Category Archives: Humor

Standing on the Porch

It was just us girls yesterday in class, plus a very enthusiastic new blue sash who was briefly a yellow sash student of mine.  The upside of a four-person class is the personal attention, and the highlight of the day was that my girl is now officially about half a dozen moves away from knowing the entirety of 12 Kicks, the form that can make one a black sash.  She already knows what the remaining moves are, after watching the other members of the family execute that fast-paced minute thousands of times each, but she was taught the one move she was unclear on that connects to the later ones.  That made her bouncing-off-the-walls happy – and me along with her.

I remember those days, the elation at every milestone that put me a step closer to the end.  My knee problems, surgeries, and arthritis had me certain, for the longest time, that black sash was unattainable, that I should be happy to master my sword form, obtain a red sash and leave it at that.  But after I did just that, a little voice in my head said “Um, you’re standing on the porch; cross the damned threshold already!”

I saw that in my daughter’s face yesterday, a preteen who had to be pushed in kung fu every step of the way, for years on end, while repeatedly declining to quit when the option was offered.  She’s pushing herself now.  She’s asking to be taught more.  She’s bouncing off the walls waiting to cross the threshold.  And I love it!

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A Smile and a Fist Pump

“If you do the Pittsburgh tournament, you can only do one event, because the entry fee is so high. But if you wait until June and do the D.C. tournament, you can compete in as many events as you want. D.C. has one price for everything.” I explained tournament economics as carefully as I could to a preteen who’s never bought anything more expensive than a birthday present for her brother, then waited for her to make the more cost-effective choice. She didn’t.

“I’ll do Pittsburgh.”

“You will? You understand that I can’t pay for both? If you do Pittsburgh, you can’t do D.C. – unless you pay for it.”

“Then I’ll wash more cars to pay for it,” she answered in a tone that implied I had somehow managed to miss her obvious solution and should be ashamed of myself. I watched my smiling daughter grab her towel and head for the shower, wondering who or what had taken over the body of my youngest child.

Only two weeks have passed since I told her she’s now the official family car wash, and I’ll pay her a couple of times a month for this specific job, while the remainder of her clean-up detail would still be just chores. She agreed without complaint but looked worried.  After all, it’s work; and she doesn’t like work.  She tried to console herself with talk of expanding her comic book collection with her pay.

Now, with her first paid foray with the sponge and hose just days away, the worried look has been replaced by a smile, a fist pump and a desire to wash the car more often than it needs – all because her father’s difficulty getting a day off from work forced her to come to a tournament she wasn’t supposed to attend.  Once there, she wound up competing, placing and wanting a shot at a higher medal.

I’ve always said that God has an interesting sense of humor, and this was definitely a punch line that I didn’t see coming. But I’ll take it, happily – along with a very clean car!


On the Circuit

Tournaments are scheduled to be an all-day affair, but I had never personally experienced one that was.  Until Saturday.

At the Fort Lauderdale tournament last month, I spent four hours warming up and cooling down over and over and over again, before my event was finally called.  It was a factor of having dozens of competition categories all slated for the same ring and not knowing exactly how many were ahead of mine.

In Charlotte on Saturday, rings were assigned on an ongoing basis, with none pre-assigned before the competition began. None.  We waited more than four hours for the first of the three of us to be called for an event; it took an additional two and a half hours after the first call for all of us to be done on the floor. So from first stretch to last bow, we spent almost eight hours warming up and cooling down, over and over and over again.

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I did a lot of quacking in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The extreme test of patience made Saturday my best day yet at being a duck.  Most surprisingly, I was not alone.

I like to say that my daughter is me without the filter.  That missing filter is usually a very big deal.  But with a little late-in-the-day help from a smart phone, her complaints numbered exactly three and lasted a matter of seconds.  That’s in a day that was eight hours long – and followed immediately by a seven hour car ride home!

What keeps an experience that looks crazy on paper from being as insane as it sounds is being in a room with a couple of hundred other like-minded enthusiasts who’ve driven just as long or flown just as far as you have.  A Florida man I made friends with in Lauderdale greeted me like we’d known each other for years, and my son left the building with plans to meet up early in the summer with a fellow competitor he spent most of the day talking with.  It’s not just a competition circuit; it’s a community all its own – much like any professional sport.  And that community is a fringe benefit to an experience that can otherwise try the most passionate of martial arts souls.

Next up Pittsburgh.  I’m sure the gang – or much of it – will all be there.


A Formidable Family!

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‎A proud mama I am! About five long hours after this picture‎ was taken, my children left the tournament floor with their first medals in kung fu… and training plans for the next competition!

Even my better half, sitting through the day on camera and cheering duty while nursing a torn meniscus‎, is anxious to get an event under her belt, now.

Looks like I’ve started something. And so far, so good!

More later, when I’m finally out of the car. 🙂


The Next Challenge

I did twenty-one forms last night, and aside from needing more sleep, I feel good.  I wasn’t intending to supersize it on the training; I just threw in a few sword forms (to see, one last time, if I could pull off a performance worthy of public consumption on a form that wreaks havoc on my right shoulder.) I also did more repetitions than initially intended on the brand new staff form in my repertoire, White Eyebrow.   Toss in practice for the competition forms of long staff and Lian Huan Tui, and all of a sudden I was doing more than twenty forms in a day for the first time in about a year.  There’s nothing like the freedom of space, time, happy joints and dormant sciatica!

Another first last night was the discovery that I’ve regained great enough vertical distance on my kicking combination that I can once again do the mid-air kicks in the sword form.  The calendar year was 2010 the last time I could leap high enough to complete those kicks with a sword held behind my back and not come down too hard, too soon and sideways on a really bad knee, injuring it further.  In fact, it was the third knee operation (the first that occurred as a student of kung fu) that grounded those sword form kicks for me.  It’s great to know that once I find out what needs to be done to get the shoulder back in shape, I may one day get the complete sword form in as good a shape as long staff.   But that’s not something I’ll be putting a lot of energy into any time in the near future.  White Eyebrow is the next training priority, and frankly, it’s hard in the most irritating of ways – subtly.

I’ve been charged with perfecting the first half of the form before Sifu will teach me anymore of it.  And the impediment to improvement is spinning the staff with my feet together.  Turns out that after seven years of knee injuries and operations, I can’t put my feet together!   When my thighs and knees are touching, this is what my feet look like:

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They’re supposed to look like this while I’m spinning:

feet together

The only way I’m able to pull off the feet-together position is to turn my legs and knees inward toward each other, to become pigeon…kneed.  That’s fine at the very beginning of class or a form, when bowing to the teacher, but sustained for several seconds, while twisting the waist and hips from right to left and spinning a seventy-seven inch staff???  Good grief!

The next physical challenge has officially been set!  And I haven’t even gotten to the running-while-spinning part…. Oy!


Cause and Effect

Omigod, Omigod, Omigod, Omigod, Omigod!  Loving life so much, I can’t get it out of my head in all its forms: Oh. My. God.  Sometimes it’s necessary to search for the up side in a so-called bad experience; at other times, the positive effect from the negative cause is glaringly obvious.  And that’s where I am today.

I could never have imagined that having Sifu eliminate my self-training time and space, erase my teaching schedule and impose what amounts to probationary status would feel, in less than a month’s time, like one of the best occurrences of recent years – but it does.  As a result of all of the above, the following is the new state of affairs.

I’ve found a convenient, affordable place where I can practice staff forms whenever my schedule allows.  All practice rooms that are available to me have well-maintained wood floors that are significantly easier on my battered, cartilage-lacking knees than the rug-covered concrete floors of the guan’s basement.  Additionally, all rooms are kept at a temperature of at least 70 degrees.  The basement of the school is probably 55 on a warm day; and the first class of any day of the week is no warmer than 65 degrees at best on the main floor.  I spend significantly less time warming up the beleaguered joints and muscles when at the gym and can practice longer on the gentler floors.  The result: I’ve gotten better – in a week!

The breadth of space I have enables me to practice a complete form without having to shorten steps and movements for lack of space. The greater continuity has made my long staff form faster without sacrificing the precision of the moves.  It just doesn’t get any better than that for me in martial arts land.  But wait; there’s more!

I’ve also been able to improve the open hand form I came to dread because of the stress on my knees and back.  When I did the open hand (Lian Huan Tui) during Saturday’s class, having practiced it more than a dozen times over the last week with warmer joints on softer floors, it was the best it’s been in ages.  I didn’t do it well enough a month ago to compete with it in the Florida tournament, but I will be subjecting it to judgment in next weekend’s competition.

Those are just the physical improvements resulting from what was a gut-wrenching experience that put my whole family on edge.  I’ll get to the mental and emotional ones next time.  While I ponder and appreciate them a bit longer, everybody enjoy the rest of whatever day you’re in.  I know I will. 🙂


Mental Notes

It was my first Wednesday in forever without a trip to the guan, and it was noteworthy for its lessons:

– Retail space in my popular neighborhood is expensive; retail space with high ceilings is very very expensive.  A school of my own would have to be in another neighborhood.

– Well-established gyms that don’t offer a martial arts class have program personnel who aren’t interested in martial arts.  I shouldn’t spend too much time trying to make them interested before offering my skills elsewhere.

– Training for five successive days is debilitating to the knees, no matter how much massage and ointment are applied to them.  Just because I have the space to practice every day doesn’t mean that I should.

– The method of delivering a message is as important as the message itself.  Don’t put anybody on the defensive, especially if I want them to hear what I’m saying.

– Anger is empowering but destructive.  Put my energy into forgiveness or detachment… or both.

Valuable food for thought acquired this Wednesday.  More and more to be said for time outside the guan.


Square One

“And I’m going to need some space outside of classes.”

“What does that mean?” I asked, with images of accosting him on the street popping into my head.  “I don’t understand.”

He smiled broadly and just stared at me a moment before continuing. I thought that if a total stranger to both of us had been passing us at that moment, they might have thought my boyfriend was breaking up with me or something.  It struck me as that strange a thing to say.

“Don’t email me anymore.  I don’t want any more explanations or apologies,” he clarified, still smiling.

At that point, I stifled a chuckle, understanding the richness of the irony.  The previous moment’s exchange was almost the quintessential example of our difficulties with each other: Sifu’s tendency to hint at what he wants me to do, expecting me to intuit his meaning, and my tendency to ask for explicit clarification, instead of risking misinterpretation of what had already been said.

We had each done what we do, engaged in one of the acts that most baffles the other.  Only this time, he didn’t make a second cryptic statement to follow the first or simply leave my question completely unaddressed.  He directly told me what he didn’t want me to do, rather than leave me to make a future error unaware.  It felt like a gift – an expensive and well-wrapped one at that.  And that wasn’t even the best part of the conversation.

The prohibition against cyberspace communication was a result of my having emailed him Friday afternoon to extend a second apology.  I wanted him to know that I’d had the cultural error of my ways spelled out to me.  But he opened today’s conversation by pulling me aside at the conclusion of two and half hours of training and announcing: “I didn’t actually read your email yesterday; I started to but decided to stop.  I want to just start things over between you and me.  As of right now, we just begin again from here.”

“I’d love that,” I answered, wondering if some kind of epiphany had occurred since he’d dressed me down – and without him even reading the apology I’d offered with a humble mea culpa.

Did he come to see my point of view?  Did he notice the dirt on his own side of the street?  Did the reason for the overture matter at all?

It certainly could if I let it.  But what good could possibly come from that?


Get On With It

Question:  What’s a woman to do when her joy is muted by sexism and insensitivity?

Answer: Make the case that what was awarded was earned and not erroneously given.  Then, sit with the anger without saying, doing or writing anything insensitive in return.  Lastly, shake my head one last time, put a smile on my face and get on with the next day.

‘Nuff said.


Not Today!

‎I’m spoiled. This is not a revelation, actually. I’m an only child, and my mother was loving, though critical. Today, however, I learned that I’m even spoiled in the context of kung fu tournaments. Though I know they are all-day events that are often chaotic in their administration, I’m used to doing my thing and being out the door in no more than two hours. But not today.

For reasons that only God and the tournament organizers understand, youth, teens and adults over thirty-six were all competing out of the same ring for both traditional and wushu styles. Each style and age group had open hand, short weapon, long weapon and “other” weapon categories, and each was divided by gender. And because they put the old folks, traditional style and weapons all last, I spent just shy of four hours watching the competition before I was finally in it.

At one point I was irritated. At another, my muscles were completely cold. But when the moment of truth arrived, I felt my nerves in my throat for the first ten to fifteen seconds of the form – much too long not to make a mistake because of them, and still banged it out like I love it, because I do. Either the judges didn’t notice the flubs, or they liked the rest of my minute so much‎ that they didn’t care about a spin being too wide and a stance being too high.

I took first place for advanced women over thirty-six and got the highest score of all adults, men included! I’ve said before that I never seem to be able to show my kung fu abilities when it counts, only when it’s me and a mirror. But not today.

Not today!


Touch Down…

One of the most beautiful sights in recent memory was that of two long, black casings sliding onto the floor in the baggage claim area of the Fort Lauderdale airport. They appeared after almost ten minutes of watching the conveyor belt spin suitcase after suitcase to its waiting owner. They appeared when only two other travelers remained to stare intently, along with me, at the hole in the ‎wall withholding what we needed. But they did appear, finally, and my heartbeat returned to normal. Hopefully, the only drama left is a performance that gives me a score I’m happy with…and maybe a medal to go along with it!


Back in the Building

I had a great, fast-moving interview this morning, followed by no traffic to the airport.  So rather than spend two and a half hours waiting in the airport, fretting over whether the flight home would be as delayed as the flight there (90 minutes), I thought: why not see if I can get moved to the earlier flight?

An hour of hair-pulling craziness later (all because of antiquated computer software and conflicting rules of different airlines that are owned by the same mother company), I was running onto the plane with the gate door closing behind me.  I have to publicly acknowledge the best customer service by the most helpful set of airport employees I’ve ever encountered: Logan Airport Southwest employees, here’s to you!

And so with an additional two hours to work with, my four days of non-stop movement needs a little less adrenaline.  Just slightly less, actually.  With a load of laundry in, I’m about to happily stretch for my first dose of kung fu in three days.  I thought I could get something done in the hotel room, but there wasn’t enough floor space to do stretching kicks, much less forms!

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I hope I don’t have to spend any time getting back into a groove with the form.  With less than forty-eight hours until showtime, this is no time to be cold!  Every nuance must be remembered… and will be.