Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lines in the Sand

What is your line in the sand - you know, that thing which you absolutely will not tolerate? I'm not necessarily asking about the thing that will make docile you become a fighting machine - just the thing that makes you say "Aww - HELL to the NO!" Do you have any idea?

One of my lines is bringing or causing harm to my child. Been there, done that - so I know it revs my Mama Bear Mode engine and makes me go from 0 to 60 in about .4 seconds. It's not pretty, but as my bark really is much worse than my bite, no physical altercations have resulted to date (although I did think about choking my ex-husband waaaay back when the divorce was getting underway). Hey - sometimes a healthy fantasy life is one way to avert catastrophy.

It's becoming more obvious that another line for me is being talked to like I am a three-year-old. No Cybil-like morphing happens, but...well...the same level of pissivity is there without a doubt. Condesension is so unnecessary IMHO and I just don't understand exactly how some have lived long enough to be so darn good at it.

I especially hate it in the dojo. I may be young in my art (coming up on eight years), but the reality is that at the end of the day, I'm still a grown-behind woman. Talking to or treating me any other way makes me shut down and not even want to participate or contribute anymore.

I realize that some folks think their time on the mat is time to work on some self-esteem building by trying to earnestly take others down a peg (in an effort to build themselves up) - but, seriously?!? Work that crap out with whomever it is you're pissed at, not with the person you are standing in front of in the training hall. Last I checked, the dojo was not the place to let your inner demons out to play.

If an instructor is "going through," that does not give him/her the right to take it out on you. "Student" is not the same thing as "Peon for Which I Can Vent My Pent-Up Frustrations" - nor should it ever. There's a reason that silliness is only allowed in military boot camps and fraternity/sorority pledge lines.

But how should such foolishness be handled? Etiquette and rei are important and richly protected/expected traditions in the dojo. Is it even possible to keep the craziness at bay while still observing the rules of the training hall and not killing your instructor or uke?

Just wondering - before I end up losing it...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Circle of Life: Karate Style

Two different folks have commented on my karate in as many days. "You really know what you're doing!" they've said. These are not folks who have been studying martial arts for as many years as I've been alive, as my senseis have (one has only been training for a few months and the other has never stepped on the mat at all and just happened to be passing through the dojo when I was asked by my training partner to do a kata last Friday night) - so to them, my Empi Ha kata presentation looked all trecherous and bad-ass. But I'm sure if my Sensei was there to witness my presentation, he probably would not have seen the same things as those who gave me kudos did.

I remember when I was learning Empi Ha - a USA Goju kata that has a blazingly fast 11-point attack shortly after it opens - I thought "How will I ever learn that when I can't even SEE what the heck it is that's being done?!?" But I learned it very slowly and, once the bunkai was demonstrated and interpreted, it wasn't such a mystery anymore. Then of course I did it over and over and over again, as most of us are want to do when we are learning a new form. Pretty soon, that 11-point attack - which is done on both sides before it transitions somewhere else - became rote. Fluidity followed and a deeper understanding of it came in drips and drabs after that. It always seemed like a work in progress (as I still have my issues with it), though. I guess that's the point.

I also remember seminars and gradings with the rest of the clan when I was a shiny-new white belt watching the more seasoned karateka move with a grace that I never imagined my choppy, mummy-step movements ever duplicating. I'm sure I spent much of those gatherings with my mouth open in awe, absolutely amazed at what I witnessed - that is, when we weren't forced to avert our eyes and face the wall, LOL.

Somewhere along the line, Mummy Me got lost and my movements changed. The more I moved, the easier it became to move. The understanding of those moves just seemed to follow. It's not that I'm a savant or anything (I'm probably one of the least naturally coordinated individuals to ever walk upright, trust and believe), I'm just a firm believer that it is possible to train a body to do anything if you do it enough. Practice might not make perfect - because perfection isn't something that is ever attained in the martial arts, although we all aim for it - but it does make good karateka better.

The interesting part is that I am still watching my seniors and oooohing and ahhhing over their movements, my students are watching their seniors and doing the same. This weekend, when we took our students down to our sister dojo in NYC, we got quite a few comments from non-gi'd observers about the way our newbies moved. One compliment was directed towards the student I mentioned above who's only been training for a short period. She says she wants to flow like everyone else and doesn't yet realize folks are watching her and admiring what they see. It is a totally cool thing to observe.

The cycle continues...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Way to Black Belt

Shortly after training partner Ed and I started teaching at the Salvation Army, a parent asked if we'd ever start a class just for the "mature" learners who wanted to delve into the art but who didn't necessarily want to do that while standing next to his or her child on the mat. We began our adult class a few months ago just for that reason, but sadly our inquiring parent, Mr. Dixon Guzman, passed away suddenly before he could gi up and join us. We thank him for the inspiration.

The adults meet each Wednesday evening from 6:30 to 8PM. We work kihon, kata, kumite and self-defense on a regular - and did even after Ed's shoulder surgery and while I was nursing a bum Achilles. The adults are dedicated - even coming to class through the heat of the Northeastern US's summer - and they train hard, which is nice to witness because their passion is infectious.

About a month ago, Kris Wilder sent out some info about the new book he'd written with Lawrence Kane called "The Way to Black Belt" - and specifically about how'd they were looking for a group of martial artists to read it and give it a run. As I enjoy their work - especially "How to Win a Fight" which I reviewed last year - I wrote back and told him all about our group. He sent enough copies for each of our students and we will begin distributing them tomorrow night. We'll post our progress on the school's new blog and I'll update a bit here as well.

And if you're in the Orange County, NY area and not doing anything this Wednesday evening, come come join us :-)