Tuesday, January 26, 2010

When Life Gets in the Way of "The Way"

We recently had a tragedy in the area: one of the kids who use to take karate with us was stabbed to death. Levi, the former karateka, was 17. The young man who stabbed him was only 13.

While looking back through some dojo photos for one of Levi to give his younger brother (another former student) at the wake, I came across this picture I took after youth promotions three years ago:

Levi is on the bottom row - second from the left. Of the 29 folks pictured - minus Sensei F - only 12 are still training. That includes some of the black belts lined up in the back.

Many folks I've trained with over the years have had to step away from the dojo at some point or other - some for a little while, some for a little while longer. Some have come back, but a whole lot have not. You miss them for a minute, but then months pass and you sort of forget that you used to see them on a regular. They get busy, you get busy and, well, life happens. Before you know it, you find yourself pointing to them in an old photo saying "Hey, what ever happened to...?"

Kinda sad, really...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Times That Try (Wo)men's Soles

In addition to my day job, I'm an adjunct journalism professor and last night was my first night back for the spring semester. Since I spend way too much time with my hair pulled back and in sweats (on the way to the gym or karate class), I try my best to dress professionally when I step onto the classroom, which usually means dress pants, a nice blouse or sweater and (drumroll....) a pair of pumps. Not very high pumps (I am 6'2", after all), but with a bit of a heel just the same.

Since my class ends at 9:30pm, it's quite dark when I head to my car for the trip home, which means there are lots of shadows around bushes, building entryways and corners even with the campus' sidewalk lamps blazing the path. Forever the karateka, last night I ran a few self-defense scenarios in my head as my heels clicked across the cobblestones en route to the parking lot. Balancing my weight and that of my briefcase on shoes teetering in the sidewalk breaks and cobblestones proved quite tricky - so much so that I couldn't imagine being able to run away or spin on the balls of my feet to throw a kick if I needed to. I felt sort of powerless in a way, which made me want to get to my car that much quicker, which of course my shoes prevented me from doing. And this is the same campus where I take karate class twice a week - but it is a totally different place at night when I'm rocking my "girl" shoes, I found...

I haven't done much training in regular clothing (READ: sans gi or in any type of shoes), but we're often told to kick shoes like sandals, flip-flops or mules off as soon as a confrontation seems unavoidable. But my boots were zippered almost up to my knee. No way I was gonna be able to kick those things off unless I asked the attacker to allow me a few seconds to unzip them.

So what's a professional woman to do - toss out every pair of "girl" shoes in the closet and wear running sneakers everywhere? Learn how to navigate in tricky footwear (as if walking in shoes with a heel wasn't challenging enough) a-la the animated female warriors from Tekken? It can be a real dilemma for some of us - and I train on a regular to be aware of my surroundings/potentially bad situations. What about the women who don't? I'm sure Joe Evildoer looking for a potential victim watches for things like tricky footwear, scarves or ponytails (to make grabbing from behind easier). Hmmm...Perhaps our footwear can make us potential victims by default, whether we train or not...

As for me, I'll be carrying my "girl" shoes in my bag from now on just to be on the safe side. How about you?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Superfoot" in Atlantic City

My dojo mates and I have traveled a bit over the past few months. Last weekend, we hit the road again for an awards banquet in Atlantic City where Sensei S and Sa Bom Nim Slader were honored. But before the banquet, there were a ton of seminars to sample and see - including this one I filmed of the legendary Bill "Superfoot" Wallace on kicking in sparring competitions (which became the very first video I ever posted on YouTube!):

After all the kicks were thrown, my son posed for a picture with Mr. Wallace and got an autographed photo. He also got to take picture with actor/martial artist Michael Jai White (of "Spawn" fame). Can you tell he was excited?

In addition to a pair of very heavy trophies, Sensei S and SBN Slader each received beautiful Samurai swords for their contribution to their respective arts. Here's Sensei S with his sword (still in the box):

We're not planning on any more group travel until the Susquehanna Martial Arts Symposium at end of March, which is good in a way. It's nice to travel and see new things, but it's also good to be home. Off to class!