Tag Archives: martial arts

Sirens! Tomorrow!

Sirens begins tomorrow!

(Well, Sirens Studio is actually already in progress, but I couldn’t swing my schedule into alignment until the conference itself.)

But I am excited!  I pick up a friend at the airport tomorrow morning, then head to the hotel to meet up with existing friends and meet some new ones.  A couple folks have volunteered to help out with “The Movement You Don’t See (it’s a low-low-impact workshop, but I did want to demo a couple things that some might find uncomfortable), so I’ll get to meet up with them, too.

My son has been such a good sport, helping me decide what to leave in and take out of the presentation.  My inclination is to teach a three-hour class, so keeping it all within an hour is a bit of a challenge.

So if you’re attending Sirens, find me and say hello!  If you’re in the Denver area and not attending, drop me a line if you’d like to BarCon for awhile anyway!

 

A New Martial Arts Home

Last week ended up being incredibly and unexpectedly busy–and for a spectacular reason.

100_2182I found a new place to train.

This is not a small thing.

I moved to Colorado a year ago, mind.  Though I didn’t spend every moment of the last twelve months seeking out a new dojo-home, I invested a great deal of energy looking up schools and instructors online, asking around, and spending more than a few hours sitting or standing in parking lots watching classes through storefront windows.

That watching-classes part quickly became depressing.  I wasn’t looking at how marvelous the students were.  I was watching how instructors managed their class and interacted with students… and never once came away thinking, “I’m impressed!”  In fact, I never walked away thinking, “Wow, good job.”  I wasn’t looking for a school that taught the exact art I’ve learned for the last fifteen-ish years–that’s impossible for many reasons–but was looking for quality instruction and school community.

Yeah, I’m picky.  And I don’t apologize for it. Continue reading A New Martial Arts Home

The Expectations and Fault Follow-Up

In the comments to Making the Nice-Guy Challenge a Safe One, mrissa and scallywag195 both shared questions and perspectives I wanted to answer in more detail. That “more detail” ended up being much longer than I thought… but here it is!

Questions from mrissa first:

My question is twofold:

1) In what context would his actions have been reasonable in a class/mat setting? In what context is “respond as though someone who is not in pads etc. is the actual attacker” the correct scenario? If this was a mismatch of reasonable expectations, I am having a hard time seeing where his expectation was reasonable.

The short answer is, “When Sensei says so.” Continue reading The Expectations and Fault Follow-Up

Making the Nice-Guy Challenge A Safe One

In 2013, I made a mistake that still affects my physical abilities—everything from Okinawan weapons training to using a screwdriver.100_2182

Two students, father and son, began classes at my dojo. The son was an energetic eight-year-old. The father was a six-foot-six retired drill sergeant who’d trained in a similar style about twenty years prior, but who wanted to start again as a white belt in order to train with his son, and had observed enough of my classes to decide he wanted me as an instructor. He was the kind of returning student who makes a sensei’s job easier by acknowledging long-ago rank is not a measure of present ability. He was fun, supportive of his son and other students, perfectly respectful, and quick to smile. I liked him. Still do.

As I mentioned in The Snarky Partner, I teach hold escapes not only as a basic self-defense technique, but as foundational training for partner work. That’s what the man and his son were learning, alongside another dozen or so new students. As usual, one of the first escapes I taught was a shoulder-hold escape: the bad guy grabs your shoulder, and you break the hold. It’s a totally simple technique I’ve taught and performed thousands of times. I not only know how to teach it in a few minutes, I know the counters, the means to avoid injury, the importance of release, and so forth. So I worked my way around the circle of young and older students, letting them each try it a couple of times with me as their partner, before reaching the father.

I reached up to take hold of his shoulder with my right hand. Just as I grabbed, a younger student starting spinning in place. I gave the child my attention for two seconds—”John, eyes on Sensei!”—and that’s when the father whipped his arm around to perform the escape.

But he did it as if I were an actual attacker. He grabbed my hand, trapped my wrist, tugged my arm straight, whipped his arm around and brought it down on my elbow with force. Even though I dropped to my knees and fell against his leg (an attempt to put my straightened arm as parallel to his body as possible), everyone heard the crack and snap. Continue reading Making the Nice-Guy Challenge A Safe One

The No-Fun Public Challenge From Strangers

One of my business writing clients is a company headed by twin brothers. Big twin brothers who have worked hands-on construction for almost forty years. On the business side, they’re great clients. On the personal interaction side, they are a great deal of fun. After a recent business lunch that included talk of martial arts, the few-minutes-younger brother asked if I thought I’d “be able to take” the few-minutes-older brother if he tried to attack me. I looked the older brother up and down and smiled. “Sure! My thumb will still fit in his eye socket.”100_2182

There was a moment of surprised silence before the laughter and nodding. It was one of those good-natured exchanges based more on fun curiosity and comfortable friendship than the need to challenge.

But friendship and curiosity aren’t always elements in those conversations, and when they’re absent…

Continue reading The No-Fun Public Challenge From Strangers

Self-defense and Fighting Articles — All Together Now!

By request, I’ve gathered up my fighting and self-defense related articles onto one link-y-filled page.  The page is also listed on the menu now for folks to find more easily.

It isn’t quite complete yet, so I’ll be adding and updating along the way.  And, uncertain how wide a net I wanted to cast, I didn’t include everything that touched on any part of fighting, self-defense, and martial arts.  So if your favorite post isn’t on the list, and you think it ought to be, please let me know!

 

#SFWApro

The Purpose of Kata

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If you talk about martial arts long enough, someone will eventually say, “What’s the point of kata? You can’t use it in a real fight. The only thing kata is good for is tournaments.”

I mightily disagree.

Kata is, in simple terms, a series of choreographed movements — punches and kicks, stances and turns, blocks and attacks and evasions. From the outside, it looks as if one fighter is taking on multiple attackers coming at her, one at a time, from different directions. Many martial arts use them as a training tool, with some arts and schools putting greater emphasis on them than others.

A friend recently asked me about the purpose of kata. I gave a short answer, then realized how different today’s answer was from the answer I might have given ten years ago, or even five years ago. My understanding has changed — not only because of my training, but because of my teaching experience.

At first, kata serves to instill rudimentary body awareness and muscle function. We’re talking very rudimentary here. The student must learn, at the bare minimum, to be aware of and in control of what her body and all its parts are doing at any given moment. Most people can stand up and throw a punch with their left hand, but will not be able to say what the right hand was doing without looking at their right hand. Ask if the knees were bent or straight, or if the chin was lifted or tucked, and she will have no clue. Ask her to keep track of all those things while moving from one technique to the next with at least a smidgeon of intensity, and things quickly fall apart.

Continue reading The Purpose of Kata

Seeing Is Understanding

This is about speaking up, creepers, and what good men don’t always see.  Names have been changed.

Some time ago, I was having lunch with a group of friends—four men, one woman, and me.  I’ve known most of the group for five or six years.  We were talking about shared past experiences when one of the men mentioned that he missed Larry.  “Gotta like a man who can make a good cup of coffee,” he said.

“No, I don’t,” I blurted out, and described how that man knew precisely where the lines of “inappropriate” behavior were drawn, and had spent the last couple of years nudging those lines whenever he came across a woman he considered “available.”  I mentioned he’d been called out for failing to heed polite turn-downs, that he got offended when the turn-down became less polite.  I mentioned how women who weren’t even the focus of his attention breathed a sigh of relief when he left the room.

None of the men discounted my experience or my descriptions.  But every one of them said they hadn’t seen or noticed anything like that.  I do want to be clear that their responses were not in the spirit, tone, or words of dismissal.  Instead, they were genuinely puzzled that their observations had missed something they assumed would be obvious.  One said he felt bad he hadn’t realized what was going on.

So I pushed the issue.

Without explaining what I was going to do, I got up and stood behind one of the men.  I put my hands on his shoulders, then stretched my fingers as far down his chest as possible while still seeming to give a platonic shoulder rub.*  I pulled him back against my chest, digging my fingers in when he resisted.  That action alone let him know I acknowledged he didn’t want me to be pulling on and touching him, and I didn’t care.

“You look so tense,” I said in a nice, soft voice.  Not sexy, not husky, but more intimate than standard conversation.  Not intimate enough to be “inappropriate,” though.  “You just let me give you a rub and I’ll make you feel better.  I can tell you need that.”

Then, while he sat immobile with surprise, I leaned past him to pick up his coffee cup, keeping my chest close to his face and my other hand firmly on his shoulder.  To the others, it likely looked as if I was just resting my hand there.  That man, though, could feel the pressure I exerted to keep him pressed close to me.  He would have had to make an obvious, rude-looking push to get away.  “I’ll get you some more coffee, too.  You just let me take care of that.”

I gave the man a sweet smile in answer to his shocked stare, then returned to my seat, put my napkin back on my lap, and said, “That’s what Larry does.”

The man I’d touched totally understood in that moment.  He’d experienced how it felt—even at the hands of a friend—to have your personal boundaries violated and your “polite” signals of resistance ignored.  The other men had that slack expression that comes when surprising facts suddenly jolt long-held assumptions.  “Creepy” was uttered, as was “awful” and “scary.”

Their words held a tone of… almost fear?  As if they were suddenly running through all sorts of past interactions in search of similar behaviors, and finding some.

Now they are able to see it.

*The “long-fingered” shoulder rub is a common tactic used by creepers who want to look like they’re being so tender and nurturing while actually making the woman fear he’s going to grab a breast at any moment.

See also:

Where the Boundaries Are Drawn

Five Things I’ve Learned About Teaching Self-Defense

It’s the Same Advice

Edited 08/09/2013 11:20 to correct word-choice mistake pointed out by a kind reader. 🙂

There Is No Such Thing As Typical

Today the 30-day blog challenge is to describe a typical day from my life.

I do not have typical days.

The best and the worst thing about being self-employed in three different fields–karate, wellness, writing–while also homeschooling a teenager is that no two consecutive days will be alike.  Toss in a sister who works as a flight attendant while parenting my little nephews, parents who love to spend time with extended family, and two crazy-sweet dogs, and it is guaranteed days will be interesting in the ancient proverb sense.

Let’s take today, for instance.

Up at eight in the morn (because I suck at early rising) to get laundry rolling and hoe the garden before it gets to muggy.  By nine, the garden has been weeded, laundry is well underway, breakfast has been eaten by human and canine residents, and I’ve settled in to answer wellness emails while the Son works through his assignments in algebra and economics.  We talk about Doctor Who somewhere in there.  At a few minutes after eleven, the Son and I head out the door, with the Son driving.  (We’re trying to figure out how to get the time for his driving test in before the end of the month.)

The Son sees his econ/algebra teacher for two hours.  In that time, I run to the printing shop to pick up karate-related stuff, then see a karate student at his own factory to provide a private lesson on kata and kicks.  We finish ten minutes late, which means I barely make it back to the teacher’s office in time.  But the teacher is also running late, so all’s good.  I return phone calls while I wait: a client looking for info on digestive enzymes, the mechanic trying to schedule what might be an all-day job for my car, someone seeking information on karate classes.

By the time we return home, it’s a little after two.  The dogs dance on their back legs as if we’ve been gone forever and threatened to never return.  Fortunately, the Lab didn’t find any unattended food items to devour, and the Bull-Boxer-Rotty didn’t tear up anything in his crate, so their greetings were well-received.  We indulge in many minutes of playing with the dogs because it makes the entire day better for all involved.

Then came the midday ninety minutes with the Son, when we make something quick and easy for lunch before sitting down to watch one of the nighttime shows we record to watch together.  Today was the most recent episode of Falling Skies.  I ate a Sloppy Joe and salad.  The Son had the Moo Shu left over from last night and a banana.

After the show, we chatted for a bit before the Son had to start his government assignment and I had to be out the door.  I reached the dojo just five minutes ahead of both my instructor and my sparring partner.  Fifteen minutes of kata work and forty-five minutes of sparring followed.  Less than five minutes after the end of practice, I bowed beginning students on the mat for the first class of the evening.  Four hours later, around nine, I bowed my last students off the mat.  In between, I taught some students a new kata, others a new throw, then worked as both teacher and uki for an hour of multiple-attacker self-defense.

Upon arriving home, a shower–quick and cold–was the second order of business.  The first was to hug the Son.  Since the Son is working on a Minecraft something or other video and chatting with his international friends, I am left to my own devices: more answering of email, petting the crazy sweet dogs, and writing this post.  By eleven, I’ll be settled enough to get some fiction in before my eyes begin to cross.  By midnight, I’ll curl up in bed with my yet-nameless Kindle, and read until I fall asleep somewhere around one in the morn.

And that’s about as typical as it gets around here.  Tomorrow I’ll teach karate again in the evening, and the Son and I will still spend our midday time together, but everything else will be different.

That midday time is most precious to me.  Because the Son and I both often work evenings, we can’t have dinner together very often.  Instead, lunch is our time.

Five Fonts of Happiness

Mmm… Chinese food…

Ahem.

Five things that make me happy. Very well.

First, that mention of Chinese food does indeed make me happy. Mentioning Italian, Asian, Middle Eastern, American, Indian and European food makes me happy, too. I love food. I adore food. I don’t consider myself a foodie, or a great cook, or even a discerning eater. But taste and scent and texture—and sharing that experience with others—is a great joy. I remember the immense pleasure of eating fresh cilantro atop carne asada for the first time. I can recall the sweet tang of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, tossed with feta and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. My mouth waters over what I was served at an Indian restaurant in Salt Lake City, though I can’t tell you what it was called. The fried green tomatoes and chutney I ate in Charleston were a delight. Tarragon chicken. Burgers and onion rings. Cannelloni con asparagi. Moo shu. Noodles with butter, garlic and oregano. Sweet corn. Beef barley stew. Cheesecake. Naan. Fried mushrooms. Hummus. French fries. Marinara. Steaks. Oh, yes, steaks. Food makes me smile from the inside out.

Unless it involves fish, and then I really don’t want anything to do with it.

Continue reading Five Fonts of Happiness