Tag Archives: worry

Family Trait

The landlord for my storefront encroached upon my personal space and time every single day for a week.  I finally had to send a gentle email requesting that he give me space.  Perhaps I should have shelled out for the more expensive property on the other side of the park….

Middle-aged, longtime plumbers can be incredibly insulting and condescending when one is simply trying to obtain an estimate for the installation of a sink.  My life experience forces me to wonder if being both African-American and female didn’t fuel his lack of manners and professionalism….

One hundred pounds worth of flooring is showing up at my house today for carting down the street to the store, and it’s a complete toss-up as to whether someone will be home when it arrives.  Being forced to trek to some far out postal facility looking for the floor to my backroom two days before the health inspection is not my idea of a good time.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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Meanwhile, on the kung fu front, my boss at the gym is on her way out the door to another job, and her boss doesn’t care enough about the kung fu program to properly promote the next session.  The new flier is great.  The problem is getting it out of the company computers and in view of the gym members!  Call me crazy, but I’m fairly certain that’s the best way to attract students.

Last night, my son was intentionally mauled by a Siheng who outranks him for having the audacity to land a good punch in Sanshou class.  Now, there’s a new measure of bad blood in the family relationship with the guan.  I’m just glad I wasn’t upstairs to see the fight.  My mother bear alter ego (or is that my primary ego?) might have turned it into an all-out brawl.

I have to admit I was happy to hear that Aaron recovered from the beating to ultimately win a fight that was only supposed to be a sparring match.  That’s kind of how I felt going through my whole week of remodeling and regulatory madness.  It must be a family trait.

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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.


…Good Show?

When I was five years old, I was assigned the part of the businessman in “The Little Prince.” I sat in a chair in the middle of the makeshift stage, practically swallowed whole by my father’s blazer and a hat that had to be pushed as far back as possible to keep it from completely covering my eyes.  I don’t recall there being anything inherently humorous about the constant counting the businessman character did; so it must have been my appearance in my daddy’s clothes that brought me laughs so rich and warm that I never wanted to leave that chair.  I fell in love with the dramatic arts that evening four decades ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Sweating it out at the guan tonight, practicing the long staff form as best I could with a hampered wing, the lack of power on my right side was obvious.  To make matters worse, I repeatedly made silly mistakes, based on misjudging distances that I should know like the back of my hand by now.  At one point, I slid my hand so far down the staff, I was no longer holding it.  On another repetition, I scraped the floor with it, which is never supposed to happen.

As the training wore on, I felt shadowed by younger versions of my theater-loving self: the junior high school student in tap shoes, the sixteen-year-old lead in the spring musical, the seventeen-year-old salaried wardrobe supervisor in a union dinner theater.  What they all had in common was the repeated experience of dress rehearsals littered with faulty props, forgotten song verses, follow lights that were too slow and entrances that were too soon.  The majority of productions I worked in or on had bad dress rehearsals. But as any stage rat will tell you, a bad dress rehearsal, in theater superstition, meant the cast would likely have a good show.

With Saturday morning just two and half days away, tonight was a pretty bad dress rehearsal in my martial arts life.  I could use Thursday to iron out every nuance that I think still needs it, but my younger selves are telling me not to.  They’re telling me to trust that tonight foreshadows a good show.  They’re telling me to trust myself.


Coming Back

She used to live at the school just like me.  More than me, really.  Now she doesn’t.  She hasn’t been able to for four months now, but she’s been trying hard to get back consistently for more than two.

She used to be the resident female bad-ass in the building, the perfectionist kung fu practitioner, intensive wushu performer, and the hard-driving upper sash class teacher, who occasionally got heavy-handed with conditioning exercises that even Sifu never inflicted on anyone.  She’s the only current member of the school who knows the chain whip form, and was the sole female member of the team that went to China to compete. Now, she’s a mother.

That fact fills her with joy and pride, but it also comes with a diminished capacity for martial arts – not by much, I’m sure, but diminished nevertheless. She very much wants to be back to the skill and ability she had before pregnancy, but she’s conscious of disturbing the training of others by bringing a crying baby with her to the school.  Even with others there to watch the baby, she can’t train uninterrupted.

I feel for her.  I worry about her.  I wonder about the level of frustration she must be combatting, given a love and compulsion for kung fu that rivals my own.  She’s the only other person in the building that admits to sitting at her desk at work and running through in her head the form she’s working on, as I do with regularity.  She’s the only person there I’ve ever seen drive herself practically to tears when a move she’s practiced incessantly just isn’t gelling in mind or body.  She taught well into her ninth month, often having to be reminded not to attempt to demonstrate moves.  Quite simply, she loves kung fu and wushu, and she’s exceptionally good at both.  She once told me that she wants to do a form perfectly before she does it in public.

So when I saw her the other night making her way across the floor in wushu class moving slower than normal, with kicks lower than she’d normally allow them to be, it wasn’t her speed that bothered me or her execution of the kicks in the drill.  It was her expression.  Her face spoke volumes.  It made me want to take her aside and give her a pep talk, tell her that all she needed was time and she’d be back putting us all to shame.  But I couldn’t – not simply because she was occupied in class, but because I was afraid it would do more harm than good.

Sometimes the last thing a kung fu woman wants is to have someone think she needs…anything.


Never Seems to Show

Sifu has put me on notice: next month I will be performing the traditional long staff form as part of the black sash demonstration on testing night.  January’s testing night, unlike December’s, will have a very large audience since a new black sash will be joining the ranks.  I’m nervous already.

I love this form, and I’ve practiced it an average of forty-five times a week in the almost eight months that I’ve known it.  I’m told I’m very good at it.  But that never seems to show when I do it for a testing demo.

The problem is I get cold.  I run the floor during testing, so I’m standing on my arthritic, cartilage-lacking, locked-at-attention knees for the entirety of the testers’ performances, tensing up sometimes as I mentally follow along with their movements. Then, with about five minutes of warm up on a floor that I have to share with the other black sashes who are doing demos as well, it’s suddenly show time.

This body can’t perform on demand like that and execute at its best.  Which is why I’ve declined the last two times Sifu has asked me to do a demo.  Now, he’s done taking no for an answer.  Truthfully, I’m surprised he ever accepted no in the first place.

It’ll be fine.  It may even be very good.  The last time I did long staff in public was at a tournament in October, and I scored high even with a couple of errors.  So why don’t I just stay in the moment, keep practicing, and hold off worrying until the last Saturday in January?  Because that would be sensible.  And when it comes to kung fu, I stopped being sensible a long time ago.  During the blizzard of 2010 to be exact.  A story for another day.


Already Over

“I’m going to watch you,” are not welcome words from someone who outranks me when I’m teaching an introductory class to fresh-off-the-street kung fu students.  It’s even more uncomfortable when Sifu’s the one watching, as he was Monday night.

I’ve only assisted in teaching the beginner class for the last six months, but I’ve spent years making basic techniques muscle memory for my own body.  When I have to instruct someone who’s completely unfamiliar with martial arts language, I’m often surprised at how hard it is to verbalize to others what is automatic for me.

A veteran black sash put it best just a few days ago: “First we learn how to do it, then we have to learn how to teach it.”

One would think the latter follows naturally from the former, but not necessarily.  People earn degrees in education.  So, clearly, someone caught on a long time ago to the idea that folks need to learn how to teach whatever their expertise is, particularly to young children or those with minimal foundation.

So what’s the big deal about having to learn how to teach kung fu, one might ask?  It was indisputably harder to learn how to do it, and that part – at least for the first degree – is over.

What’s bothering me is this: there are almost as many different ways to teach as there are personalities.  Teachers, like parents (and people in general, for that matter) have their own style.  And style is valuable.  It’s what makes one teacher a favorite and another a snoozer.

But teaching is also about uniformity.  Everyone should be getting the same information, be told to do the same technique in the same way.  It’s what I always wanted most as a kung fu student.  In fact, it could often frazzle my type-A personality to be given variations on the same technique, because a variation meant that whether I was doing it right depended entirely upon which teacher I was talking to.  That just didn’t sit well.

Still, there’s a difference between being taught to make sure that the technique is uniform and being taught to make sure that the manner one uses to teach the technique is the same.  Which takes me back to where I started.

When a more experienced instructor (especially if it’s Sifu!) is watching me teach, it’s my style that’s under the microscope, the thing that’s personal.  I’ve been told before to tweak how I deliver the lesson, not what’s in it.

In short, it’s hard not to take personally a threat to something that’s personal.  But that’s one of the things we so-called grown-ups are expected to do.  And I’ll get there, I know.  After all, the hardest part of my kung fu education is already over.


The Joy of Fridays

I used to fear Friday night class.  Truly. Thoroughly. Fear it.

I never knew until I was already there what the night’s regimen was going to consist of; so I had all day long to think about it and worry:

How many rows of wheel hands would we have to do?  How many kicking combinations?  Would we do ten full forms in singles or doubles?  After how many rotations of practicing sections?

How would my knees hold up?  My back?  How much pain would I find at the end of the two-hour, invitation-only session that a black sash candidate was required to attend?  Would I get the dreaded cramp in my calf again, the one from empty stances, the one that awakened me in the middle of the night?  No stretch or massage ever relieved it.  I just had to wait, powerless, for long, long minutes, until it released me.

I hated Friday night.

For six months of black sash testing, I wondered, as I entered class on the last day of the work week, if I could execute all I was told to that night without needing to cry or stopping to pray.  By the end of it all, I could.  In the final weeks, I could even smile – before I left the building, not just in the car on the way home.

The joy of Fridays has returned to me.  It returned with the presentation of the final sash.  And I use that joy to bake cupcakes, watch a movie, and rejuvenate for training of my own making.  I use it to do whatever I want to do.

I’m still invited to Friday class and sometimes I go.  But not this week and not last.  I’m not sure when I’ll go again…and I’m not worried about it.