Friday, February 27, 2009

...And After

Back Yard

Front of Dojo

Street view

If you want to read about the beginning of the dojo you can check out this post and the before pictures.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Before Pictures

In my previous post, I talk about the beginning of the dojo. I found some old pictures of the house/dojo before renovation. There is a large sign on top of the house roof that needed to be removed. It was bright yellow with the name of the restaurant.

Front of the dojo

Back of the dojo that leads out to a yard.

Front of the dojo. Take note of the "come in we are open" sign on the door. The debris in front of the dojo is the tin roof that had to be removed and replaced.

Inside the dojo. Don't you just love the carpet? :) We had to rip down the drop ceiling to make room to practice kobudo. You can still see part of the dance floor near the back.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Beginning of the Dojo

I am a student of the Federation Honbu and an instructor at my husband’s dojo.

Some have argued that my husband’s dojo is mine too because it is attached to our home (what is yours is mine philosophy). There have been times due to his injury/surgery/work schedule that I have managed the dojo. I have taught my fair share of classes, helped run three tournaments and guided students towards black belt.

However, I maintain that the dojo truly is his. It was his dream.

I was a green belt when my husband decided he wanted his own dojo. It was early in my training so I had absolutely no idea what this would entail. After securing the proper permissions from our instructor, he set out to start a dojo. He searched for a location and found what he considered the perfect site. The property was an old inn, restaurant and saloon. In its earliest days, it served as a stagecoach stop. We traced its origin back to 1790. It is a two-story log home with an attachment built in the 1950’s. The attachment originally served as a restaurant dining room and local bands played on the small stage.

We purchased the property in 1994. It was a mess…more accurately…a disaster. It was abandoned several years after the restaurant closed. The bathroom's plumbing was ripped out and all that remained were holes in the floor. My husband saw the potential. I saw a lot of work and expense. There was only one room in the house that was decent…the bar room. There is a commercial size bar room as part of the house. It is complete with the back bar, beer taps and soda guns, cold storage room and upright piano. Note: We never got the bar taps and soda guns working.

Every aspect of this building needed, electric, heat, siding and roof. Since it was an old inn, the rooms upstairs were small. Walls had to be taken down, rooms restructured and a few closets were added. The horsehair plaster was falling down and drywall needed to replace it. There was a tin roof on top of old wooden shakes. The roof had to be removed and then replaced. Floors and carpeting need to be installed. A complete kitchen needed to be designed. The trouble with old homes…nothing is level. We also discovered that furniture would not fit in the small stairwell to the second floor. A window that led onto the extension (dojo) was made bigger and was the only way we could bring furniture to the second floor.

He spent nine months (full time) fixing up the house/dojo while we tried to sell our original home. I was working full time and I spent my nights and weekends at the new property. It was exhausting yet rewarding. The renovation of this house/dojo consumed every moment of our lives. I would never undertake a project of this magnitude again. We had help and could not have done it without the support of our family and friends.

The dojo opened in June 1995. I hate to admit it but it was ugly. It is a good thing that people make a dojo not the building. The vinyl siding on the addition still needed to be replaced. (When the dojo was a bar, the previous owner sprayed the entire outside of the addition with sound-proofing material due to neighborhood complaints. We found out that they used to bring sand in the dining room to have beach parties. From the stories we heard, it was a wild place.) The ceiling was unfinished and the carpet was bar room red. Despite the condition of the dojo, the students came. The first two students were from the neighborhood. They would walk up the street in their karate uniforms. My husband taught all the classes because I was busy preparing for Shodan (1996).

Check back soon: I will continue this post by discussing the advantages and disadvantages of a home dojo.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Square Not Round

We are fast approaching Lent. On Tuesday, we will celebrate Fasnacht Day. They are donuts served with molasses, butter, powdered sugar or plain. This tradition is celebrated in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.

During the past week, I have not been to the gym, karate or racquetball. I did not make Tai Chi class either. My time has been spent taking care of a sick daughter and helping her catch up on two days of school work. I haven't been feeling so good this week either. The lack of physical activity has caused my right knee to ache.

I was reading Rick Matz's Cook Ding's Kitchen and he issued a Lenten Challenge. The challenge reads:

"The challenge is this: from Ash Wednesday (Feb 25) until Easter (April 11 or April 19th for the Eastern Orthodox Church), train every day, without fail, no excuses. Simple enough said.

It doesn't have to be martial arts training either. Whatever it is that you need to really rededicate yourself to: studying, practicing an instrument, walking, watching what you eat; anything - do it every day, without fail."

I am going to give this challenge a try. Enjoy your Fasnacht on Tuesday and be ready to train Wednesday.

And remember...a wise Pennsylvania German once told me "Real Fasnacht's are square not round".

How do you celebrate Shrove Tuesday?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

9 Going On 16

My nine year old daughter going to the Girl Scout's Father/Daughter dance.

Da Saam Sing

It must be tournament season because the dojo is getting tournament invitations in the mail every day. Tomorrow, there is a local tournament and the proceeds help support St. Judes Children's Hospital. Several students from the dojo want to attend.

The divisional breakdowns include weapons, forms, fighting and Da Saam Sing. I have never seen a Da Saam Sing competition.

Here is a video explaining Da Saam Sing and a demonstration.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Enthusiasm or Experience

I recently started playing racquetball on a Sunday with my brother. I have never held a racquet in my hand until three weeks ago. I have not played a game yet because I am still working on the basics. My brother used to play years ago. My niece Nik (his daughter) started playing at college a few weeks ago. Since she was coming home this past weekend, my brother challenged her to a game of racquetball.

Nik is athletic, strong, fast, young and enthusiastic. My brother, who turned fifty this year, calmly told her that he was going to beat her. This banter went back and forth all week. If there were bets placed on this match, Nik would have been the favorite. Everyone thought she would win. We were wrong. It was not even close (sorry Nik). After the game, she was lying down catching her breath. She sat up, tapped her forehead and said, “You beat me here.”


The same is true with sparring. Anyone who has been around a dojo for a while has experienced the enthusiastic student who cannot wait to spar. Often they are young, fast and strong. They are definitely eager. They enter the ring facing a more experienced fighter and find themselves ineffective. The enthusiastic student just cannot seem to land their techniques.

Case in point: A young student came to the dojo eager to fight. His first match was against my husband. (We have new students fight the black belts for safety reasons.) The young man was thrilled to be sparring. He was trying fancy moves. At one point during the fight, the student dropped down in to a split and punch towards the groin. (I think Van Damme performed this technique in a movie). My husband was at least two feet away from his punch. My husband walked over, placed his foot on the student’s chest and lightly pushed.

In racquetball, my brother knows the game. He has the experience. He can more accurately predict the movement of the ball. He quickly realized that Nik was unable to return a ball hit to the back wall. He used this to his advantage. However, he is going to have to watch out because I predict that when she comes home for the summer...she is going to be a formidable competitor! :)

What do you think about sparring? Can enthusiasm alone defeat experience?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Where Are The Men?"

In a previous post, I wrote about a discussion I had about women and the martial arts. I neglected to mention that the conversation was a women's panel discussion and was televised on the local community station. I was asked to join the discussion by my instructor and the focus was on the evolution of women in martial arts.

Since the segment was being taped "live", home viewers were allowed to call in and ask questions. Half way through the discussion, we had a call from a male home viewer. His question was regarding self-defense and why we needed to learn martial arts. He asked:

"Where are the men?"


Then an answer.

I responding by stating that my personal safety and self-protection were my responsibility. I explained that often in the two-car, two career society we live in today, my husband and I are going in different directions. He is not with me all the time nor do I expect him to be.

I was surprised by the question but confident in my answer. What do you think about the question "Where are the men?"

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Message to Mean Girls...."Back Off!"

Relational Aggression encompasses behaviors that harm others by damaging, threatening to damage or manipulating one's relationships with his/her peers, or by injuring one's feelings of social acceptance. It is often referred to as covert bullying and is cruel and cunning. It includes exclusion, secrets, lies, gossip, taunting, name calling, teasing and alliance building. It is more prevalent in females than males.

Last March, I wrote that my daughter "E" was having trouble with school bullies. I am amazed at how mean kids are to each other. Name-calling and put downs seem to be common. As a parent, I teach my daughter to be polite, kind, respectful and compassionate.

On Monday, I picked E up from basketball practice. She was upset because she felt that girls were mean to her. There is a new girl in the class and E tried to be her friend. The resident mean girl "MG" whispered into the new girl's ear that E was a baby and is sensitive (we found this out later). Immediately, the new girl jumped on the MG bandwagon and began to pick on my daughter.

E tries to be friends with MG. E sat down next to MG but MG moved away. E asked her why she moved and MG told her it was because they were not friends. My daughter asked MG why they were not friends. E was promptly told that it was because she does not make fun of people. Seriously? I told E that I was proud of her for not making fun of people.

My daughter takes everything to heart. She wears her emotions on her sleeve. Everyone knows when she is upset because of her body language. How can I help her? When I tell her not to let things bother her so much she tells me that she can't change who she is.

She is right.

My message is for Mean Girls past, present and future...."Back Off!"

Thursday, February 5, 2009

108 Movements and Broken Ribs

Yang's long Taijiquan has 108 moves. The teacher has broken the form up in three sections. I have been working on the first section (20 movements) since October. We begin class with some warm up hip exercises and then begin the form.

I can not remember the sequence of the first twenty moves. When I am going through the form I think about my hip motion, stepping forward from my center and the individual technique. This week, I was determined to leave class knowing the sequence to the first section. The instructor indicated that we will work on the second section (38 movements) through February and begin the third section (50 movements) in March.

This week during class my focus was on the pattern. I did not focus on the movement rather the sequence of the form. Finally, after five months, I remember the first section. The other students and the instructor have mentioned that remembering kata should be easy for me. They are right, when referring to Okinawa Kenpo but not Tai Chi.

Why can't I remember?

Racquetball Update:

My brother and I had our first racquetball session. It was fun and a great workout. The week leading up our court time, my brother kept telling me how important it was to stay out of each others way. He told me that we must not run into each other. He made sure that I knew how important it was so stay clear of the wall.

Well...he didn't. He smashed into the wall. His left arm got pinned and smashed into his rib cage. He hit so hard that he got the wind knock out of him. He finally went to the doctor and he has broken ribs.

He still wants to play this Sunday.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bread, Milk and Tai Chi

I look forward to Tai Chi class on Tuesday. There has been snow, sleet or freezing rain on the past three Tuesdays. This week is no different. In Pennsylvania, the words “winter weather warning” creates dread in some communities. My Aunt lives in the coal regions and entire towns sit on the side of a mountain. The roads are treacherous in the snow and impossible when there is ice.

In my area, the anticipation of a winter storm is often worse than the actual storm. We often get less snow or ice than is forecasted. When a “winter weather warning” posts, people swarm to the grocery store and stock up on bread and milk. It has become a ritual regardless if they have two loaves of bread and a gallon of milk in their kitchen. If you wait too late in the day, the shelves are bare.

I am crossing my fingers that I am able to get to Tai Chi tomorrow. We are starting to work on the second section of the Tai Chi form. It is exciting to see new techniques!

Does your state have the bread/milk phenomenon?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Nunchaku-do Kumite

I was searching for weapons kumite and found this video clip. It is an example of Nunchaku-do kumite. You can find more information on the World Nunchaku Association website. It began in the 1980's when Dutchman Milco Lambrecht and fellow martial artists started to explore the possibilities to develop a new sport based on the nunchaku. There are sport clubs in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland.


On my way to racquetball...knee report to follow.