Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Knee Adventure

It has been 21 months since my ACL reconstruction. I have returned to all my previous activities, joined a gym and started Tai Chi classes. On Sunday, I will be embarking on my first knee adventure. My brother called me last week and asked if I wanted to be his racquetball partner. He played years ago and wants to play again. I immediately said yes.

A few days later, the reality of what I agreed to sank in. What about my knee? How will it hold up? I kept thinking about the cutting motion and the quick directional changes. What was I thinking? I sent my brother a worried email about knee injuries and racquetball. His response was "It is up to you". Since I reserved a court for 11:00, I guess I am playing. I just might have to bring my knee brace out of retirement.

On another topic...I have been tagged by Perpetual Beginner to post the 6th picture from the 6th folder on my computer and tell the tale. Here it is:

This fish has been in our tank since we got it from my Uncle three years ago. This fish was in the tank when he got it from someone else. It has to be at least eight years old. It is a silver dollar fish and it has a mean disposition. We think it ate all the other fish in the tank.

It is now a lonely fish.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Self-Defense in 1904

I am organizing my martial arts books and found "Jiu-Jitsu the Japanese Method of Attack and Self-Defense" by Capt. H. H. Skinner dated 1904. On the title page reads "A Comprehensive and Copiously Illustrated Treatise on The Wonderful Japanese Method of Attach and Self-Defense" As a traditional martial artist, I find this book fascinating. The techniques described in the book are the same ones we use today. Good techniques stand the test of time.

However, there are some unique scenarios described in 1904. There is a segment on how sometimes it is necessary to arrest a policeman or as they put it "a copper". The technique is a disarm of his club from behind.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I hear my Tai Chi instructor saying this phrase "be alive" in every class. He wants us to be active in our movement. He want us to be "in" our bodies and not take movement for granted. He informed us that we need to feel this way when we are at class, sitting at a computer or walking through the mall. We need to be in tune with our body and how it functions. I am trying to tune myself in. It is easy to rush through the day and take things for granted. This week I was reminded how important it is to be grateful for each day.

My sister is having peroneal tendon surgery on Monday. She basically wore out the peroneal tendon in her ankle from overuse. K goes to the gym five days a week and on the weekend she bikes, hikes or snowshoes. She is having a difficult time with her approaching surgery. K will be in a non-removable boot for four to six weeks. She will be on crutches for four weeks. I am trying to help her because I know what it is like walking into the hospital carrying a brace and crutches and leaving the hospital using them. I let K borrow my crutches and gave her a quick lesson. As my Irish grandfather would always say "The only way to get through something is to go through it." K is going to be ok. Here she is hiking at her favorite place, the Grand Canyon.

My sixty-two year old Aunt passed out and was taken to the hospital. Her heart stopped and a surgeon had to perform emergency surgery. The inserted a pace-maker and she is going to be ok.

Then a phone call.

A family friend called and told us her 19 year old grandson died. He was the passenger in a car accident. The teenagers slid on black ice. They got out of the car to examine the damage. An oncoming car did not see them and hit the young man. He was in a coma for two weeks before he died.

Then perspective.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"You Could Eat A Sandwich!"

As a brown belt student, I had a tough class instructor. The warm-ups were gruelling and class was just as demanding. Within two months, the class size dwindled from approximately fifteen students to five. My training partners and I had to go to this class because we were preparing for Shodan. There were times that I would grumble and look for excuses to miss class although I never did. He would yell and tell us to kick or punch faster. If he thought the class was moving too slow he would call out "You could eat a sandwich before that kick/punch landed!"

After class, I would grumble some more because I was certain he hated me. I even spoke to a different instructor who assured me that it was not the case. This instructor was tough on everyone. Sparring class was the worst. Once, I was side-kicked so hard that I was sent flying across the dojo floor.

Several years have passed since I was a brown belt. Sadly, this class instructor is no longer involved in the martial arts. Looking back, I know that I learned a lot from him. I grew as a martial artist during that time. I learned that I was stronger than I thought. I became more confident in my training.

I did not know it then but I know it now. As a brown belt I did not realize what he was trying to do for the class. Now that I am a class instructor I better understand.

Every so often, I hear the words (in a much calmer tone) of this class instructor coming out of my mouth "You could eat a sandwich!"

Monday, January 19, 2009

Making Changes - A Healthier 2009

I am not a big believer in New Years resolutions. But this year, I decided to make some changes in my diet. My sister "K" is a role model for good nutrition. She eats the recommended daily servings of all the food groups. K tries to eat superfoods and experiments with different recipes. In her kitchen is a bookshelf packed with cookbooks, magazines and recipe cards. Unfortunately, the experiments are not always successful. I was invited to stay for dinner and was served white meat loaf. I have no idea what was in the white meat loaf. I do remember that it tasted awful and looked even worse. I learned a valuable lesson. When invited for dinner at K's house, it is important to ask "What's for dinner?".

After a discussion with K, I have made the following changes:

I eat salad for lunch instead of a quick meal or sandwich. I was making the wrong choices due to limited time for lunch.

I know that I eat when I am stressed. Now, when I am feeling stressed, I avoid the temptation to snack.

Ten o'clock at night is tough for me. It is the time of day when I finally get to sit down, relax and want to have a snack. It was an unhealthy habit that I had to break.

I have a weakness for Hershey's chocolate. But this one may have to wait until 2010! :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What Are You Reading?

In college, my dream job was to own an antiquarian bookstore. The closest I came to fulfilling my bookstore dream was after my daughter was born. I decided not to return to my full time position so I could spend time with her. In an attempt to earn some spending money, I signed up for an eBay seller’s account. I began to attend local auctions and public sales and kept my eye out for books. I would buy books on local history, Pennsylvania German studies, religion, the military (particularly WWII), and of course children’s books.

The downside of my eBay endeavor was that I ended up wanting to keep the books rather than sell them. I made a few great deals. I found a small pamphlet on the history of a military base on Guam. I sold it to a man who was writing a book and he was thrilled to acquire it. I bought a box lot at an auction and inside was a personal narrative from WWII. I found a rare book on Pennsylvania German Samplers at an auction and paid only ten dollars. Once I bought a book on architecture at a second hand store and discovered it was worth over one hundred dollars. When my daughter started school, I gave up my eBay account and went back to work.

Despite my love for books, I realize that I do not have enough books on the martial arts. One of my martial arts resolutions for 2009 is to read more. Since the New Year, I started the habit of having a book with me at all times. I am hoping to get some great book recommendations. So…

What are you reading?

Do you have a favorite martial arts author?

What is your favorite martial arts book?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

They All Go

The Tai Chi class that started out as two original students and four new students is down to three. We sat outside the classroom waiting for the previous class to exit. The two original students were wondering where the other new students have gone. I asked them if they guess which new students will continue. The senior student said "No, they all go".


I think about the people that pass through the dojo door. Numerous people sign up for lessons but the percentage of people who reach black belt is low. Not to mention Nidan and above. On a business level, a dojo owner wants students to stay for obvious reasons. As an instructor, you want students to stay in order to pass on the tradition and to share what you have learned. From a students prospective, people represent training opportunities.

What is it about martial arts that leads to attrition? In the case of my Tai Chi class, I believe teaching in a gym environment is part of the problem. Tai Chi is offered to the gym membership just as a step, spin or body pump class. People try out a Tai Chi class and are looking for a tough physical workout. After a Tai Chi class, I feel that my brain gets the work out. There is so much to learn. I need to re-examine how the body moves and how the joints function independently.

In our dojo, some people view karate as an activity that fits into a time slot. There are young students that pop in and out of the dojo depending on their soccer, basketball or baseball schedule. In our over-scheduled world, karate becomes the activity to do in the off season or for a summer. I think it is harder for adults. Family and employment must come first and often that leaves little time for martial arts. The best case for an adult is when the entire family trains together. Sometimes the decision not to train is a difficult one to make.

In regards to Tai Chi, I intend to be one of the people who stay. I believe that Tai Chi offers long term health and martial art benefits. I finally feel like I am part of the group and not just the new student.