Tag Archives: competition

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. 🙂

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Tournament Eve

It was a beautiful evening in Charlotte, North Carolina – especially from the top of the university campus at dusk, at the start of a track meet.

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Tomorrow morning, the family and I will be pacing and warming up in the winding corridors of this building, awaiting the call of our numbers to show what we know in each of our events.

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As luck would have it, I strained, sprained, pinched or otherwise aggravated the arm and shoulder that the staff demands the most of while sparring in Thursday night’s class.  So the jury is out on what I’ll be able to do tomorrow.  Meanwhile, my daughter has decided to get out of the audience and onto the competition floor, which made the trip extra special before we’d even put the weapons in the car!

It’s feeling a little like waiting for Santa….  A pretty nice feeling on the second day of spring. 🙂


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:

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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!


Midday Musings

Getting up from my commuter train seat this morning to disembark only took a split second, as it should.  No one stared at me.  No one even noticed.  I was just like everyone else.

I slept fine last night, pill free.  I was awakened by the need to use the bathroom, not by jolts of pain.  I love the initial days after a pain shot – no matter how painful the shot itself often is.

Already daydreaming about tonight’s trip to the gym and my last long staff practice before I’m at the venue.  The road trip south begins in less than 48 hours, and the whole family’s going.  It’s an exciting first!

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I have my better half available to cheer me on, and my son will be competing for the first time.  Since this is the most affordable tournament of the circuit this year, I think I might try to talk my pre-teen into getting out of the audience and competing instead.  Her long staff form is pretty good in its own right.  She learned it well before I did (while I was learning sword) and had a great time telling me what I was doing wrong when I first learned it.  I’m sure that any correction I give her, when she learns sword as a future black sash, will be seen as payback.  But I’ll deal with that misconception when I get to it.

I’ve been noticing a lot more – just random things: the bright blue on the scarf of a total stranger dressed all in brown; hearing the moving zipper on the purse or backpack of a passenger a row behind me on the left while nodding off; seeing the vendor from a block and a half away set up her cart in front of the courtyard of the office building (I’m normally crossing the street just a few yards from her before I notice if she’s selling that day.)  In short, physical mindfulness is a trip.  So is trying to be a duck.

The program director of the gym is definitely testing that impatience trait of mine.  I sent a follow-up email today, proposing to just rent space at the gym and make an arrangement for students of mine to be able to enter for free just to take my class, if she doesn’t want a kung fu class to be an official offering of the gym.  Her communications have suggested a resistance to an official affiliation, without closing the door.  I’ll see what she finally says – and how long it takes.

I know, I know.  The water’s rolling slowly… but I’m trying.  Quack. 🙂


Coming in Flat

It was the summer before my last year of college, and I was at work waiting tables on a slow weekday night.   I took the microphone at the piano in the jazz lounge, as the boss often let me do when customers weren’t in the mood to take advantage of open mic time.  I was halfway through an old Fats Waller tune when I started to struggle with my chest voice and unexpectedly drifted flat on the high note.  Though I was still almost two years away from abandoning life as a starving artist, that was the moment I knew that although I’d spent a decade as a kid and young adult singing on amateur stages, I would likely never do so on a professional one.  That night at the mic with the Fats Waller tune was the last time I sang in public.

Tuesday at school, I began preparing in earnest for the next kung fu tournament, one in which I can afford to compete in more than one event.  When I reached the spin section of the sword form, my bicep screamed out in protest.  It wasn’t the first time the spins had damaged me.  My forearm was first stressed by the move as long as three years ago, and I relieved that discomfort with a brace that’s often given to folks with tennis elbow.  It worked well enough to get me through the sword form I had to master to pass from brown sash to red.  But a year of enthusiastic staff training (enough to cause shoulder issues shortly before the last tournament) has altered and expanded the problem.  It’s now moved up the arm to the muscles most used with staff.

Sword is my best under sash form.  I loved it for so long that you could never have convinced me it would be replaced in my kung fu affections by the staff.  There’s a beauty to it that doesn’t exist with staff.  The flow of the sword and the choreograph y of the jumps and lunges that accompany the “cuts” can be like watching an urgent ballet.  The common reaction to a good sword form is “oooh,” while the common reaction to a good staff form is “whoa!”  It’s beauty versus brawn.

The very first time I competed it was with the sword form, and I did pretty well.  The last time I competed with sword it was okay but greatly overshadowed by the new skills with staff.  I was looking forward to bringing sword up to staff level, but that’s simply not going to happen if I want to keep using my right arm.

Last night, alone in the basement at the guan as wushu class began, felt like being back at that mic in a DC piano bar some twenty-five years ago.  I can forever do the sword form for fun, for the pure love of it, but not in competition.  Skipping the spins would be like skipping a song’s crescendo.  Doing them slowly and unevenly would be like coming in flat on the high note.   It would just never knowingly be done – not in public.

It took a total of three executions of the form, two more attempts to get through the arm pain on the spins after the initial bicep scream, to admit and accept it.  My sword days are over.

I will mourn those days but only for a little while, for it could easily have been worse.  I could have lost my sword skills without anything to replace them.  I could have all together lost the ability to do kung fu.


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.


The Old Friend

I’m in the office today for the taping of two episodes of the weekly program I produce.  I’ll be leaving shortly before the end of the second taping, handing the escort out over to a production assistant, and jumping in a cab to the airport.  After about forty-five minutes of rainy-day, capital city traffic, I’ll get to lumber through the airport with equipment I don’t dare check, for fear it will either not make it to my destination or be damaged when it arrives.  I’ll practice a little Lian Huan Tui, if there’s room in the room, grab a bite, go over my notes for tomorrow morning’s interview, chat with the family by cell and hit the hay.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll check out, head to the home of the March guest for our monthly program, interview him about how he writes in the space where he writes, and thank him profusely for his hospitality.  Then, I’ll dash to the airport, again lumber along with equipment I don’t dare check and hope beyond hope that I don’t damage any upper body muscles needed to execute my long staff form to the best of my ability.  

I’ll fly home, get a cab to my house, drop the equipment in the entrance way, change into kung fu clothes, and double check to make sure the family hasn’t left at home anything I need to practice with.  I’ll then head back out the door to meet up with my better half and children, who will already be in sparring class at our guan.

I’ll get in my last practice in comfortable, familiar surroundings on Thursday night, get in as much conversation as possible with my children, in between each of our showers, replace the work clothes in my overnight bag for the kung fu clothes and jeans, and sufficiently pack up my weapons to prevent damage.  I’ll grab a bite, hug and kiss the kids goodbye – again, get in some conversation with my spouse and hit the hay.

Friday morning, I will rise pre-dawn, head to the airport with my sweetie, check the weapons and pray the staff arrives in one piece.  I’ll kiss her goodbye at the security checkpoint, then turn into a walking wall of nerves until my one “perfect” (hopefully!) minute of long staff form execution is over on Saturday morning.

I’m exhausted.  Right here, right now.  And I still have it all to do.  It’s a good thing adrenaline and I are old friends.


Murphy & Mother Nature

For those following the weekend’s storyline, our contender came in fifth overall, which makes him third runner up.  Given the quality of the competition I saw, that is a more than respectable outcome and a great first shot at the national team.  Here’s Sifu having a last practice with the Boy Wonder before his final performance.

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And so a busy and tiring weekend has come to an end.  Now begins an even busier week.  Once again, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the weather will cooperate and not close the school again – neither my children’s respective junior and senior high schools nor our collective kung fu school.  It would be classic Murphy’s Law, of course, having only two available evenings to practice for my tournament on Saturday, to be denied one or both by Mother Nature.  But I’m going to do my best to have faith in the powers of the universe that I’ll get what I need.  I am fond of saying that God has a sick sense of humor sometimes.  Now’s not the time to find out firsthand that payback is a bitch, as they say.

Worry will get me nothing, I know.  So I think I’ll decide to stop.  Okay… done.


A Clear and Personal Idea

The sports fan that I am, who’s waiting anxiously for baseball season (and the last year on the diamond for Derek Jeter), has been checking in on the Olympics faithfully, though none of the winter sports are of interest to me at any other time.  What I’ve seen every time I’ve watched is at least one competitor hit the ice or snow or wall when falling down was certainly not supposed to be part of the program.

I feel for these athletes in a way I never have before.  It’s the difference between sympathy and empathy.  The last time the Games were on, I had never before publicly competed.  Now, I have a clear and personal idea of what it’s like to train for something for a long time and essentially disqualify oneself in the moment of truth.  Devastation seems like an understatement.

My kung fu family yesterday wasn’t disqualified from anything, but they did spend a considerable amount of time in preparation for naught. The Chinese school’s New Year’s celebration was cancelled for weather-related reasons.  Two months of choreography, giving up chunks of one’s Friday night and Saturday mornings, went out the window with nothing to show for it.  The disappointment in class yesterday was palpable.

More importantly, the Boy Wonder’s performance at the trials came in under par.  While the heel held up fine and he apparently hit the split, he lost points for other parts of the performance and must fight back hard today to stay in contention.

Me and mine are off shortly for the hour-long drive to dispense love and support.  His place on the national team requires stronger prayers than yesterday and near perfection on his part today.

Regardless of the outcome, the effort alone must be applauded. The time, the dedication, the love and desire is what all of us have felt and given to a lesser degree for this art that consumes us.  He can fail to make the team, but he can’t let us down.  That outcome could never be part of the program.