Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

This weekend I will be heading to the Poconos to watch the Pennsylvania 500. I cannot say that I am a true NASCAR fan. I don't mind watching the last few laps of a race but I have never watched an entire race.

Why am I going? Well... my daughter is a Jeff Gordon fan and she wants to see him race. Did you roll your eyes? It seems to be the most common reaction when I mention my daughter's favorite driver. Most local NASCAR fans I know cheer for Junior.

All I keep thinking is...what have I gotten myself into? You see, I do not like crowds, traffic or the sitting out in the sun. We are planning on leaving early enough to beat the traffic. As far as crowds, our tickets are for end seats. I am packing a bag with plenty of sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.

A friend of mine who has been to several races suggested earplugs. I never would have thought of bringing earplugs. I realize how unprepared I am for this outing. Have you ever been to a NASCAR race? Any suggestions? Stories?

Monday, July 27, 2009


Urban Samurai has written an excellent article on Black Belt Responsibilities: Are There Any? His thought provoking article has generated much discussion. Check out his site and join the discussion.

I posted the following comment about Black Belt Responsibility:

My karate background is traditional Okinawa Kenpo. The preservation of the art from teacher to student has always been an important component of my training. When I received my black belt, I wanted to be included in the process.

I have a responsibility to the tradition…to pass on information as my instructor has taught me. I have a responsibility to my instructor…I want him to be proud to call me a student. I have a responsibility to the students…to guide and to encourage. I have a responsibility to myself…to train, to improve and to explore.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Thank You to Non-Martial Artist Family and Friends

A group of us were talking about karate after class in the dojo one night. My ten year old daughter wanted to be included in the conversation. She shared her view of karate... "Karate is time spent away from me".


I know I spend a lot of time with my daughter but it made me pause. From her perspective, it is time that could have been spent playing a game, talking, watching a movie or going shopping. This made me think of all the family and friends of karate practitioners and the sacrifices they make for our art. I was a karate practitioner's girlfriend before I was a karateka. This post is for all the parents, girlfriends, spouses, children and friends of martial artists.

Here is my personal list:
  • Thank you for your acceptance of the time I devote to martial arts.
  • Thank you for spending time and money accompanying us to the dojo, a tournament or an awards banquet.
  • Thank you for washing those heavy uniforms.
  • Thank you for listening as we enthusiastically describe in detail...a technique, a seminar event, a movie, a book or a conversation about martial arts.
  • Thank you for not giving strange looks from across the restaurant table when we use our butter knife to illustrate a bo technique.
  • Thank you for lending us an arm or a leg when we want to "try out" a technique we learned in class.
  • Thank you for understanding that karate practice can happen at unexpected locations...in a restaurant parking lot, at a picnic, at a community walk-a-thon, etc.
  • Thank you for your patience when Mommy or Daddy needs to teach class.
  • Thank you for your flexibility because sometimes diner is at 5:30 and sometimes at 8:30.
  • Thank you for not blinking an eye when we buy yet another custom made martial art weapon. (I have at least five bo.)

Thank you!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lug Nuts and Jesus Bolts

I apologize in advance for yet another car post.

Two week ago, my Mazda was making terrible noises each time I hit the brakes. It sounded like it was time for new brakes and rotors. I stopped by a national chain and had my brakes checked. I did not need rotors but I did need new calipers. The brakes on my car had frozen. The mechanic warned me not to drive because it was not safe. I left my car sit in the shop to wait for the parts to arrive. The following day the car was repaired.

For three days, my car ran perfectly. Then the noise started. The front drive side wheel would be silent when driving on the highway but noisy when driving slowly. The noise was mild at first but then became a horrible sound. It was as if I was driving over rumble strips. My husband suggested taking the wheel off and checking to see if there was anything visually loose. I watched as he used a jack to raise the car. He sat in front of the wheel to remove the lug nuts.

Two of the lug nuts were extremely loose. He tightened the lug nuts and the noise disappeared.

I stopped by the garage and told the Customer Service Representative my story. I mentioned that two lug nuts were not tight. The CSR became very defensive and suggested that “someone” may have loosened the lug nuts on purpose. Seriously! He did not even mention that I should bring my car back in so they could check out the wheel.

Later that day, I drove to my Uncle’s surprise 70th birthday party. On the way to the picnic grove, the noise resumed and was louder than ever. I pulled into the parking lot and asked my brother to look at the wheel. I touched the lug nuts and two came off in my hand. We found the lug wrench in my trunk and tightened the wheel. I drove slowly and carefully home. I called the national chain and spoke to the manager. The manager told me that what I was describing was highly unusual. (Is this the code phrase for "I don't believe you?") He told me to bring my car in as soon as possible.

I have a new appreciation for the tiny pieces of metal that keep my tire connected to my car. In the world of helicopters, the fastener that holds the rotor blade is sometimes referred to as the "Jesus Bolt" because the operator must have faith in it. In the past, I have never given lug nuts much…o.k. any…thought. I am starting to consider lug nuts the "Jesus Bolt" of the automobile. The CSR stated the obvious in our initial conversation “three wheels is not good”.

My car is in the shop today. I am waiting for a phone call to find out what highly unusual problem is wrong with my car.


I should be posting on a regular basis soon. I am caught up on my reading but have not had much time to post or comment. The last five weeks have been busy with my daughter’s play rehearsals.

Thank you for the excellent comments on my previous post. More to come on the topic of self-defense.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Self-Defense Topics

Last week, I took my daughter to the hairdresser. I sat reading magazines while my daughter described the haircut she wanted in detail to the salon owner. My daughter has beautiful thick, shoulder length, wavy, dark brown hair. She usually requests her hair to be chin length, super straight and blond. The salon owner and I have explained on numerous occasions that she is not getting her hair dyed blond at the ripe old age of ten. However, at this appointment she requested side bangs and curls. Thank goodness!

Amid the discussion of hairstyles, the salon owner’s daughter came in and sat down next to me. She asked me if I would be willing to teach private self-defense lessons. I told her that I would and asked her what was going on. The salon owner’s daughter informed me that she would be spending the next college semester abroad. She explained that she would be living with a host family. She knew that she would be traveling and site seeing alone and wanted to learn self-defense.

We set up our first session and I explained that we would start with basic techniques. Whenever I teach private self-defense lessons, I ask the person to make a list of topics or situations that they want to address. Often times the individual requesting has very specific concerns and techniques in mind. I have taught three-hour women’s self-defense sessions, which cover prevention, awareness and basic techniques. I teach self-defense as part of the dojo curriculum. I am preparing for her sessions. I know she has a limited amount of time to learn and practice before she travels abroad.

So…I want to make a list.

What do you think are the most important topics to cover? If you were to request one technique, what would it be? As an instructor, what techniques would you always teach?

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Gumby Analogy

My instructor uses Gumby as an analogy to explain the flexibility, relaxation, whipping motion needed in Okinawa Kenpo Kobudo techniques. In the kata Shima Igiri Bo, the hallmark technique is the large flowing back swings. The Bo is like a whip with the emphasis on the last few inches of the technique. Relaxation, flow, flexibility is imperative and is the source of the Gumby reference. You can find small Gumby figurines holding miniature Okinawa Kenpo Kobudu wooden weapons (a gift from one of the black belts) in the office of the Honbu.

Understanding flexible movement sounds like a relatively simple concept. However, it may take considerable practice to execute the techniques with the correct balance of relaxation, flexibility, rotation and tension. When I hear the word Gumby, I immediately think about flexibility and the kata Shima Igiri Bo. If we take the Gumby analogy further, in addition to flexible movement, it is important to have a flexible mind in regards to martial arts.

What are some of the benefits of a flexible mind in the martial arts?

A flexible mind will be receptive to a broad range of teaching styles.
A flexible mind will accept and apply correction.
A flexible mind will be open to other martial arts styles and look for the similarities.
A flexible mind will embrace the tradition of keeping kata “one way, keep straight, and don’t change” while simultaneously understanding the need to make kata “your own”.
A flexible mind will see many points of view.

In my opinion, the above list offers a few examples of the benefits of a flexible mind. I am sure there are more benefits for martial arts and for daily life.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

1967 Gumby Show Intro

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Bat in the Attic

My house sustained some wind damage that pulled off pieces of siding and trim. A contractor has been working on the house and came across a few bats that made a cozy home in the wood trim. We set up one way netting so the bats would go out but not come back in.

One bat found its way inside the attic. I opened the door to the attic and walked up two steps. A bat swooped by my head. I went back downstairs and closed the door. I was hoping the bat would find his way out.

A few days later, I was feeling brave and went back into the attic. I was not going to let a little bat stop me. I stepped slowly up the stairs and turned to look at the back wall of the stairwell. I heard a squeak and saw movement in a small crevice of the wood.

The bat was still there and it was looking right at me!

Quickly down the stairs...close the attic door...straight to the computer. I researched how to get rid of bats in the house. It looks like we will be sealing up all potential entrances. I am not going to attempt to catch the bat in a net like the article suggests. Here is another good piece of advice from the article:

If bats are roosting outside of your house in a place you'd rather they didn't, then a can of dog/cat repellent is a good thing to pick up. Wait to apply the repellent to the area until all of the bats are out feeding, and spray all of the immediate surfaces generously. Whatever you do, don't spray the bats directly with the repellent. You're better off attending the Running of the Bulls wearing nothing but red--and that should be left to very macho but very stupid young Spaniards.

This is not our first encounter with bats.

When we bought our house in 1995, it had wood siding. We live near a lake and farmland. The bats called our house home before we did. There was a piece or two of wood siding that was pulled away from the wall. Since the building was abandoned for a few years before we bought it, the bats had perfect home. The bats were not inside our home but we did want them to move out. We spoke to a bat expert and were told that we had a bat colony living on our property. Not just one bat...a colony of females and baby bats. The colony was never left unattended so half the population stayed in while the other half went out. We had the bats safely removed by experts. The bats were not harmed.

House before siding

We had our home covered in vinyl siding and the bats did not return. Friends gave us bat houses instead of bird houses.

In all honesty...I do not have a problem with bats...when they are outside. My daughter wants the bat to be rescued and returned to nature. My husband may have mentioned something in passing about Smith & Wesson.

I just want the bat OUT of my attic.

You can click here to read a previous post about the transformation of our house/dojo.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tai Chi Long Form Just Got Shorter

Well...not really.

But....it feeeeeeeeeels shorter.

I have been waiting for the day that the 108 move form did not seem like an impossible task. I knew that eventually the form would seem shorter to me. That is how it has always been when I am learning a new pattern. When the students are learning a new Okinawa Kenpo form I ask "Does it feel shorter?". Pieces of the form seem familiar and patterns are emerging. The patterns were always there...I just did not see them.


Since I wrote about my decision to continue Tai Chi, I took a deep breath and relaxed a bit. I am looking forward to discovering where this path will lead me.