Sunday, August 30, 2009

Back To School Eve

Tomorrow is the first day of school. On Saturday, the school published the class assignments on the web page. My daughter and I opened the link to find good news and bad news. The good news is that she got the teacher she wanted. The teacher is new to the school but she happens to be a childhood friend of mine. The teacher and I went to school together for twelve years. The bad news is that none of her friends are in her class.

Insert sobbing here......

My daughter was inconsolable for a good thirty minutes. She wanted to go to another school and even begged to be home schooled. She calmed down when she realized she would have two classes with her friends in addition to lunch and recess.

The weekend was busy with last minute school shopping and preparation. I am hoping she will have a great year.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I Feel Old Today

I feel old today.

Last night I went to the gym after teaching one karate class. Instead of my usual routine of cardio machines and weights, I did a full hour of cardio. I was watching a CNN special on Ted Kennedy and lost track of the time. My legs are killing me today. My foot hurts too.

When I came home from the gym, I watch a program on Food Network about Retro Foods. They were describing old candy and old fashioned recipes. I was familiar with many of the items. My father's Uncle owned a General Store in New Hope. The store was lined with antique farming tools, advertisements and tins. He had glass jars filled with penny candy lined up on his counter. Whenever we visited, we left the store with a small brown bag full of treats.

The Food Network program did a segment on a cool website devoted to hard-to-find food items. It is called Hometown Favorites. Do you remember the Sky Bar? It had four flavors in milk chocolate: vanilla, fudge, peanut butter and caramel. I never ate the vanilla section. I have not seen one of these bars in years. They used to be a staple in vending machines.

My personal favorite candy is the Hershey's Chocolate bar. I loved when they were packaged in the shiny silver paper with the paper Hershey's outer wrapper. Now, the bars come in a one-piece brown plastic wrapper. Do they package Hershey bars in the silver paper anymore?

Sigh...I feel old today.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"You Don't Look Like A Karate Instructor"

Did you ever have a flashback to a conversation that suddenly struck you as odd?

I sat among a group of people...some of them I knew and others I did not. A friend introduced me to one of the people I never met. She said "This is Michele. She is a karate instructor." I am not sure why my friend introduced me that way. I shrugged it off and smiled politely. My friend continued by saying, "She doesn't look like a karate instructor". From her tone and the subsequent conversation, I think my friend intended her statement to be taken as a compliment.

This conversation popped into my head a week later. What an odd thing to say! What does a karate instructor look like? I ran through my list of instructors. Can you tell by simply looking at them that they are karate instructors? I am not referring to when they are on the dojo floor or when they are wearing a gi. I am thinking of them in the grocery store, at the mall or in a restaurant.

In another instance, my husband and I were at an amusement park. My husband happened to be wearing a t-shirt with the name of the dojo screen printed on the front. A worker stopped pointed to his shirt and asked my husband if he takes karate. He said "It is my dojo". The worker seemed surprised and blurted, "Oh". I got the feeling from the worker that my husband did not look the part.

Was my friend serious? What is a karate instructor supposed to look like?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Self-Defense Class - Is Twelve Hours Enough?

This summer, my husband and I taught private self-defense lessons. In previous blog posts, I discussed self-defense topics and how self-defense instruction can be tailored to individuals.

Monday was our last session.

Now...I wonder...was it enough? I ask myself this question at the conclusion of each session. We reviewed a lot of material. We taught six two-hour classes. The students are prepared for each session with questions and scenarios. My husband and I agonize and wonder if we have done enough. In our fifteen years of teaching self-defense, we always leave the sessions knowing we could have taught more.

We practice. We review. We practice. And we review some more.

....Grabs, Chokes (front, rear) , Knife defense, hair pulls, pushes, punches, pinned against the wall, pinned on the ground, choked on the ground, awareness, prevention, common sense, lapel grabs, head locks, bear hugs (front, side, rear), falling (side, front, rear, roll fall), slap, targets (eyes, throat, joints, head, ears, floating ribs, groin, solar plexus), distractions, strikes (elbows, knees, palm heel, four knuckle fist).....and so on....

My husband and I offer a follow-up or refresher class. All they need to do is call. Most never call. Do the students leave class feeling invincible? I hope not.

We want the student to leave with the awareness that they have options.

Self-defense is an ongoing process. It needs to be practiced.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Should They Have Been Allowed to Quit Karate?

I was reading the newspaper and an advertisement caught my eye. A floor covering company was announcing their new Interior Designer. A photo of the designer was included in the advertisement along with her name and company contact information. I did not recognize her from the picture (it has been fifteen years!) but I did remember her name. I immediately thought….

“I know her. She was in my karate class when I was a kyu rank. She had a sister and they both took karate. They hated karate.”

The sisters were young teenagers when they started karate. Their father signed a one-year contract for karate classes. The sisters started out mildly interested in learning karate. It did not take long before they hated karate classes. The sisters told me how they wanted to quit but their father forced them to attend class. Their father was paying for a year of karate and they were going to take a year of karate.

They would complain to my husband and I all the time. They knew the exact day their contract expired. They attended class but they were not “in” class. The sisters would walk through the material but their minds were on other things. I am not sure what they learned during that year. The class instructors knew they were just putting in their time but still tried to encourage them. They were nice kids but they did not want learn karate.

As a parent, I feel strongly about my daughter finishing what she started. Three weeks into a five week play rehearsal schedule she wanted to quit. I told her “Absolutely…NO”. I explained that it was her decision to audition for the play. I reminded her that people were counting on her and it would be difficult for the entire cast if she quit. I told her that she did not have to audition for the next play.

Should it be the same for karate? I am not sure. I think back to the two sisters and I know they were miserable. They hated everything about karate. The class instructors spent extra time working with the girls hoping to generate a spark of enthusiasm.


The sisters continued to grumble and roll their eyes through class. They quit as soon as they were able.

What do you think…as a parent, as a karate instructor or as a fellow classmate? How do you feel about the sisters being forced to attend class? Do you think they should have been allowed to quit?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Recognizable ACL Brace

It has been over two years since my ACL reconstruction but I can recognize an ACL post-operative brace from yards away. The four straps, a noticeable scar and the small dial on both sides of the brace that adjust the range of motion. During one shopping trip at the local mall, I saw three people wearing ACL braces. All three individuals were female and appeared to be high school students.

When I was wearing the ACL brace, people would stop me and ask about my knee. Most of the people had the surgery and would tell me their story. One person recounted in detail his surgery, hospital stay, staph infection and overall horrible ACL experience. I have not approached people wearing ACL braces but I silently wish them well.

This article from Reuters states:

The numbers on female ACL tears are astounding. Over 1.4 million women have been afflicted in the past 10 years alone -- twice the rate of the previous decade. It is estimated that more than 30,000 high school and college age females will rupture their ACL every year. In the last 15 years, ankle sprains have decreased by 86 percent while knee ligament injuries have increased by 172 percent.

Santa Monica Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Group has developed the PEP Program to prevent ACL injuries.

This prevention program consists of a warm-up, stretching, strengthening, plyometrics, and sport specific agilities to address potential deficits in the strength and coordination of the stabilizing muscles around the knee joint!

My daughter's soccer season starts this week. The team has a new coach. The coach is female, college aged and unable to play soccer again due to knee injuries/surgeries. I wish the new coach and the team all the best!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tai Chi Update - "Be Relentless"

At the end of Tai Chi class, the instructor spoke to the students about movement. He emphasised the importance of moving from the hip. The class was using too much external arm movement. He told us that we need to place our mind inside so the source of our movement is internal. It takes practice and concentration. He discussed that we should ask our body how certain postures feel. We need to connect our mind with our body. The instructor's parting words to the class were....

"Be Relentless"

Photo courtesy of my sister Kim. Thanks! :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Is Wrong With People?

I listened to my husband tell the story. I only can imagine the incredulous look on my face. There was only one thing I could say, "What is wrong with people?".

The Setting

We live in a three street town right off the curve in a two lane road. This road has a lot of traffic and the average speed is between 45 to 55 mph. The road curves often and there are segments where passing is prohibited. There are three entrances to our community from this road. One entrance/exit sits exactly in the middle of the curve. Across the street there is a similar road. One side of the road has a No Left Turn sign. At the back of our property, we can see the road in between the neighbor's yard.

It is a dangerous stretch of road. It is a common spot for traffic accidents. I have heard the sound of crunching metal followed by the sirens of the Police, Firemen and Paramedics. There have been several times a Medevac Helicopter has landed less than 100 yards from my house in the Fire Company's parking lot.

The Story

My husband was home cutting the grass while I was out with our daughter back-to-school shopping. We arrived home and my husband walked over and described a terrible automobile accident at the curve. Apparently an SUV turned left despite the No Left Turn sign at the exit. A motorcycle with two passengers, a husband and wife, were approaching the curve and could not stop in time. The motorcycle ran into the back of the SUV and the passengers were thrown off. The traffic stopped in both directions. The Fire Company was the first to respond.

My husband walked through the neighbor's yard to the edge of the road. My husband spoke to the man in the first car in the line of traffic. The man witnessed the accident and said that the motorcycle had nowhere to go. The husband was lying in the middle of the road seriously injured. It took a few minutes for the ambulances to arrive because the traffic had congested the road. As they were waiting, a woman from the line of traffic walked up to find out what was going on. She saw the man lying across one lane of the two lane highway.

She asked "Why can't we just go around him?"

The man in the first car said, "Lady, the man is fighting for his life!"

I read in the newspaper yesterday that the man died shortly after he arrived at the hospital. He was lying in the middle of the road...dying... and the woman's only concern was to find a way to go around him.

What is wrong with people?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Self-Defense....It's Personal

A few weeks ago, I wrote about self-defense topics. My husband and I teach self-defense as part of the dojo curriculum, women's self-defense sessions, organizations (park rangers) and private lessons. Before we begin the sessions, we always ask the students what techniques or situations to cover. The answer to this question gives us insight into their goals for the lesson.

In our experience, the most common response to this question attack or grab from behind. Here are a few of the other requests:

Being pulled into a car
Pinned to the ground - face up and face down
Choked on the ground
Pinned against a wall - hands
Pinned against a wall - choke
One arm choke from behind
How to deal with an attack when your baby/child is with you
Against a knife - multiple scenarios
Being jumped on while sleeping
From heat crazed dogs (park ranger request)
How do you deal with out of control juveniles (park ranger request)
Hair pull
An attacker who dives at your legs to pull you down
Multiple attackers

My husband worked with a local women's crisis prevention organization and was called when women needed transportation to the shelter. He has been attacked with a baseball bat, a wash pole, a broken bottle, a vinyl coated metal wash line and even a Cadillac.

Self-defense is different for each one of us. It depends on our goals and perceptions - to get away, to control, to end the conflict. The techniques and capabilities vary by body type - a person 5' 2" and 110 lbs may use different self-defense than a person 6' and 200 lbs. It depends on personal strengths and weaknesses - I would not use techniques which require shoulder strength when my arms are above shoulder height due to prior shoulder dislocations. It depends on preferences - what techniques are you comfortable with and which ones do you remember.

We planned for the private lessons, but ultimately the student requested the topics. It was our job to present multiple functional techniques. The student would practice. Some techniques worked smoothly and quickly while others were less comfortable. If a technique worked well for a particular student, we practiced the technique and examined variations. If a technique did not work well for a particular student, we dropped it and moved on to the next one. We make sure to discuss the basic self-defense principles of awareness and prevention. It is important to remember that a technique that works well for us may not be the best one for the student. We must offer options.

Our goal in teaching private self-defense lessons is have the student leave class with a group a techniques. The techniques should be easy to remember and coincide with the student's strengths, goals and body type. We hope make the student aware of the dynamics of a conflict from the removal of danger.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Pot Holder Story

Do you remember making pot holders as a kid? The pot holders are made from loops of fabric intertwined on a plastic loom. I made pot holders when I was little and my daughter is making them now.

When she first got the loom and the fabric loops, she had trouble weaving the loops. She would weave one loop through and three others would slip off the loom. She was frustrated and it took her a long time to make her first pot holder. The odd shaped woven fabric only slightly resembled a pot holder.

She spent most of her free time making pot holders. Each completed pot holder looked better than the one before. She showed me a beautiful blue and white pot holder and I told her that it looked very professional. She beamed and asked "Did you ever think that I would be able to make pot holders this good?" I said "Of course...I have seen how much you have practiced."

She has a list of family members waiting for pot holders. She succeeded through practice, patience and perseverance.
Pot holders photographed with permission. :)

Trust and Training

Shinzen Nelson, author of The Broken Bokken, wrote a post on Trust. In his article he stated:

Nonin would often talk about our mind being like a jar of water and sand. When the water is stirred it becomes muddy. The mind is confused and cannot see what to do next...but when you trust and stop stirring, allowing the sand/mud to settle, what needs to happen suddenly becomes clear.

Trust is essential. Without it your training becomes mechanical and eventually listless.

A good reminder.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's About the Training

I have been in a weird place with my karate practice. I have trained less...instructed less...blogged less. My time in the dojo was limited due to my daughters schedule, family responsibilities and an adjusted teaching schedule.

Is this the natural ebb and flow of practice? It is easy to give in to "less" and fill the time with other things. I adjusted my perspective. I was on my way to class and I did not feel like going. My mind struggled with the knowledge that I should go to class but did not want to. I took a deep breath and thought about why I should go.

"It's about the training."

These were the words that popped into my head as I made my way to class. It was a great class. The last two weeks have been excellent. I have been teaching my regular classes and spending time practicing Tsuken Akachono Eiku Bo. I think for a few weeks I lost the joy of training and practice.

The joy is back!