he said, would surely have been able to react.

But nowhere in the info we got did it say she was unable to react. Or that she didn't. That seemed to me to be total speculation.

And as a result, the reporter did not want to include it in the story. The desk editor overruled her - but suggested that she discuss it with the managing editor if she still had a problem with it. The words were still hanging in a bubble above us - like in a cartoon - and the reporter was out of her chair and on her way to do just that. And guess what? It was decided it was OK to include the info about the party as long as it was attributed to the DA who said it.

And my mouth is still hanging open.

Let me fill in some blanks: the other two editors and the managing editors are male. The reporter and I are not.

Did that have anything to do with the idea that the three of them didn't quite seem to get the victim blaming/slut shaming the DA was trying to push via the release? I'm sure it had a lot to do with it.

And I was HOT for the rest of the daggone day.

Just so we're clear, it is never ok to make the victim of any crime the reason s/he was the victim. I have a real problem with the idea that women in sexual assault situations are somehow the exception. What she wore, what she consumed, whether she kissed the assailant are TOTALLY irrelevant when force is involved or a "no" is ignored.

Asleep in your bed in your own home seems like a place to assume you are relatively safe. The assumption of fault on the part of the sleeper is a stretch in my book.

But, I'm sure the DA is betting that more folks in the possible jury pool will be swayed to think that somehow, the victim does bare some onus because, well, she had the audacity to go to a party and possibly drink the night she was attacked. And you know what? The DA might be right.

And that's a total, total shame, IMHO...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Sandan testing has been mentioned. My reaction, of course, was "Are you kidding me?!?"

I don't care if I never, ever grade again. Seriously. As long as the learning doesn't stop, I'm good.

My training has been spotty - other than the outside-the-dojo ancillary stuff. Solo tonfa training, however, is going well, but that and teaching are all I do in gi these days - thanks to my job schedule.

How ironic is it that just as I begin to settle into my "gotta get it in when I can so I don't get rusty" mindset, THIS gets put out there.

Truth is often stranger than fiction, I guess...

Sunday, March 23, 2014


"Every day you learn something new."
- Dennis Brown (musician)

Last year, I went to a tourney in Philly that was one of the worst I'd ever been to - for "executive" competitors, anyway. It made this over 30 girl feel like a total afterthought once the entry fee was paid. But the training partners I went with - all in their 20's - had a great experience, as their rings were run smoothly, none of their center judges took phone calls during the competitions, everything in their respective rings went off without a hitch and their judging was relatively fair. What was a crappy tourney for me was actually a pretty good one for them.

This weekend, I went to a tourney that I'd heard offered lots of competition for senior competitors. The flyer was on my fridge since September and I was pretty happy it fell on one of my off weekends from work. II was happy to see lots of grey-haired judges because I was hopeful they'd be competing as well. And many of them did, which was great for the MALE executive ranks. Not so much for the females.

Adult black belt competition was dead last. They had lots of age group categories (19-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59 and 60+) for kata, weapons and sparring, but while there were male competitors to fill every bracket, there were only four executive women - a three of them were in the 19-29 division. The promoter's brilliant idea was to put the women together and make it one big "over 18" category. When I asked why, he chastised me for not pre-registering (so he would know how many women would be in each division - which I don't get, because even if I would have pre-registered, I still would have been the only woman in my division) but finally did me the "favor" of allowing me to compete in my age division - like he did for the lone 60+ male competitor. 

Here's the thing about the lone senior male: he presented his a weapons, a "soft" form (no idea what that is) and a regular empty-hand form solo - which allowed him to win his division and make it to three different grand championship rounds. When the women were finally called (after all the executive men did weapons and empty-hand forms), the center judge of the ring told me that since I would be the automatic winner, he was sure that I "didn't just want to do a demo" and thought, in the interest of saving time, I'd be fine with just presenting in the Grand Championship. Funny how no one was worried about the time being lost when Mr. 60+ presented three times by himself (they even presented him his award the same way they normally do: with all three judges greeting and congratulating him after his "win" and been announced; for me, the promoter's daughter handed me the award as I was straightening my gi. "Nice job," she said as she skipped away.). Part of me wanted to insist on being allowed to present my kata in my division - just in the interest of fairness alone - but I worried that my insistence would have been seen as arrogance - and that the judging in the Grand championship would have reflected that.

I should NOT have had to worry about that.

For those of you keeping score at home, it went like this: 
Although we both "won" our division, senior dude paid $55 to enter, presented kata six times and competed in Grand Championships three times while I paid the same $55 and was a "one and done." He probably had a decent tourney while my experience there absolutely sucked. There's something not quite right about that - but the something new I re-learned this weekend is that a "good tournament" is a totally relative experience.

I'm so tired of wasting my time, money and gas traveling up and down the east coast to get to these tourneys only to find that I'm not really the type of competitor they are marketing to. It sucks to be seen as unimportant to the folks putting the tournament together, it really does.

So, although I really hoped to be able to compete until my 50th birthday, I'm calling it quits a few years early. This will be my last season doing this tourney circuit stuff. If I hadn't already committed to a few tourneys this summer, I swear this weekend's disaster would've been my last. 

It's such a shame that a desire to compete and the ability to put in the training time and get to the competition site isn't nearly enough. 

To every karate tournament organizer out there who doesn't make sure the five-year-olds and the 50-year-old females have the same kind of quality experience at your tournament as the 6- to 18-year-olds do: shame on you. Sexist, ageist and "you aren't as important" implications are pathetic and have absolutely no place in anything martial at all - even if it is "just" a regional tournament.

It's Women's History Month here in the states. This just doesn't have to be my history any longer...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Dusting and Cleaning

Last month, we traveled to a tournament in NYC. An annual event, it is free, well-run, free and a great way for our students to see a competitive martial environment without any fears (by us and parents) of them getting injured due to poor ring management/judging. Did I mention it was free?

Pulling off a fee-less tourney is not easy. Other than the space usage rental, the biggest expense is undoubtedly the awards. Think about it: awards for top three in every division adds up. So how did the tourney organizers supply awards without having to go into their pockets? Simple: they recycled trophies from their association's students and replaced only the placards/plates on them.

Consequently, some of the awards were smaller or larger than others. You'd think that would hardly be a "thing" - especially at a free tournament - but it was.

While waiting for the assigned ring to begin for three of my students, I overheard a mom saying the following to the woman standing next to her:
"He won, but look at the size of this trophy! It's not nearly as big as the one the kid who won in the 8-10-year-old beginners ring got! Can you imagine?"
Did she forget that she paid not one thin dime for Junior to compete - nor was there a spectator fee for her to watch Junior do his thing?

Typically, tournament registration fees range from $45 to $75. If mom, dad, nana and pop-pop come to watch, they pay about $10 each just to get in the gym door. Even if Junior wins and takes home a ginormous trophy, the family is quite a bit in the hole once travel expenses and lunch are factored in. Should the size of the trophy the main issue here?

Competition should be about testing your mettle in a relatively safe environment - at least that is what we pass along to the students who do compete in our school. Sure, be happy if you happen to pull off a victory or even place, but be just as happy that you had the courage and fortitude to step into the ring in the first place.

Besides, the bigger the award, the more you have to dust. Seriously.

In the interest of cutting my household cleaning duties in half, I think I need to donate a few awards towards next year's event.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

…And Dance by the Light of the Moon

I did it. I finally left my "this place is literally making me ill" job to go back to freelancing full-time. Doing anything as a freelancer is like a feast or famine crap shoot - but freelance writing/editing pretty much always equals "Food is over-rated anyway!" Especially in my little neck of the woods and in this economy, it's tough, tough, tough to make it outside the walls of corporate America and keep roof overhead with lots of bosses instead of just one. Suffice to say I had a plan (which promptly didn't pan out as planned) then quickly made another.

That "other" was going back to newspaper work. Understand that, although I am a journalist, I haven't done much newspaper work - other than covering the school board shenanigans of a district a few towns over - in a while. My first job ever was delivering newspapers when I was in eighth grade. After college, I came home and worked as a staffer for that same paper for over a year. And while going through my divorce, I kept roof over the head of my then six-year old son by covering the city beat (both crime and government) at another newspaper. I've always liked the pace that is working for a daily or weekly paper, so when my current plan crashed and burned, I turned my job hunt radar to area newspapers. I've been an editor now for almost three weeks, replacing a guy who'd been with the company for over 30 years. The work is fun, the co-workers great and the pay is even better than I expected. MUCH better. I'm happily doing what I love again, and it feels great.

The only issue I'm having is the hours. My days off rotate - which is fine - but it means my dojo days have dwindled down to a precious few. Once upon a time, I was in the dojo four to five days a week between teaching and learning. This past week, I was only able to squeeze in one class. Sigh…

But of course that does not mean my training has stopped. My kitchen dojo never closes, and many a night in the past few weeks I've gotten in, kissed my Beloved, petted the dog and kicked off my shoes for kihon and kata. I've also done the same in my pajamas before I headed out of the door. In a way, it forces me to be extremely disciplined as I have to plan my training in advance (just showing up in the kitchen without a plan isn't an option) and resist the urge to watch TV for that first hour I'm home. About the only thing that hasn't changed is my lifting schedule, as my gym is open 24/7, so the cardio and moving of heavy objects (yep, picking things up and putting them down) gets done. My new schedule also makes me appreciate my actual dojo experiences a bit more because I know it might be a minute before I get to see and work with sensei and my training partners again. I do have a tourney in two weeks. I'll only do kata - and since the women's executive division is mighty tiny, I usually get to the grand championship round, which is a very good thing. Winning would be even better (as they give a cash prize), but, one can't have everything.

In addition to finally being rid of the old place of employ and the angst it was causing, I get to really give my son something that will help him move down his own path: fully paid tuition and room and board. See, part of my problem at the old gig was the pay - and how, as a result, I HAD to do freelancing gigs just to make the ends meet. It was getting harder and harder to pay his college fees and the worry about how I was ever going to be able to afford his HUGE (I mean, it's gargantuan) dorm fee was constant.

Near the middle of last month, I went to see him in a college production. He's a Dance/Performing Arts major and had decided to challenge himself last semester by not only taking a class in a style he had never studied before, but by auditioning for a school production in that style. Not only was the show really, really good, my son was amazing! Now, trust me, I'm used to seeing things from him during performances that make me "Ooooo!" and "Ahhhh" - but nothing like this. It was obvious that he'd gotten so much better with his lines and his movements than was just six months before (and I wasn't the only one who noticed; a choreographer in the audience sent a text to one of his instructors DURING THE SHOW to ask who he was!! OMG!). When the houselights in the auditorium came on, I just sat there in kind of a stupor, thinking that he really, truly BELONGS on stage because, well, to put it simply, he is a dancer. Before that performance, I'd thought of "dancer" as something he wanted to be, not as something he was. He needs to learn his art and hone his craft - and here, at his chosen college, was where he seemed best suited to do that. As his parent, it was up to me to find a way to help him.

Just before he loaded up his hooptie (the very old and kinda rusty car that gets him back and forth) to head back to school today, we sat and talked about school a bit - and I assured him that it would be paid for without a loan. It felt really good to say that, it really did.

So, I'll find a way to get the training in, I know it. If my 20-hr-old can hold down his part in the studio and in the classroom (he had a 3.5 GPA last semester), the least I can do is my part in the dojo.

And I'm pretty sure it will all be OK.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Year's Wish

Wishing a happy and healthy budo-filled 2014 to you and yours!

"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors and let each New Year find you a better [person]."
 - Benjamin Franklin

Monday, December 30, 2013

Think Like a Cockroach

cockroach photo:  roach.jpgThe week between Christmas and New Year's Day is generally a slow one in karate land with not much in the way of regular classes happening. But one of our friends in NYC was holding class in his basement dojo and invited Training Partner Ed, myself and a a few students down tonight. And of course, we jumped at the chance.

Master Dave takes his karate very seriously, teaching in three different locations in the Bronx at least six nights a week. Because we travel over an hour to get to him, he likes to make the time we spend with him "special" in an "I don't think I can do another roundhouse kick" sort of way that makes your hair drip sweat. In addition to being a walking Goju and Shotokan kata encyclopedia, he is also famous for his "two minute drills" - where he fills the last few moments of every class with karate-related aerobic stuff designed to make you see what you're made of (or puke trying to find out). I aways leave his dojo wondering how I am able to even walk out - because not everyone does.

Tonight, after a invigorating warmup and some kihon, Master Dave had us work some lead leg kicking/lead hand punching speed drills. Speed was the operative word because fights on the street and in the ring happen fast. No one wants to get caught thinking of a confrontation-killing combination instead of moving to avoid, block or lay a hand or foot on an adversary. Openings, he said, don't come along all that often, and when they do, they don't tend to stick around very long. Good fighters look for openings and move in before they disappear. Great fighters find ways to create them.

"You have to think like a cockroach," he said "- because a cockroach will always find a way to get in."

Even the best fighters on the planet make mistakes from time to time by leaving something open while trying to block or counter - even if it is only for a fraction of a second. Finding that crack in the armor and moving in before it gets plugged up is the key to holding your own, he said. Then we spent the next hour following up defensive/blitz-stopping side and front kicks with lead-hand/rear-hand combos designed to help us think like a cockroach and get in - by any means necessary.

Next we worked more upper-body kihon with a makiwara, checking each other on form breaks and hitches that could telegraph intentions to an adversary. "Remember, the person in front of you can be a cockroach, too. He's trying to find a way inside," Master Dave said, reminding us that each shoulder dip before a reverse punch or slight drop in the lead hand before a jab is not much different than a gap under the pantry door: an entryway to the goodies on the other side.

Yeah, cockroaches are creepy, dirty little buggers that freak most of us out, but thinking like on when your dukes go up isn't a bad idea at all.