Sunday, March 29, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
It breaks my heart.
My daughter is in the fourth grade at a small Catholic grade school. I have considered transferring her to a different school. The only reason I haven't is because she likes her school. (Hard to imagine.) The kids are another story. The ironic thing is that just the other day my Mom saw a notice in the Diocesan newsletter that the school has been awarded a grant from a large insurance company. The grant is for a bully awareness program. I have heard there are kids leaving school due to the pervasive bullying.
When is enough...enough?
In the first quarter of third grade, we went to the Principal. My daughter was sick...a lot. She did not want to go to school. We took her to the Pediatrician and he wrote the school a note. The note was very clear...my daughter's stomach problems are a direct result of the treatment she is receiving from the other children. We also had a note from the second grade teacher acknowledging the bullying but not able to catch the perpetrator in the act. We informed the school that we taught our daughter basic self-defense and she had our permission to use it when necessary. (The school was not happy about that.)
I was expecting the Principal to be defensive. I was waiting for the "but your daughter...". Not one negative word has ever been said about her. Not from a teacher, school nurse, sports coach or office personnel. The very next day there was an assembly addressing bullying. The third grade teacher pulled us aside and quietly told us that they found the bullying to be more wide spread than they thought. I was impressed that the Principal responded so quickly.
My daughter's fourth grade year started out fine but it is gradually disintegrating. There are a few boys who make nasty comments. Girls are just as bad. The other week a boy tried to pin her against the wall. He grabbed her wrists but she did an escape. She ducked under his hands, wrapping his arms up, and got behind him. He was off balance an fell to the ground. Did anyone see this? No adults. Just a group of fifth grade girls watching the whole episode.
What is wrong with these kids? I really do not need to ask...I know.
I attended a small Catholic grade school in the late 1970's. My sister and I got on the public school bus each morning. Our school started early, so we were on the bus with the high school students. The bus ride was a nightmare. There were two high school boys that thought it was fun to torment two elementary school students. When my mom found out, she waited at the bus stop. When the bus arrived she asked the bus driver if she could talk to the two boys. The boys got off the bus and my Mom told them that they were going to stop picking on us. Bus rides were no longer a problem. (Way to go, Mom!) I doubt if this tactic would work for this generation.
I am going to contact the school...again.
Enough is enough!
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
In Louv's lecture, he discussed the differences between children who play in a natural environment to those who play on a flat (concrete, black top) environment. He noted that the leaders that emerge from these play situations are different. The leaders on the flat environment are usually the physically strongest. The leaders in the natural environment tend to be the smartest. The group playing on the flat surface tend to be involved in structured games. The children playing in the natural environment need to make up their own games using their imagination. He was quick to point out that this is not urban versus rural.
Another interesting point Louv made in his lecture was that people have a special place. He told a story about when he was a child. There was a corn field near his home where he made an underground fort. This field/fort was his special place and even though he did not legally own the land...he felt a sense of ownership to that place. He was forever connected to that place.
Hearing Louv talk about his special place reminded me of my father. My father was born in the coal regions of PA in 1930. His family was poor as most were during that time. Dad tells stories of what he used to do when he was a kid. He would talk about the nearby dairy farm, streams, woods and the coal yards. When I was little he took me to where he played when he was young. He had me walk along the same streams, woods, dairy farm and coal yard. As we walked, he would point out where things used to be and how things have changed. At the time, I was just going for a walk. Now, I realize he was showing me his special place.
I think about my daughter and hope that she feels a sense of awe and wonder about the world. I want her to feel connected to nature. I think she does. Often when I drive her home from school she comments on the roadside litter. She asks me how she can start a recycling program. She is the type of kid who captures a slug in the backyard and wants to keep it as a pet. Her science fair topic is on the effect of pollution in rivers and streams.
Louv's lecture gave me a lot to think about. I have his book and I can not wait to read it. Who can argue with his message...Go Outside and Play!
The photo of the tree was taken by my daughter as a submission in a back to nature photo contest. She did not win but her entry was part of the slide show presentation at the Richard Louv event.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
In 2008, I started another chapter in my martial arts training. I began to take Tai Chi classes one night per week at the local gym. Initially, I wanted to keep Tai Chi influences out of my Okinawa Kenpo. I wanted my Okinawa Kenpo to look like Okinawa Kenpo. I was concerned that the different movement principles of the Tai Chi form would change the look of my kata. At my very first Tai Chi class, I was told that it was too hard to practice Tai Chi and Karate.
It is not easy. I feel awkward performing the Tai Chi movements. I understand the concepts but my body does not follow suit. Despite my shortcomings, I still go to Tai Chi class. I like the instructor and the other students. I will continue to go to class because learning Tai Chi has improved my Okinawa Kenpo.
How? I am learning from the differences. I have been taking a closer look at basic movement principles of Okinawa Kenpo. Tai Chi walking was (and still is) my first challenge. In Tai Chi, the weight is distributed on one foot as the other foot lifts up and steps forward. In Okinawa Kenpo, our feet stay on the ground then pivot and drop then move forward.
Although I originally wanted to keep Tai Chi and Okinawa Kenpo completely separate, I now hope that Tai Chi will continue to aid in a deeper understanding of my primary art.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
The instructor does a great job describing movement using imagery. This week his focus was to get the class to go inside the body and "Be Like A Marionette". He demonstrated how the arms and legs should move independently. If the "string" on the elbow is pulled then only the elbow should move. The image is helpful but it is very hard to put in practice. My Tai Chi instructor discussed the differences when the body feels stiff, dead and alive.
Some of his other images:
Think of the body between the shoulders and hips as a can. The can needs to move as a unit and rotates at the hip.
Don't grip the floor...sink. He told us to imagine the body being a container filled with water. As the body moves...the water moves. The weight of the body is in the container but on top of the floor.
The arms and legs are like strings extended from the body.
When walking....think about your legs being like two glasses of water. As you step, the weight is transferred from one leg to another. This is like pouring the water from one glass to another.
Think of yourself being in a pool of water. The water feels heavy as you raise your arms up. Imagine the water flowing around your arms. As you bring your hands down feel the resistance of the water.
The imagery my instructor uses to teach Tai Chi helps me learn and remember. So...what about Okinawa Kenpo? When teaching punches, blocks and kicks, I talk about body alignment, hand positions and angles. Take for example the basic instructions on how to punch.
The striking surface of the punch is the front two knuckles.
The first two knuckles align with the bones in the wrist.
The target of the punch is the solar plexus (in drills).
Keep the elbow close to the body and do not raise the shoulder.
A punch comes off the hip starting with the palm up.
The hand rotates vertical when the elbow passes the body.
Elbow is slightly bent.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
It was during college that I realized that I was mildly OCD. OCD is a type of anxiety disorder in which a person has unreasonable fears that lead to repetitive behaviors. I read that over three million Americans between the ages of 18 and 54 have had OCD at one time. Most people who have OCD know they have it, are ashamed by it and want it to go away. It can be severe and so time-consuming that it becomes disabling. Thankfully, that was not the case with me. My OCD was managed and not obvious.
My earliest memory of OCD is with my father. I was seven or eight years old. I recall sitting in the back seat of our green station wagon watching my father lock up his place of employment. He would lock the door and then take a few steps away. He would always go back and check the door to make sure it was locked. He would tug once...pause...two...three...four...pause...five. It was only after the final tug that he would walk to the car.
Is it genetic or a learned behavior?
I am sure many people hear the term OCD and think hand washing or excessive orderliness. OCD manifests itself in many ways. The focus of my OCD is electrical appliances that have the potential to cause fire. Years ago, I decided to combat the OCD using Behavioral Therapy. As a psychology major in college, the topic of our senior seminar was Behavioral Therapy. I used a few techniques I learned in class to reduce my anxiety. It worked. A few years later, after my daughter was born, I no longer had the time or energy to worry. As far as I was concerned, my OCD was defeated.
Until last week.
For the first time in years I found myself checking an electrical appliance. I am referring to something more that a quick double check. I was in my car and started to drive out of the parking lot. I had to stop and go back in the house. I needed to be sure. The appliance was off. I sat back in my car and realized what I had just done. I do not want to go down that path again. I hope that writing about OCD will help combat it.
This is a hard post to write and share. I have placed my anxiety on the Internet for anyone to read.
Monday, March 16, 2009
I learned a lot that day.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
I know what you are wondering because it would be the first question on my mind. Why are you out alone at 2:00 A.M.? The answer is simple. One day per week, I help my father-in-law with his part-time job as a rural route delivery person.
I knew that I was being followed pretty quick. The first indicator was that prickly feeling at the back of the neck. There are not many cars on the road at 2:00 A.M. which makes other vehicles very noticeable. I am familiar with the area, so I drove in a big circle to determine if I really was being followed. The truck took a wider circle and ended up behind my car again. The truck followed me for a few minutes. We were both driving a normal speed. I approached a stop sign and made a left turn. The truck sat at the stop and watched my vehicle. I kept an eye on the truck and continued with my job. After a few minutes, the truck backed up and pulled into a driveway.
I have been thinking about being followed....wondering...What did I do right?...What did I do wrong? Should I have done something else?
What did I do right? I am proud that I did not panic. I realized that I was being followed. I was aware of my surrounding and not distracted by the radio or a cell phone. My doors and windows were locked and my cell phone was turned on. I did not speed up or engage the other driver. I knew the location of the closest open gas station. I did not go home because I did not want the driver of the truck to know where I live.
What did I do wrong? I should have called my father-in-law who was close by in another vehicle. I could have called 911. I wish I had the license number of the red F150 and a description of the driver.
In retrospect, the driver of the red F150 could have been following me to make sure I was not doing anything suspicious. Perhaps they were part of a neighborhood watch program. Once the driver watched what I was doing for a while...they went home. The entire event lasted approximately ten minutes.
Have you ever been followed? Do you have tips on how to deal with being followed?
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I know...I know. But in my mind, I could probably draw comparisons between karate and practically anything. I had a racquetball lesson this week. The instructor was fabulous. I saw as sign on the announcement board at the gym for a free racquetball lesson. Last week, I decided that I needed a lesson. I left my name at the front desk and within a day I received a phone call. Here's the kicker...on the phone the racquetball coach knew who I was due to my regular court time. It just so happens that the coach is in the adjacent court playing wally ball. He mentioned that he watched me play and I would benefit from a lesson. (That was a nice way to tell me that I stink at racquetball. I told my brother and he laughed.)
Time for the hour lesson.
The racquetball coach walked on the court and I announced "I am terrible at racquetball". He told me that he was going to review the basics of the game. He wanted to review racquet position, swings, court position and serves.
The coach discussed the proper way to hold and swing the racquet. He told me that a swing has three elements...a level swing, proper connection between the racquet and the ball and feet/body position. When those three elements coincide, it will be a perfect swing. A player needs to step into the swing as the racquet connects with the ball. A karate reference...This is similar to how we teach a punch. A punch is not isolated to the arm. It is the connection of the body movement, hips and fist that create a strong punch.
Next up...court position. I had a tendency to watch the action. I would hit the ball then stand there and watch the ball until my opponent hit the ball. Bad idea. I need to move and get in position to receive the ball. During the lesson, I learned where I was supposed to go after I hit the ball. The person who controls the center of the court usually wins. This concept clicked immediately when I referenced it to the control of center line in martial arts.
The racquetball coach proceeded to instruct me on the proper serve...drive and lobb. He demonstrated then he had me practice. The coach suggested that I mix up my serve by changing my target spot on the court. Lure your opponent in by serving to the right side of the court and then once they get used to this...change your serve. He gave me a few tips in dealing with a left-handed (dear brother, I hope your practicing) player. Mixing up your techniques to draw out your opponent sound like a good sparring tip to me.
My hour was up but the coach continued. He was a great instructor. His enthusiasm for the sport of racquetball was obvious. He wanted to teach and he wanted others to appreciate the game. The coach asked if I had a few more minutes. My free one hour lesson turned into an hour and a half. This one lesson made me want to play more, learn more and improve. (I can only hope that I have had this effect on some of the karate students.) The coach wants me to join the beginner racquetball league at the gym. I am interested but it falls on a bad night. The coach said he would stop in our court every once in a while and give me some pointers.
With racquetball, karate is my reference point. The racquetball instructor gave numerous analogies from other sports such as football, basketball and soccer. These references went in one ear and out the other because they did not make sense to me. As soon as I translated the racquetball concepts into related karate concepts...I understood.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
At E's 9 year old well visit to the pediatrician, the doctor suggested that we start talking to E about puberty. The doctor recommended that we buy her books on the subject. Puberty? She's nine! I was not ready to approach this subject. I thought I had at least another year. I put this book purchase off for a few months. E would occasionally ask me if I bought a book yet. My usual response was..."soon".
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
My ACL tear occurred while working on a two-man bo form. I jumped…my foot planted…my body shifted into position…my knee gave out…I crumbled to the floor… I stood up and finished the bo form. I knew something was wrong as soon as I felt my leg slide out of position. Just writing about that feeling gives me a lump in the pit of my stomach. This was a non-contact injury. My body…my movement…caused this injury.
How did I find my way through the fear of re-injury?
The truth is I did not. It is still with me each time I step on the dojo floor, every racquetball game and each bout of sparring. I try to manage the fear by being proactive. I joined a gym so I could lift weights in order to keep my knee strong. I started Tai Chi in the hopes I will move more fluidly. I play racquetball to see how far I can push my knee.
There was a recent week that I did nothing…no karate, no Tai Chi, no racquetball and no gym. I can tell you with certainty that my knee ached during that week. I kept wondering what I did until I realized it was a direct result of what I was not doing. I know that keeping my knee healthy and strong is a daily pursuit.
I am going to keep moving forward but there is a delicate balance. If I let the fear of injury go completely, I may become reckless in my training. I need just enough fear to keep me cautious and aware.
How do you handle the fear of injury?
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Then one session, my class instructor forced...no, wait...I meant to say encouraged me to participate. It took fifteen minutes to put on the gear. The gloves made the weapons hard to hold and there was a full helmet. The weapons were padded and modified to reduce the chance of injury. A different class instructor helped design a suitable helmet. He was a member of the Society of Creative Anachronism, Inc (SCA) and had experience designing modified armor. SCA is an international organization whose members are dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe. Check out their web site FAQ page for more information.
It was time to choose a weapon. I picked up a bo and my opponent (my class instructor) had a bo. The match lasted only two minutes before exhaustion set in. The gear was heavy and the helmet made it hard to breathe.
I participated in this session one time over ten years ago. What did I learn from a two minute session of weapon kumite?
- I am slightly claustrophobic. When I put the full helmet on my head, I felt a moment of panic. I had to take a few breaths in order to calm down. The helmet was heavy and hot and it made it difficult to breathe. I should have known this before I put the helmet on. I do not even like to wear turtlenecks.
- Hands are a great target. I know this because during my two minute session, the other bo found a chink in my so called armor. The bo smashed down on my thumb and I actually saw stars. I could not bend my thumb for weeks. It was swollen and bruised. I never went to the doctor to have it check but I should have.
- Angles, angles angles.
- I held the bo in thirds with one hand palm up, the other palm down. This allowed me to use both ends of the bo fairly quickly. There was no time for hand changes as seen in our kata.
- The exchanges happened faster and at a closer range than I expected.
- Go for the disarm.
Certain lessons make a huge impact on your training. The difficulty is recognizing those lessons when they are happening. I did not realize it at the time, but this two minute session impacted my subsequent kobudo training. I am glad my class instructor encouraged me to participate because this session is no longer on the schedule.
Is there any particular session that made you look at your training differently? Did you know it at the time? Or did you realize it days, months or even years later?
Disclaimer: Do not mistake this blog as advice or instruction. This is a personal weblog. I am merely documenting my karate training experiences. The weapon fighting described in this post was performed under the supervision of an Internationally recognized kobudo instuctor with over thirty-five years of experience.