Tag Archives: practice

Inspired… but Tired

It’s after 1 a.m. on the East coast, and I’ve just watched the Royals battle back to win the wild card game.  It’s hard not to be inspired.

In the wee hours of this first day of October, however, I realize, as I tend to my throbbing right shoulder, that I’ve now been working on this form for the same amount of time as a full-term pregnancy – and I still haven’t been taught the final moves.  I’m ready to have this baby already!

Not yet.  Not yet….

Sleep would be good, now.

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.


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.



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.


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.

staff empty stance 21

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

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.

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!

Twisting & Turning

Out on Mother’s Day in heels over two inches….

Consciously walking properly (moving foot from heel to toe) for perhaps the first time since knee surgery two years ago….

Doing rows of footwork practice as part of warm-up before training….

Twisting the balls and heels of my feet repeatedly – a few hundred times this week – while doing the double spin section of White Eyebrow….

Whatever the cause, it feels like there’s something horribly wrong in the muscles, tendons and/or ligaments in and around my left knee joint.  So much so I’m not sure if I should attend any of the advanced kung fu classes that are a staple of my Saturdays.  That’s saying something.

I’ve been trying everything since the end of a surprisingly productive practice Friday night to relieve the edema and increase the range of motion in my left leg.  Not asking for a miracle, just a return to normalcy.

I certainly hope that’s not asking for too much.


Audience of Strangers

Everything hurts.  In descending order of degree, my knees, glutes, hamstrings, biceps, lower back, traps and calves are all aching – and I couldn’t feel more satisfied.  I got so lost in trying to nail the new spin section that by night’s end the ball of my right foot felt like it was missing several layers of skin.  The callus on that sucker is going to be fierce once I make it through the pain of forming it.

The squash court isn’t nearly as forgiving on the feet as the yoga room floor, but that’s the only place to practice on Wednesday nights at the gym, when yoga class runs to 8:30 and the yogis hang out until 8:45.  If I waited that long to train, I wouldn’t be home, showered and making myself dinner until almost midnight.  The choice is a no-brainer.  Tonight, it came with a ton of attention.

IMG_20140514_205624The yoga room is dimly lit and off-the-beaten-path.  The squash courts are more centrally located.  The result:  A boxer gave me a thumbs up and a big smile after stopping to watch me on the way to the bags;  the guys playing on court one watched me through two rotations before resuming their game; and everyone using a day locker across the hallway from the courts took time to get an eyeful as well.IMG_20140514_205622 If I keep practicing White Eyebrow on the courts, I’m going to feel like I’ve performed it in a dozen tournaments before I even finish learning it!  Now that I think about it, the very public nature of the training is probably why I feel so satisfied.IMG_20140514_202635I took fewer water breaks tonight and did very little sectional practice.  I did all of what I know of the form in every practice rotation, and I did it the best I could – because I was being watched.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever been conscious before of how an audience of strangers keeps me focused on doing my best, when there are no points to be scored or medals to be won.


I am now.

The Breakfast Hour Waltz

I learned a new part to the White Eyebrow form yesterday and was in the gym at 9 a.m. practicing it.  It was the earliest I’ve ever been in the gym on a Sunday, and it was rocking like I couldn’t believe.  Both squash courts were occupied, a spin class was rolling, the step-it folks were climbing and somebody was hitting the bags in the boxing room like they had a vendetta.  So much for having the place to myself to work up an appetite for the brunch my young man was treating me to! But what it lacked in privacy and peace it made up for in ego boosting.

Three people stopped during different points in my practice to watch me spin myself nauseous.  I’m used to people looking over through the yoga room windows as they walk by.  I’m not used to folks actually stopping on their way to wherever to watch for more than a moment.  That’s a testament to the form, mind you, not me.  I’ve finally reached the point in it that led me to want to learn it in the first place.  It’s the section where I must spin the staff and my body simultaneously.

It turns out that it’s easier than it looks, but that’s not saying much.  It’s still quite the challenge to keep the staff moving straight up and down, the torso twisting a full 180 degrees at a time, and feet moving smoothly along a straight line, in a waltz-like rhythm, all at the same time.  When well executed, it looks fantastic!  But I wouldn’t recommend trying it at home without a chiropractor nearby.

I caught myself in the mirror somewhere around the tenth rotation of my practice and was pleasantly surprised that it looks better than I would have expected less than a day after learning it.  Now, if I could just master the strike at the end of the section without looking like a completely uncoordinated dweeb, my Mother’s Day would be complete.  The beauty of being obsessive in my kung fu love and going to the gym during the breakfast hour is that there’s more than enough time to nail the section ending before day’s end.  After all, I haven’t sweat nearly enough yet today.

To all mothers out there, obsessive and mellow alike, I hope you’re having a nice relaxing day – something I clearly don’t know how to do!  🙂

Happy Mother’s Day!

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.

Peaceful, Easy Feeling

I haven’t been this kung fu happy since my tournament win!  Earlier today I had a glorious ninety minutes in a wide open, dimly-lit, scented-candle-smelling yoga room with a wall of mirrors on one side.  I would have stayed longer if I didn’t have to deliver my daughter to a birthday party.  It’s probably good that I had the obligation on the calendar to keep me from overdoing it.


It was the most relaxed but intensive, high-quality practice session I’ve had since the last time I was allowed to practice in the open space during sanshou class.  My first use of a gym membership that’s also free for the first month, and I couldn’t be more satisfied with my choice.  I not only have freedom of movement, but the floors are so much better on my joints that I was able to execute jumps just as well at end of my training session as I had at the beginning – something that is never true at the guan.


Next move is the introduction to the program director to see about teaching.  I have a good feeling that a return to teaching is imminent.  In the meantime, preparation for the tournament two weekends away is very much back on track!

Low Space, No Time

Genuine practice of my long staff form has effectively been eliminated, and I’m having trouble taking that in stride.  Since being prohibited from self-training on open floor space during classes that I’m not attending, I’ve had just two choices: self-train in the basement or take weekday upper sash classes and practice staff during the form rotation.

The problem with basement practice (aside from the additional stress on the joints from pounding against a concrete floor) is that every other move of the long staff form is to vertically spin a stick that’s taller than I am.  Literally half the form can’t be executed at all downstairs, because the ceilings are too low!

The problem with limiting staff practice to the form rotation of upper sash class is insufficient time.  Of the four weekday classes, two are dedicated to sparring.  There’s no form rotation in them.  In the remaining two, twenty-five minutes are allocated for forms.  Even with only one other person in the rotation, I wouldn’t get more than a whopping twelve minutes per class for long staff.  Less than half an hour per week!

I have, therefore, opted for self-training in the basement, during which I skip some vertical staff spins and execute others by dropping both my body and my arms down, to avoid smacking pipes and breaking light bulbs.  The result is that in nine days of this new reality, the timing of steps to spins is off.  It’s not by much, but it doesn’t have to be.

Precision is crucial in this art of ours.  It’s the difference between correct or not.  That’s why I’m having trouble taking this all in stride.  It’s also why the search for my own affordable space continues in earnest.

First Order of Business

When some people do it, it looks like a split in mid air.  Mine looked like that for a brief period, back when I was a purple sash, back before I had operations four and five on the knees.  I have the video to prove it.

For others, the split never has the chance to form because the right leg is already on its way back down to the floor as the left is rising.  The latter technique is what I call the easy way to do a kicking combination.  The problem is that after sporadic practice in the family room of my house tonight, even the easy way was still not easy for me.

I pulled the hamstring on my left leg in the last month of black sash testing a year ago.  It slowed down what had otherwise become a much faster kicking combination than I’d thought I was capable of.  Months later, I came down hard on the right knee when coming out of the combo, and I’ve been struggling to make it look respectable – when I’m able to execute it at all – ever since.  It’s the first order of business when I get a pain-relieving shot: can I get my kicking combo back?  And since I suspect I may be given little else to practice later this morning, because of my run-in with Sifu over self-teaching, it’ll be my priority Saturday as well.

As I write, I wonder how many readers have any real idea of what I’m talking about.  I try not to get too bogged down in terminology that means nothing to most who are kind enough to regularly follow this obsession of mine, but there are some days when the a specific technique is all consuming and therefore what I find myself writing about in detail.  Thus, my lunchtime one-liner posting Friday.  If I’d been able to get away with it without someone calling for a straightjacket, I would’ve done kicking combinations in one of the office conference rooms on my lunch break and bypassed the salad.

In any event, I appreciate all of you who put up with the jargon and tunnel vision and keep checking in on what I’m up to.  Friday marked two months that I’ve been documenting this madness in the blogosphere, and I appreciate all who follow and comment, advise and encourage as I trudge on in my middle-aged martial arts love affair.

Until tomorrow…jiayou!