Tag Archives: exercise

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.

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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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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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Delicious Irony

I had a tournament yesterday.  It meant so little to me that I neglected to mention it beforehand on this blog, where I subject readers to all things kung fu in my life.  The obvious question is why it meant little to me.  The obvious answer is that the whole competition thing has become old hat.  That’s not it.  In fact, the DC tournament’s “seniors” division is actually 36 years old and up.  That puts me up against several more competitors than when the division is 44 or 45 and up!  The challenge is too healthy to be boring.

I started learning White Eyebrow at the beginning of February, and aside from time spent in June correcting the walk (which I was only told needed correcting the same day I left for Florida with Ava), I’ve taken to the form pretty quickly and could easily have learned the whole thing by now, were that Sifu’s inclination.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t do White Eyebrow at the D.C. tournament.  When I registered for it, I expected to know the whole thing by the time the day arrived.  That disappointment was a big reason the tournament felt like a chore, as I stretched out for my events, and felt even more like something for which I should have just forfeited the entry fee after I messed up the end of Lian Huan Tui.

Then, the God of my understanding decided to whip out the fantastic sense of humor that makes so many ironies just delicious.  At this tournament in which I competed merely not to have wasted the money, I scored a personal best with long staff that I can’t possibly beat in the future.  I should now retire the form from competition, having seen not one but two 9.9s out of a panel of three judges.  The third judge scored me at 9.7.

Frankly, I think they were ridiculously generous.  Though it felt overall like it was my best performance of the form, I was conscious of not having the proper grip on the staff when I began the spins, which made the spinning slower than it should have been.  Obviously, the judges didn’t care.

So I guess we can never know what’s in store for us, despite what we may expect, and even if in a low mood.  Just showing up can sometimes do the trick.

The only thing to dampen the moment was the absence of my son and fellow kung fu fanatic, who had taken off that morning for a month of Spanish immersion at a college in Vermont.  That, too, dampened my competitive fire, as I knew he wanted to compete as well but had other obligations.

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Congratulations to my daughter for electing to compete in the more difficult advanced division, while allowed to compete with the intermediates.  She took home third and second place medals – and a great deal of personal and parental pride.

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And thanks to her father (bushy-haired guy staring at her in upper right hand corner) for coming out to support her – and having the presence of mind to capture my personal best on his phone!


“If You’re Not Injured…”

This time tomorrow I will have completed the paperwork and drug screening for the gym.  I should know by the end of the weekend if my future supervisor’s first choice for class days will in fact be the schedule.  It will depend on when there’s class space in the gym.

This time tomorrow I will also either be nursing my wounds from my return to Friday night class or feeling anxious and guilty for not having gone.  The jury’s still out on which it’ll be, but I’m reluctantly leaning toward the former.

Sanshou on Monday took a toll on me that’s lasted all week.  I may actually have strained my right hamstring in Saturday’s class, but the discomfort from that is nothing compared to the abuse to which I subjected my remaining left knee components two days later while crawling around on the guan floor like an alligator.  The drill was meant to work all the thigh muscles, but doing it properly required sideways protrusion of the knees in a wholly-unnatural, horizontally-bowlegged position.  Long story short:  I could hear something in my left knee pop out of place.  I’ve been trying to realign it ever since.  So it should be a no-brainer that I stay home tomorrow night.

The problem is I continued to self-train all week, and Sifu saw that.  I’m fairly certain he’ll think I’m not injured enough to stay out of Friday class, when I don’t have travel as a reason to miss it.  The man’s motto is “push yourself.”  He’s also fond of saying, “If you’re not injured, you’re not doing it right.”  We who are invited to Friday class are expected to attend – especially at the conclusion of banishment.

But I have a class to teach perhaps as soon as Wednesday.  I simply can’t be too battered to demonstrate a snap kick!  So that’s that.  Right?  Right?….


Like Riding a Bike

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This is the picture on the notice the gym emailed to the parents of Kid’s Club members to finally begin the sign-up for my class!  I’m starting to get a little nervous, since I’m months out of teaching practice.  But as natural as sharing my joy of kung fu is for me, teaching it again should be just like riding a bike.

I’m so excited I can barely stay in my chair!  I’m suppressing the urge to keep popping up out of my cubicle like a mole that needs whacking.  More later….

 


Drugstore in the Desk Drawer

I rarely get to bed before 1 a.m., and I’m rarely able to sleep past 6:45.  I’d be in a hospital bed or mental ward were it not for the drugstore in my office drawer. Vitamin C, B12 and D3 do wonders for keeping a sleep-deprived, aging martial artist chugging along – that and a boatload of morning caffeine.

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As I groggily stumbled from bedroom to bathroom and back this morning, I ran a quick analysis of time management the previous evening.  After pick-up from the commuter train and a congratulatory chat with my daughter for her most successful academic year yet, we got home to my son and a school friend leaving the house.  I spent a few minutes talking with them before grabbing a yogurt and heading upstairs to change into kung fu clothes. Once fed and changed, I grabbed kung fu stuff and hit the car with Merle and Aaron.

We took Sanshou class, got notes from Siheng Mark afterwards on what we did right and wrong, and stretched out our tight muscles for a while.  I practiced picking up the pace on The Walk from White Eyebrow before finally heading out the door for the ride home.  After a stop for gas, I got home around 9:15.

I took a medium-length shower, tended to my knees with creams and ice, made and ate some food, then made and ate some more.  The clock read 10:45.  I checked baseball scores, emails and blogs while watching a cooking show, and then discussed the monthly calendar with Merle and what we were doing with the kids to celebrate their great school year before Aaron leaves for a month-long summer program.  Somewhere in there, I also balanced the checkbook.  At that point, the big hand was almost on the twelve.

I returned eyes to the television while blow drying hair I’d kept wrapped up since the shower and waited for the laundry to come out the dryer, so I could pack my kung fu clothes in my work bag for today.  Tuesdays and Thursdays we have to go straight from commuter train to guan for the early class; so the clothes must come with me to work.  (I guess I could have just worn the back-up high water pants and the shirt with the hole in the armpit, but not if I can help it.)

I went down to the kitchen for something, wound up in the downstairs bathroom (which is largely the one Aaron and I use most) and was painfully aware that my absence the previous week was particularly obvious in that room.  So I cleaned tub and sink, brushed my teeth and went upstairs to bed.  Merle was still up sorting clothes, and I was just floating into pre-consciousness when she turned out the last light.  It was 1:05.

I could probably shorten the time between meal and bed, regardless of whatever else I have to do, if I didn’t turn on the television.  But a good game or a good laugh goes a long way in a day that could otherwise be a grind… or in the case of Sanshou night, a beat down.

So what’s a woman to do?  I guess just keep popping the B12 and vitamin C until the next non-working Sunday morning sleep-in.  Things could certainly be worse.  Life could actually be boring.


Rolling Out & Rolling On

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Home sweet home – and just now enjoying a moment to breathe… and write.  Those thunderstorms that last day in Florida did indeed delay our return.  But Ava and I enjoyed a parting meal at a popular Daytona barbeque joint, before spending an extra two extra hours in an airport that can only belong to the city where Disney lives.

The airport itself is like an amusement park wrapped into a city unto itself.  I know it’s convenient, but how can it possibly be peaceful to have a hotel room inside of an airport?

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Anyway, we made it back to Baltimore somewhere around 1 a.m., and the wait for both luggage and staff was thankfully only minutes long.  Though neither of us crawled into our beds until about 2:30, we successfully rolled back out of them for kung fu, and were stretching with Merle and Aaron on the floor of the school by 10:15.  It wasn’t until then that I remembered the email I received while sitting in the Orlando airport in an anxious but sleepy haze, looking for something to stream on my laptop to pass the time.

The email came from the gym, and the subject line read: “Offer Letter and New Hire Information.”  There’s a drug test and a training session to submit to, and then, all’s that’s left for the teaching to begin is the program director to tell me my start date!  It felt almost triumphant to whisper that news to the family while stretching in the guan during a class I used to help teach.

Just minutes after our smiles waned, I caught a green sash daydreaming while a Siheng was instructing her group.  I pointed her eyes back in his direction and said with a smile, “Wake up, lady.”

“I’m trying,” she answered, with shoulders sagging.  “Where have you been?” she whispered, walking to her place in the rotation line.  “I miss you teaching.  You keep my attention.  You get in my head and make me want to work.”

I wanted to answer her question.  I wanted to cry.  I managed to simply thank her and tell her that I miss teaching her, too.  Then, I took a moment to marvel at how the universe works sometimes.  Her words were a fantastic affirmation, perfectly timed, that the offer letter isn’t a waste of paper, that I belong at the head of a class.