Sunday, May 31, 2009

Should I or Shouldn't I?

I sit in front of the computer asking myself "Should I or Shouldn't I go to the gym tonight?" Last week I wrote about my daunting feeling that it was going to be a rough week.

Well, I was right.

Not only did my daughter have finals last week, we both were sick. She missed school on Wednesday and Friday. My daughter managed to go to school until lunch time on Thursday and took four exams. I was home from work on Friday with the worst sinus headache that I can remember. I have been recovering from my cold all weekend and still do not feel that great.

Should you exercise when you are sick? Edward R. Laskowski, M.D. from the Mayo Clinic answers:

Yes, you can continue with mild or moderate activity if you have a cold with no fever. Exercise may even help you feel better — by temporarily relieving nasal congestion.

So how do you determine if you're too sick to exercise? Here's a good rule of thumb: If your symptoms are "above the neck" — such as runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, or sore throat — you can proceed with your workout.

However, if your symptoms are "below the neck" — such as chest congestion or tightness, hacking cough, or upset stomach — you should postpone your workout. Also, you shouldn't exercise if you have a fever, fatigue or widespread muscle aches. Rarely, exercising with a fever has been associated with inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis).

As always, use common sense. If you're not feeling well but still want to exercise, reduce the intensity of your workout and listen to your body. If your symptoms worsen with exercise, stop and rest. Missing a few days of exercise isn't the end of the world.

What did I decide?

I decided that I am going to workout at home tonight. I will spend some time on the Tai Chi form and find a good On Demand workout from Exercise TV. It will save me thirty minutes in travel time. As a bonus, I can spend the extra time reviewing two digit division with my daughter. She has to take her Math and English exam tomorrow morning before her class picnic.

What is your experience with working out when you are sick? Does it make you feel better...or worse?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

“I Don’t Know”

“I Don’t Know.” I hear myself saying that in the dojo more frequently these days. We have been working on the kata Odo no Kama Ichi and Tsuken Akachono Nunte Bo. My history with these kata is something like this:

Practice – Learn – No practice – Forget – Review – Remember

I have forgotten these two kata more times, than I care to count. Why? It is simple. I do not practice them regularly. There are 30 weapons kata and 21 open hand kata in Okinawa Kenpo. The kama kata and the nunte bo kata are Yondan requirements. These kata do not often make an appearance during the regularly scheduled classes.

During the last two weeks, we have focused on kama and nunte bo. My husband and I were taught these kata at different times from different class instructors. Our kata are slightly different. We know there have been some corrections to these particular kata through the years. Is it a pivot step back or a shift step back in kama? Is it an overhead on guard or an overhead strike in nunte bo? In kama, is it left over right or right over left? How much rotation on the hook in nunte bo?


I love the details.

It is ok to say “I don’t know”.

View it as an opportunity for discovery.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rough Week Ahead

It is going to be a rough week.

I can feel it.

It simply might be the Tuesday blues after a long holiday weekend. We spent Memorial Day weekend at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort. The trip was wonderful. Our group took several runs on the Alpine Slide, kayaking, paddle boats, bowling, swimming and climbed the rock wall. My daughter was awesome at the climbing wall. She was the only one from our group to reach the top of the wall and ring the bell.

This week, my evenings will be spent helping my daughter study for the fourth grade final exams. There will be two exams per day. The dreaded cumulative math exam is on Friday. Final exams….in grade school? She has been ready for summer break since the beginning of May. It is going to be difficult to keep her focused.

Lately, it seems like every time I pick up the phone, bad news is calling on the other end. I hesitate before I pick up the phone. I am relieved to hear the recorded message of a telemarketer or the politicians asking for a donation on the other end of the line.

It feels like it is going to be a rough week...I hope that I am wrong.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What Are the Elements of a Great Karate Class?

Did you ever walk out the dojo door and think, "Wow, that was a great class"?

I have said that on many occasions for different reasons. It could be a result of an excellent instructor, training partners or topic. Perhaps during the class you made a "ah ha moment". It may have been an independent workout...just you and space to train.

A few weeks ago, I left the dojo and said, "That was a great class." It was a two hour class on augment blocks. It doesn't sound like it would be a great class...but it was. Two hours discussing one technique in depth. The class worked on the different levels of augment blocks. We spent at least a half an hour on the prep. We examined the augment block in context to the sequence it appears in kata. We discussed how the augment block can be used as a simultaneous block and strike, a lock, a break or two strikes.

In your opinion, what are the elements of a great karate class? An example?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Practicing Kata - Slow

When learning the pattern of a kata, we are accustomed to executing the techniques at the same speed. The kata is monotone. Called out by the instructor, we hear and follow the count "one, two, three" or "ichi, ni, san". It is similar to the beat of a metronome. When I teach a kata, I start off by describing the technique "kosa step --then step out in nai hanchi stance with a right hand strike". Once the students can follow along with the pattern, I use a count. If the students know the pattern, a count is no longer needed to keep pace in a group.

In the dojo, we practice kata in several ways: technique, power, speed and kime. Last week in the dojo, we practiced our kata very, very slow. We worked on the kata Pinan Nidan. It was a kata that everyone knew and covered many of the basic blocks, strikes and stances. I wanted the students to watch and feel their techniques. We performed the kata slow and deliberate.

It was an excellent drill. One of the hallmarks of Okinawa Kenpo is rotation. The blocks and strikes rotate during the last six inches of the technique. When we performed the kata at a very slow pace, proper rotation and hand position could be observed.

The students perception of a technique can vary depending on where a student is standing in the dojo in relationship to the instructor. A student often gets the beginning position and the end position of a technique correct. It is the middle position or how we get from point A to B that sometimes gets confused.

Take for example a right knife hand block. In Okinawa Kenpo, the beginning position for a knife hand block is elbow to elbow, right hand high palm facing the ear, left prep hand pointed to the direction we are moving with palm facing down. The end position has the left prep hand withdrawing palm up and the right blocking hand facing palm out clearing the body, arm bent at a ninety degree angle with a fist distance under the arm. did we get there? How does the hand move from the beginning position to the end position. Doing the kata in a very slow manner allowed the students to closely examine the middle position. The hand is supposed to cross center line as the right hand moves across the body. Think "windshield wiper".

In some cases, the students discover they were using a "slicing" motion. The right hand sliding down the left prep arm, flattening out and rising to the end position. Think "the letter U". The beginning position was correct. The ending position was correct. However, the middle position was functionally incorrect. Moving the hand in this manner from point A to B does not cover center line and will inevitably result in getting hit.

It was a useful exercise. However, as we continue our kata training, we need to leave behind the count and the monotone. We each need to find our own kata rhythm that reflects our personal experiences, body type and bunkai.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gone Fishing

I never thought that I would have a post titled "Gone Fishing". Well, it is true. This weekend my daughter and I met my brother at a Fishing Rodeo. He is a member of the local Fly Fisherman group and was part of a fly tying demonstration. My Dad and I watched while they went fishing.

The fish.

After speaking to my brothers fly tying fishing buddies, I found out there is more to fishing than I realized. Catching a fish is not always the primary objective. I was told that sometimes the gear is never taken out of the trunk. It is about being outside, good conversation, good food and getting away for a few hours.

Sounds nice.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"It's like an Old Friend."

A few months ago, I attended an instructor training seminar at the Federation Honbu. It is always a good event....excellent training and longtime training partners. It was during this session that the subject of my non-regulation obi was discussed.

I only have one belt. It is the same belt that was handed to me when I passed my Shodan test. I should have updated my kobudo patch and added a gold stripe when I received my teachers license in 2002. I wrote a brief post about my obi last year. I have yet to buy an additional belt or update my existing one. I know I should. Each time I pick up the phone to place an order or decide that today will be the day I sew on my new kobudo patch...I hesitate. I like my original belt.

I am not alone in my non-regulation obi status. There are a few of us at the training session and we lightheartedly discussed our obi issue. I asked one of the black belts why he hasn't updated his belt and his answer was immediate.

"It's like an old friend."

His brief answer perfectly summarized how I feel. Is an obi just a piece of fabric that wraps around the waist? Doesn't it represent more than that?

I like the image of karate training being like an old friend. So true with any is only as good as the effort you put into it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Reconstructed ACL Two Years Later

It is May 15th and my reconstructed ACL turns two today! My knee is healthy and strong despite the noisy creaks and groans.

ACL Recovery Accomplishments:

  1. Full range of motion
  2. Recovered leg strength
  3. Returned to Karate as a student and instructor
  4. Joined a gym
  5. Learned to play racquetball
  6. Tai Chi classes
  7. Can kneel in seiza...for a short time :)
  8. Got my cat stance back
  9. Improved balance
  10. Started a blog

When I started this blog I was searching for answers. I was looking for other martial artist that experienced an ACL reconstruction. I wanted to know what happens after surgery. I am not referring to the first few months. I wanted to hear what a reconstructed knee was like at one, two or five years. Information was hard to find. There were many stories that went into great detail about the surgery itself or the first few days of recovery. I wanted to read the success stories from people of all ages, graft types and activity level.

It is my hope that people with ACL injuries find this blog. I want them to know that even though the road may be difficult and frustrating at times.

There are success stories.

To the readers and those who have left comments on this blog...thank you for you support and encouragement. To the people who have a torn ACL or are in the process rehabilitation....good luck and best wishes for a speedy recovery!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tai Chi Discouraged

I am feeling discouraged with my Tai Chi training.

There is only one class available per week. I have not been to class in three weeks. The first week, due to a scheduling conflict at the dojo, I needed to teach Okinawa Kenpo instead of attending Tai Chi class. The second week, I received a message from the instructor saying that he needed to cancel.

Last night, I went to the gym and waited for the instructor with another student. We practiced the first section of the form a few times. We then received a phone call from the instructor saying that he was stuck in traffic and would not make it to class. The instructor works near Philly and sometimes traffic is impossible.

It gave me an opportunity to think about my Tai Chi training. One class per week is not enough. I can not seem to remember the pattern of the form. I do not know enough to practice on my own. I have been attending class for eight months.

I know that this is not a lot of time. Am I expecting too much?

Other news: I finally replaced my broken digital camera. I bought a Canon Powershot AS1000IS. The bad news is that the first pictures I took with this camera was the damage to my home from a wind storm. It ripped some siding and trim off my house. The storm wiped out a few shingles from the detached garage and the roof needs to be replaced. We have never made a homeowners claim and is much more involved that I realized. The insurance company gave us half the money for the garage roof. We need to come up with the balance or replace the roof ourselves to save money. I am waiting on quotes from the contractor.

Spin Class kicked my butt. Let's just say the bike seat was as comfortable as concrete. I did not love it...I did not hate it. Jury is still out on this one.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Taking a Spin

The email from my sister was brief.

It read, “You’re signed up for 6:30pm.”

I am taking a spin class tonight with my sister. I have been a member of the gym for a little over a year. My usual routine consists of the cardio machines (elliptical, bike or treadmill) and the circuit training machines.

With the exception of the Tuesday Tai Chi class, I have not taken a group fitness class at the gym since my ACL surgery. My sister and I used to take step classes together many, many years ago. However, my knee still creaks, crackles and squeaks. (No pain only noise.) I think a noisy knee is my permanent reminder that I have a reconstructed ACL. I decided that aerobic step classes are an activity of my past... something I used to do before knee surgery.

So…tonight, I am going to take a spin. Indoor cycling can burn between 400-600 calories in a forty-minute session. They recommend that you bring a lot of water and a towel.

Either I am going to love it…or I am going to hate it.

We shall see.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sending Encouragement

Bob Spar author of the Middle-Aged Martial Artist wrote recently about Black Belt Worries. I found Bob's blog as I was recovering from ACL surgery. His blog has been a source of encouragement and inspiration for me.

On his About Me profile he writes:

As I begin this blog, I'm recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery. With three minutes remaining in my black belt test, I tore the anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee and had to stop. My surgery was on March 27, 2007.

Bob will be testing for his black belt in the upcoming week. If you get a chance, visit his blog and send him some encouragement.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Instructor as Guide

In 1996, I attended a training seminar taught by Hanshi Chuck Merriman. I did not realize it at the time but this one-hour session greatly influenced my karate journey. The topic of the seminar was on Sanchin kata with a focus on breath and application. However, he stopped for a moment and spoke to the group about his views on the role of a karate instructor. Hanshi Merriman told us that the instructor is a “Guide”. The instructor teaches us by guiding us down the martial arts path. Students need to take responsibility for their training.

At the time I heard this lecture, I focused on my responsibility as a student. It was my job to learn, practice and study. I was not an instructor nor did I know if I wanted to teach classes. In fact, the black belt around my waist was new and shiny for I tested for Shodan during the same seminar. My husband had recently opened his own dojo and was busy teaching. I happily continued training at the Honbu and taught at my husband’s dojo when he needed help.

Circumstances soon changed. I started spending more and more time at our home/dojo teaching than at the Honbu. As a traditional martial arts practitioner, I felt a responsibility to pass on the information as my instructor had taught me. I considered this an obligation. When I started teaching, I recalled the lecture given by Hanshi Merriman. I remembered how he explained that a karate instructor should be a Guide.

I knew this was how I wanted to approach being a karate instructor.

The brown belt students in the dojo hear this story all the time. If you are reading this, I am sure you are nodding your heads. : )

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

“They’ll Catch Up”

At the end of March, I asked the question When is Enough…Enough? regarding my daughter and her experience with school bullies. It was the end of the third quarter marking period. I requested a conference and scheduled it for the beginning of April. The fourth grade teacher called me and due to conflicting schedules, we had the conference over the phone. I was prepared to ask tough questions.

I started the conversation informing the teacher that my daughter dislikes school. The teacher did not hear me correctly and said, “I am glad she likes school.” I had to repeat the statement “No, she dislikes school and often does not want to go”. I made sure to mention that my daughter likes the teachers and the office staff (she does). The teacher seemed surprised and saddened that my daughter did not like school. The teacher commented that my daughter engages in classroom activities and learns from all teaching platforms.

I asked the teacher for her impression of my daughter in relation to her peer group. No surprises here…my daughter relates better to adults than other kids (she is an only child). She is nice to the other kids but often will seek out conversation with adults rather than her classmates. The teachers and staff only say good things about my daughter. The teacher further explained that this particular fourth grade is not a “welcoming” group (lovely).

I told the teacher about the name-calling, pushing, and mean behavior. I reported an incident in the recess yard when my daughter was grabbed. A boy four inches taller and at least twenty pounds heavier grabbed her wrists and tried to push her against the wall. My daughter was able to perform a simple wrist release to escape from his grasp. The bullying behavior is not acceptable. She agreed.

As the conversation ended, the teacher mentioned that my daughter was more mature than her classmates. She said that in a few years the other students…”They’ll catch up.”

I did not find these words very comforting.

What could happen until they do?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Rainy Weekend

I am not at work today.

I am home with my sick daughter. We spent a rainy, grey, cold weekend at the Jersey Shore. The sun did not make an appearance one time. Luckily, our hotel had an indoor swimming pool.

Despite the weather, it was nice to get away for a few days.

My daughter started getting sick on the three hour drive home. I called the Pediatrician this morning and the first available appointment is at 4:20 p.m. My husband had a previously scheduled appointment at his doctor at 10:00 a.m. and the waiting room and pharmacy was packed. He arrived at work sometime after lunch. My cousin had an appointment today and report a long wait and lines to check out.

Should be an interesting afternoon.