Category Archives: sports

Quiet in the Kung Fu House

I am alone in my own home.  The children are at their grandparents’ house, and my better half is out of town for a Monday funeral.  The last time I went to sleep and woke up at my address with no one else in the building, I didn’t have a daughter yet and my two-year-old son had a weekend’s head start on Christmas vacation with his dad and grandparents, while I was finishing up the work week.

The quiet in my house was disquieting once I wound down from a good class and training session.   Without a family meal to cook or laundry to fold, I noticed for the first time that there’s a kung fu item of some sort in pretty much every room of the house.  Not that I didn’t know they were there.  I just didn’t realize that my entire living space contains kung fu items, until there was nothing to distract me from the realization.

There’s the 100-pound bag in my bedroom, and the adjustable bag in the family room.

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There’s the inability to use the first-floor stairway or the kitchen without passing the collection of workout bags and gear in front of the basement door.

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There’s the virtual staff store we pass when leaving the house, and the sashes and medals hanging on walls, mirrors and doors.

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This is a martial arts house – period.  Even when I’m the only person home.

I have to smile at that fact…even while I’m shaking my head. 🙂


Foot-cramped and Kid-Free

My beautiful babes were in a goofy mood as they waited to get through airport security.  I’m in the middle of day one of nine without my loquacious Minecraft and Warriors-loving girl and my ear buds-donning, bilingual boy, with arms full of self-made bracelets.

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He held up the security line for a good five minutes getting them off and back on.  I’m fairly certain he’ll pack some of them on the way back.

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All four family members sweat together in Saturday’s upper sash class.  It’s the only hour of the kung fu week that we’re all guaranteed to be together.  So, of course, I missed my kids today — particularly as my beleaguered glutes started screaming for relief somewhere around the forty-fifth outside crescent kick.

Misery loves company.  In this Saturday of seemingly endless kicks and horse stance holding, my daughter would have commiserated and then some.  “Batman” might have asked to kick in another rotation or two.  Then, I would’ve wanted to kick him. 🙂


Britches and Cheeks

Watching from the car as my children and other students awaited the arrival of Siheng, I realized that a month had passed since last we had a Thursday with Pooh.  First he was on vacation; then, we were college hopping. It was good to see him again.

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But my children’s adopted local dad came back from vacation with a bee in his britches.  No more socializing, goofing off, complaining, he lectured. His is an advanced class; it’s time to stop acting like beginners, he told the class.  He took half of the blame for the relaxed atmosphere on his watch, but no more.   Pooh was decidedly out of honey, yet no one seemed to mind.

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It was a hard-working, focused session.  My son leaves town on a high note for vacation with the grandparents; my daughter leaves with the worrisome realization that even with Pooh, who’s awfully fond of her, she’s going to have to act like a red sash – finally.

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What’s the worst thing that could happen?  She might get tapped for black sash testing earlier than she thinks.

Meanwhile, downstairs, Merle practiced all of her under sash forms to prepare for her first of twelve black sash tests.  The kids are going to miss cheering her on for the first test but will have a front-row seat for number two.  If all goes well, my better half and I will share the same black sash award anniversary weekend every January.  That thought makes me grin until my cheeks hurt.

Speaking of hurt cheeks, there’s nothing like a form full of deep empty stances (at least four, by quick count) to make this woman more conscious of her ass than I ever wanted to be.  I’ve spent so much time this summer concentrating on swinging the staff, running with it, walking with it, turning, etc. that I was temporarily oblivious to the pain that can be generated just standing still with it, like below.  Of course the only reason they hurt so much is because this pose is much closer to the floor these days than it is here.

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Progress can be painful… especially when the goofing off is done.


Playdate with Punches

Sifu and Siheng Steve have the same sports car.  It’s the school sticker on the back windshield of Sifu’s that alerts me to our leader’s presence before I reach the school door.  When I saw it Monday night, the only night of the week he doesn’t come to the guan, I knew immediately that he was filling in for Siheng Chris, teaching the beginner class.  It’s been six months since Sifu suspended my teaching privileges, and he still doesn’t call me to fill.  Even though I now have a class of my own that will hopefully grow, it still hurts a little to feel outside the fold.  I suspect that the pain will decrease in direct proportion to the success of my class at the gym.  So I’ll just keep the focus where it belongs.

To that end, I’m happily anticipating the announcement for the second session of the class.  This one will be open to parents as well, just as the guan is filled with families of students.  I’m finding, as my young charges become more annoyed with the increased level of energy required of them to learn the white sash form, that the class may have been assumed to be a playdate with punching, instead of an actual kung fu class.  It will be good to have parents know what they’ve actually signed their kids up for.  It will also be good to have students with a longer attention span mixed in with the ones who need to be entertained.  Here’s hoping I get a good turnout, whatever the mix.


Randomness and Reason

Does everything happen for a reason?  I used to believe adamantly that it did.  Then, a series of hard and horrible things happened over a few years, and I was at a loss as to why.  So my brain did a 180 and started thinking of everything as random.  It was easier that way.

Now, I wait to hear whether an unrequested gift that was dangled unexpectedly before me a week ago will in fact be mine.  I wait wondering if it’s a gift at all or merely the greatest reason I’ve had in years to reconsider whether everything happens for a reason.

Meanwhile a trip to Target before afternoon training at the gym brought another unexpected gift our way.  I was there for a reason: new workout shirts.  My son made a random decision to accompany his sister and me, and it led him to the happiest shopping moment of his life.

He’s wanted to be Batman since he was three.  Thanks to his afternoon purchase, he feels a step closer.  So… does everything happen for a reason?

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Robbers in the Bushes

Several months ago, a twelve-year-old was robbed of her cellphone at gun point by a fellow adolescent, in a neighborhood adjacent to mine.  It turns out she was a schoolmate of my six-year-old kung fu student.  A former schoolmate, that is.  My martial arts ingénue no longer goes to that school.

I learned this in a conversation that started with: “My friends think there are robbers in the bushes on my street.  I think so, too.”  I asked pointed questions in a curious and casual way as we did our cool-down stretches at the end of class.  She answered with several non-sequiturs and a tangent or two before telling me enough to remind me of the news story about the cell phone robbery that had so alarmed me in the spring.  Then she concluded with: “But I can just give them a karate chop!”

Is that why a six-year-old ballet dancer with piano lessons is also enrolled in kung fu? I wondered.  For self-defense, a sense of security, the ability to ward off the robbers she thinks are in the bushes?

In a six-week beginner course at the gym, there’s only so far we can get on that mission.  But if the bear hugs she keeps giving me on the way out the door are any indication, she seems confident I’m up for the task.  She certainly gave me a lot to think about as I practiced the newest moves of White Eyebrow.


Keeping Up & Staying Cool

Not much to say tonight.  Just feeling happy, joyous, free… and exhausted.

Kung fu this week has been high-flying, painful, satisfying and fun.  Keeping up with Siheng Brandon is an exercise in futility for my old bones, but it’s awfully fun to watch.

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Equally sweat producing was the beginning of the tours of college campuses that being the mother of an incoming senior brings.  As luck would have it, it was 100 in the shade as we pounded the pavement of Terp territory.  Here’s hoping next week in my beloved New England and New York will be cooler!

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And So It Begins

“My hands are sweating!”

“That’s okay. That means you’re doing it right.” It’s one of my favorite things to tell young students when they tell me about something that’s making them uncomfortable.

“But I don’t want sweat on my hands,” said the barefooted five-year-old, looking up at me like I was weird.

“Let’s do five more kicks, then we’ll take a break and get a towel for your hands.”

“Five more?”

I had to turn my attention to the earnest little dancer next to him to keep from laughing. Her hands were also sweaty, but her smile was immovable. I could tell that even at six she was used to being good at the activities her mom enrolled her in – and kung fu was at least the third.

A class of two, so far: five and six, boy and girl, bored and focused. The girl was almost at the class door before running back to hug me goodbye; the boy ran back to the door, after leaving with his father, to wave goodbye a second time from the other side of it.

And so the new class begins.  I’m warm and fuzzy already….


Staggering for Balance

I slithered out of the way just in time. A sixteen year old, who was a black sash before I even started kung fu, almost ran me into a mirror tonight by barreling against me with his head. But when the buzzer sounded two minutes later, he was the one staggering for balance to keep from hitting the floor.

My middle toe feels like I broke it on his elbow, and my ribs are grateful he was three inches too far from me when he began his sidekick. I felt the impact but withstood it with a flinch. The extra three inches would have put my stomach in my throat and my knees on the carpet.

This is one of those nights that I can’t believe I’m forty-five years old, severely arthritic and missing cartilage in both of my knees.  If only I could move as fast and feel as good with the half dozen other daily challenges that keep the adrenaline pumping!  But we really can’t have it all…. 🙂

My son, on the other hand, can have it all, it seems.  While enjoying his Spanish immersion program in his month away from home, his martial arts skills got him adopted by the Chinese immersion folks.  Here he is, front and center, at their world expo in the final weekend of the program (the one on the right).  It’ll be good to have him back home and in Sanshou – though his sidekicks cause more than a flinch!

Aaron at MMLA Expo


The Works

The end of a long session of holiday training this morning – and without the staff, for a change.

(And for anyone wanting an update on White Eyebrow status, here’s a bit of the staff, too.  Here’s hoping I finally get the last third of the form in tomorrow’s class!)

The end of a beautiful day and evening, just five minutes down the street from the gym and around the corner from my house – the City of Baltimore’s contribution to the celebratory day.

I hope all had an enjoyable and safe July 4th!


Money Under the Door

I slipped the last ten dollars in my wallet under Sifu’s office door before leaving the school on Saturday, then fought back resentment all the way home.  I’m nevertheless glad I gave.

The money was a donation for movie night at the guan.  Unlike movie nights of old, it wasn’t simply a social gathering opportunity.  It was a fundraiser – one of three currently running – to help pay for Sifu’s travel and testing materials to become a certified judge for wushu competitions.  He’s using paid private lessons, a new student’s services as a massage therapist and a movie night to pay for it.

I think the relatively new practice of project and charity fundraising through social media is phenomenal, and I’m all for it. I myself have benefitted from the kindness of friends and acquaintances who, some twenty years ago, pitched in to get me a plane ticket home from school in Texas when my mother had to have a sudden operation.  I have nothing against making a pitch to the masses when money is needed for a worthy cause.  But Sifu’s fundraising has rubbed me the wrong way because of…let’s just say…inconsistencies in philosophy and behavior.

When announcing his need in an email, he suggested that private lessons could be used to learn more of one’s form or a new one entirely.  This from a man insistent that forms should be learned very slowly, in sections that are repeatedly practiced before new moves are introduced.  Apparently, that deeply held principle can be irrelevant at times of his choosing.  Additionally, the Jekyll and Hyde nature of our Sifu, which I’ve written about in this previous post, is even more apparent when he wants something more from his students than he already demands.

Two hours before bowing out of the building with a big smile on his face, warmly proclaiming his desire to see everyone at movie night, he barked angrily at a student, saying: “It doesn’t matter what you thought; all that matters is what I’m telling you now!”  He was in the process of changing a move that it seemed everyone in upper sash class had learned a different way, and we were all a bit confused and slower than he wanted us to be.  This tension was after a return-from-banishment Friday night class (the aftermath of which is pictured below) that was surprisingly easygoing – which made his Saturday morning mood all the more jarring!  In short, Sifu’s demeanor can give one whiplash and dampen any inspiration to assist in his ambitions.  And yet….

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What could I accomplish by being an obvious abstainer to the fundraising effort?  As the saying goes, resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

I want good things for this person whose instruction has visibly changed a lot about me and my life.  I want to be at peace in this relationship that can be so trying, with this person who can be so disappointing.  I want peace, so I must offer the very thing I want.  I wasn’t going to give him my Saturday night, but I could at least slip my money under the door.


It’s All Over…

Wednesday is second only to Monday as the busiest night in the gym.  It’s the evening there’s a spin class, a yoga class, and an occasional bootcamp in the hallway.  Meanwhile the squash round-robin group owns both courts until at least eight o’clock.  If there’s anyone in the boxing room, then I’m just completely out of luck until as late as 8:30.  It used to be quite a challenge and lesson in patience to get my training in.  Not anymore.

I now have access to this room,…

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despite this sign.

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It’s a perk of being an employee!  And after months of waiting, wondering, preparing for it not to come through, I’m officially part of the team.

In the last two days, I’ve filled out almost as many papers as it took to buy my house, sat through my supervisor reading the employee handbook to me (at least she was entertaining while whizzing through forty pages) and taken a computerized test on sexual harassment.  It’s now all over but the bowing in… and the CPR course.  I have more than enough time to take it, because the club’s annual cleaning and refurbishment is three weeks from now.  My class starts the following Friday – July 18th at 6 p.m.

Until then, I’ll be perfecting my White Eyebrow in the room with the most appropriate of signs. 🙂

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