Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lost In Translation

I hear the words.

I understand the concepts.

My tai chi instructor describes the techniques in detail. He teaches using visualization and analogies. He discusses the physics of the movements and the anatomy of the joints.

We practice and are told to feel the techniques...to understand our movement is to understand the opponent.

I practice.

Somewhere between my mind and my body....it is lost in translation.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I Should Have Paid Attention During High School Physics!

My Tai Chi instructor asked "Do you know what a vector is?"

Blank stare followed by a flashback to AP Physics class in high school. Science was not my strong point in high school. I was in the AP Physics class because it was the only science class that would allow me to take AP English and Literature. I was the only student in the class who was not taking Calculus. It was a lose/lose proposition from the start. Thank goodness the class was graded on a hefty curve. I would say "I am never...ever going to use physics!"

Last night in Tai Chi class, our lesson on push hands was all about physics.

From The Physics Classroom:
A study of motion will involve the introduction of a variety of quantities which are used to describe the physical world. Examples of such quantities include distance, displacement, speed, velocity, acceleration, force, mass, momentum, energy, work, power, etc. All these quantities can be divided into two categories - vectors and scalars. A vector quantity is a quantity which is fully described by both magnitude and direction.

Sound familiar? :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Responses to Do Black Belts Have To Teach?

Thank you for the excellent comments on the previous post Do Black Belts Have To Teach?

Please check out the following responses/related posts.

Dan from Martial Arts and Modern Life wrote Do Black Belts Have To Start Their Own Class?

Colin discussed Teaching Traditional Taekwondo Techniques

ElizasMom wrote Those Who Can, Teach

Thank you!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Do Black Belts Have To Teach?

A month ago, I wrote a post which asked "Once a black belt...always a black belt?" The comments on this post were thought provoking and insightful. Becky from Fine Martial Fiber wrote:

I don't believe one should be required to teach to maintain his
(her) rank.

Her comment was a source of discussion in the dojo among the black belts. Are black belts required to teach? Does one have to teach to advance? When did you know that you wanted to be a teacher?

My Story

My husband started training three years before I did. He was a brown belt student when I walked on the dojo floor for the first time. He always wanted to teach and knew he wanted his own dojo. He would lead class as a brown belt and many of his peers would come to him to learn material. The fact he would become an instructor was obvious and inevitable.

I was the complete opposite. The thought of becoming a karate instructor never entered my mind. When I tested for Shodan, I was asked if I wanted to teach. I would always respond with....


I had absolutely no intention of teaching.

How did I become an instructor? I would like be able to pinpoint when it happened but I cannot. I did not wake up one day and decide I wanted to teach. It just happened. I knew I wanted to give back and share the information I was taught. I enjoyed guiding the students.

In regards to Becky's comment, I agree with her. I do not believe a black belt should be required to teach. If I was required to teach as a young black belt, I probably would not be training today. I wonder if the people who kept asking me if I was going to teach saw something that I did not.

Perhaps it was more inevitable than I realized...

Thank you to the readers and to those who comment on my blog.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Well....You Didn't Fall Down"

I returned to Tai Chi class tonight.

At the end of class, the senior student said to me "You did good tonight." I must have gave him a look of uncertainty because he then said "Well...you didn't fall down."

It was a good class. We practiced the Yang long form and the instructor discussed the importance of moving from the hip.

It sounds so simple but I find it difficult to execute.

Some key points from class:

The instructor discussed that if you know your body you will know your opponent.

Relax and punch through your opponent.

The hip is the handle of the whip.

Practice isolating a joint's movement.

Go inside.

So much information.....

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Snow in PA

I took the afternoon off and went to a local park with my Daughter and my Dad. With glue guns in hand, we attended a session to make natural ornaments from items found in the forest. No surprise...my daughter's ornaments were the most creative.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Getting Out The Clipboard

On Wednesday, I was back in the dojo teaching my regularly scheduled classes. The first night we worked on basics and bo techniques. The second night....

I got out the clipboard.

We have a group of 1st kyu brown belts in the dojo training for black belt. They are a good group who have been training together since white belt. I also need to mention...they are family members. The father and son of the group walked into class...saw the clipboard...and just knew. I handed a clipboard to the other class instructor and then sat down in front of the class. Since I was out of the dojo for for few weeks, I wanted to get a handle on the students training. I wanted to determine, as a class instructor, what the focus should be over the next few weeks. The class did all the weapon and open hand kata up to the Shodan requirements.

The students are occasional readers of this blog and I want them to know..."You did a good job!"

Observations and Key Points:

1. After the students demonstrated the required material, the other class instructor and I compared our notes. They were identical. Very cool. We teach separate classes and have different teaching styles but we are consistent. This is good for the students because there is very little "well....X does it this way and Y does it that way...how is it supposed to be?"

2. Make the most of your time in the dojo. You are what you train. If you walk through material, your material will reflect it.

3. Be concerned about your own training. This can be tough for anyone that trains with family or friends. I am not saying that you should not help each other but make sure you stay focused on what you need to do to improve. Have confidence in your friends and family members and expect them to focus on their training too.

4. It is the little things. Small improvements can make big changes in the appearance of your kata.

5. Receive the information. Really listen to what your instructors are saying and how it applies to your material.

I am looking forward to the next few months in the dojo. Brown belt is an exciting time for students and for the class instructors. To the brown belt students in this dojo...remember to enjoy this time in your training journey.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tai Chi Update

My husband picked up the phone and handed it to me. My Tai Chi instructor was on the line. He told me he did not think I would be there but he wanted me to know class was cancelled for the week. My instructor knew I worked for a company specializing in Christmas tree stands, tree drills, balers and tree lot supplies. He did not seem surprised by my absence.

I told him that I was not in class but I was not "gone". I have been part of the small class for a year. Many people have tried an intro class but so few stay.

He replied simply....I know.

I hung up the phone with a sense of relief. Returning to class next week will be no problem...like business as usual. I must admit the thought of returning to class was a little daunting. Did they think I quit? I kept wanting to call but did not get a chance...then I felt bad about not calling.

As a class instructor, I know what it is like to wonder where students have gone and if they will return. This brief phone call eliminated any hesitation about my return.

I will be back in Tai Chi class next week.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

When There Is No Time To Practice

What happens when there is simply no time to practice karate?

Over the last five weeks my life has been work, work and more work. My non-work time is spent with my family. I can only list a few trips to the gym and a handful of nights in the dojo.

The company I work for does 90% of their business in the month of November. All the other months are spent preparing for this time of year. I know the change in work hours is only temporary. Yet each year I want to try to do it all....work, family, martial arts and the gym. This year I realized that trying to maintain my regular schedule would be impossible. I decided it was OK to be in the dojo less and go to the gym less. I knew my schedule was temporary. There was simply no time to practice.

Last night I was back in the dojo. To say it was good to be back on the floor training is an understatement. We worked on open hand kata, bo and kama. Over the next week, I need to catch up on housework and a few weeks of mail piling up on my desk. My regular schedule should return just in time for the holiday season.

How have you handled times when there is no time to practice?

This year I accepted it...