Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Blog in Review

Happy New Year! It is time for my annual blog review.

The most important thing I want to accomplish in this post is to convey my genuine thanks to all the Readers and Followers of this blog. I appreciate your comments, questions and emails.

Now for facts....

Top Pages
Fast Track to Black Belt - 863
Tuesday Tip: Quadricep / Hamstring Strength Ratio - 831
What Is That Sound? - 664
Managing a Break in Your Martial Arts Training - 533
Review: Please Stop Laughing At Me - 453

Posts With The Most Comments
Religious Objections In the Dojo - 22
Women and Martial Arts - 17
Blog Keeping/One Word - 14
Get Uncomfortable - 14
Shadow's Story - 14
First Self Defense Class - 14

Top Key Words
Knee Noise
Please Stop Laughing At Me
Julia Marasco
In the Kitchen with Bob
Functional Braces

It would not be a proper review without listing the variety of knee noise queries...knee noise, noise in knee, crunching sound, bending sound, crispy noise, click sound, popping sound, crackling noise, shredding sound, squeaky noise, funny noise, cracking, bubbling sound, rice crispy knee, squishy sound, squelching noise and crunching paper sound. This blog began as a knee blog and I am glad people are still finding my site looking to read my ACL recovery story.

This blog has seen an increase in traffic for 2010. Thank you to all the regular readers and new visitors. This blog has held steady at 49 Followers over the last month. I was hoping to hit 50 by the end of the year... :)

Site Visits - +2279
Page Views - +6205
Unique Viewers - +2119

My personal favorite post this year was the one I wrote about my Dad and the 82nd Airborne Division.

Thank You For Serving
82nd Airborne Photos
82nd Airborne Photos II

Thanks again for reading!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

What is Wrong With People? Holiday Edition

Over a year ago, I wrote the post What is Wrong With People? There are times when I am still shocked about how people interact with others.

I was in a grocery store. The aisles were crowded with holiday shoppers and their carts. There are two sizes of carts in the grocery store...small and extra large. I selected the big cart because I was stocking up on supplies for the holiday weekend. The people with the small carts were buzzing through the aisles winding around other shoppers and the free standing POP displays. It reminded me of the old Atari game Frogger.

I wanted to try a new recipe so I was taking my time through the store making sure I was buying all the items I needed. The extra large carts they provide in the grocery stores are marketing genius. The carts are longer and wider and never look you keep adding more items to the cart. I came to the end of the aisle and had to make a turn. I was cautious because the little carts and the people with the hand held baskets were moving quickly through the store. As I was making the turn...BAM...someone ran into the back of my foot with their cart. If this has ever happened to you, I am sure you hurts. I know for certain if I would have smashed someone with a shopping cart, I would have felt terrible and apologized.

That is not what happened.

Instead the woman yelled at me...."I wasn't expecting you to stop so suddenly!"

That's all she said as she continued shopping.

I was left speechless by her reaction. Thinking back on the incident, I wonder if I should have said something to her.

What is wrong with people?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Let’s Start at the Beginning

Imagine stepping on the dojo training floor feeling excited and a little nervous. You may be wearing a gi for the first time and it feels awkward or unusual. How do you tie the belt? Is there a right way and a wrong way? There are other students in the class wearing belts of various colors. The black belts are standing together in a group. Class is about to start and the instructor asks the students to line up according to rank. You are in the back of the room and at the end of the line.

Do you remember your first impression? Were you overwhelmed by the vast amount of information presented in the class? I wondered if I would ever get the hang of things. My arms and legs did not cooperate with what my brain asked them to do. My legs ached from the nai hanchi stance. I was so grateful when an instructor pulled me aside to work individually on basics and the first kata. Class ended and we lined up again and bowed to the instructor.

As an instructor, I find it valuable to remember my first class when there are new white belt students in the dojo. During the first few weeks teaching a new white belt, I am careful not to overwhelm the students. There is a delicate balance between too much information and not enough. A new white belt student in class provides an excellent opportunity for the dojo community. The instructors must start teaching from the beginning. The kyu rank students help and encourage their new classmate. The black belt students assist in class and develop a deeper understanding of their own material.

Do you remember your first karate class?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Karate UnDo Button

I was practicing the kata Gojushiho Ni and noticed there was stuff in my kata. I don't know where, when or how I picked it up. I know it is not how I used to execute the kata.

Inside block or knife hand?
Scooping block or knife hand?
Timing on a block/strike.
Hands palm out, palm in or one hand palm out and one hand palm in?

I have identified the "stuff" now all I need to do is unlearn.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a Undo button? :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Reservation Warning

It took 2 hours, 6 phone calls, 3 companies, 1 manager and 6 customer service representatives.

I made hotel reservations for a 3 day business trip. I was provided the name and address of the hotel. I searched online to find the hotel phone number. A site came up with the hotel information, a phone number, and photos of the hotel exterior and a list of amenities. I called the number and was greeted with “Reservations”. I made arrangements for a three night stay.

The business trip was cut short and Tom informed the front desk he would be leaving a day early. The front desk informed him that he could check out but he would be charged for three nights. This is when I discovered I called a third-party reservation site and prepaid the stay. Their policy is no early checkout or cancellations.

I revisited the website where I found the phone number. At first glance, the site appears to be the official website of the hotel chain.

But it was not…

I was on the phone for over an hour trying to figure out the confusion. The third-party would only agree to credit my account if the hotel chain would agree. I spoke to several agents at the third-party reservation company, a hotel chain representative, a front desk clerk and the front desk clerk manager.

The most disturbing revelation from this ordeal…the agents from the third-party hotel reservation company are allowed to say they are from the actual hotel chain when asked directly because they are affiliates. This does not seem right to me….

I believe we are going to get a refund.

Lesson learned…

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Black Holes

The weekend before Thanksgiving, I took my daughter to the Franklin Institute to see the Cleopatra exhibit. Our ticket included the Franklin Institute, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology and a planetarium show. The planetarium show my daughter wanted to see was about Black Holes.

My daughter has expressed interest in becoming a chef, a designer and a restaurant owner. She has notebooks full of sketches and a collection of cookbooks. She recently informed me that she wants to be an astrophysicist. Her college of choice is MIT.

Did I mention she is only eleven?

We only had a few minutes to race across the museum in order to see the planetarium show. She picked the perfect seat and sat down. Once the show started, she raised her fist in a manner reminiscent of a rock concert rather than a program about black holes. During the show, my daughter whispered commentary throughout the program. I thought the show was interesting but my daughter expressed disappointment in the lack of detail.

One particular term caught my attention. The event horizon is the boundary of the black hole. "Nothing inside the event horizon can ever cross the boundary and escape beyond it, including light. Thus, nothing that enters a black hole can get out or can be observed from outside the event horizon." The planetarium show illustrated this by depicting kayakers trying to paddle upstream to avoid an impending waterfall. There comes a time when there is no way out.

The term event horizon aptly describes this busy season at work. There have been so many problems...late product, manufacturing delays, reduced staffing, errors and discourteous customers. When I told one customer his shipment would be sent the next business day he yelled..."Do you know who I am?"

Tomorrow, we anticipate another product shortage. It is going to be a long day.

Thank you for bearing with my lack of posting and commenting. I walked into dojo tonight and one black belt asked "Do we know you?"

Hopefully, I will be recognizable soon! :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

It Would Be So Easy...

For the past month, I have been working a full time and 2 part-time jobs. My karate training has been non-existent. I can count on one hand the number of classes I taught in November. Thanksgiving Day marks the end of our busy season at work. I am starting to see the light at the end of the work tunnel.

It would be so easy NOT to resume regular karate practice. The holidays are fast approaching and I have a lot of catching up to do. I need to file eight weeks of paperwork, balance my checkbook (I am behind 2 months), post to write and cookies to bake. I would like to complete several half-finished projects at home. I look forward to getting more than five hours of sleep a night. I have December 1st circled on my calendar because my gym membership will restart after a three month hold.

It would be so easy to take a break from karate.

While I was contemplating extending my karate break, John Vesia's post about Making Time appeared in my Google Reader.

Everyone has a busy life. If you have a family, a career, and various responsibilities, life can indeed be a burdensome. It's easy to say "I don't have time to train with everything that's going on." And every time you let it go, it just gets easier and easier to say that. But if you can slip in just one training session a week, you'll be better off.

After reading his post, I realized I needed to start "showing up".

Thanks John! Your post was exactly what I needed to read.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Macho Men and Aggressive Driving

My car was pulled off the side of the road in a residential area. It was early morning and traffic was light. A large, loud truck was at the stop sign. I guess he did not like how I was parked. The truck waited a moment then accelerated towards my car and drove as close as possible to my vehicle. I did not know it at the time but the truck drove down the road and parked among a group of vehicles. After a few minutes, I continued down the street. The driver of the truck then pulled out from his parking spot and went speeding down the road. Was he waiting to see my reaction?

Science Daily reported on a study by Julie Langlois, a graduate student at the University of Montreal Department of Psychology, that determined "the more "macho" the man, the more risks he took on the road".

"Our hypothesis was that hyper-masculine drivers, often referred to as macho, were more likely to take risks in order to catch a car," says Langlois. "We didn't tell test subjects to disobey the law, yet they knew others had accomplished the same task in seven minutes."

Results of the car simulator exam highlighted men's slight tendency for risk. Still, it was during interviews that a link between macho men and speed revealed itself. "Previous studies had shown that hyper-masculine men were more aggressive on the road," says Langlois. "But we wanted to take it further."

"Some men develop a passion for driving that can verge on the obsessive," says Langlois. "They consider cars to be an extension of themselves and they become extremely aggressive if they are honked at or cut off."

The NHTSA "defines aggressive driving as occurring when an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property." In a recent four hour drive on the PA Turnpike, I witnessed multiple acts of aggressive driving. It was a busy weekend and people were frequently changing lanes, tailgating, failing to signal and driving at excessive speeds. Groups of cars appeared to be chasing each other as they weaved in and out of traffic. The drivers on this particular day were primarily male.

From Progressive Insurance: Road Rage Tips

Protect yourself.
If you are dealing with an aggressive driver, make sure your doors are locked. If you're stopped in traffic, leave enough room to pull out from behind the car you're following. If an aggressive driver confronts you, dial 911 or go to the nearest police station.

Don't take it personally.
Be polite and courteous, even if the other driver isn't. Avoid any conflict, if possible. If another driver challenges you, take a deep breath and move out of the way! Never underestimate the other driver's capacity for causing mayhem.

Reduce your own stress.

Report aggressive drivers.
Some states have a phone number that you can use to

Be a courteous driver.
You can set the example, which can help make our roads safer.
Control your anger.
Don't take traffic problems personally.
Avoid making eye contact with an aggressive driver.
Don't make obscene gestures.
Don't tailgate.
Use your horn sparingly — even a polite honk can be misinterpreted.
Don't block the passing lane.
Don't block the right turn lane.

What do you think about the study cited in Science Daily?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Quitting Karate - A Response

Over a year ago, I wrote the post "Should They Have Been Allowed to Quit?". This post received many comments and even prompted responses on others blogs. When I look at my site statistics, I am always surprised by the number of people searching for "quitting karate".

Last week, an anonymous commenter shared his story about karate and quitting. I want to share his response.

My Dad.
Once when I was a struggling Brown Belt, my dad came into my room and told me to get my uniform on, it was time to go to class. "I don't want to go anymore dad," I said.

"Ok," he replied, "Put your uniform on it's time to go to class."

"Dad, you didn't hear me, I said I don't want to go anymore," I answered.

"I heard you," he said with a smile, "put on your uniform, it's time to go.

He made me go. For at least a month, I begged, cried, pleaded, acted up and did everything I could to not go. After that month I realized that this was important enough to him, that I didn't have a choice. It's like eating my veggies, going to school, going to bed on time, doing my chores, taking my epilepsy medicine. Did I mention I was born with epilepsy?

I didn't know it, but the doctors had told my parents I probably wouldn't live past 30, either the seizures would kill me, or the medicine would destroy my kidneys.

Through my training I learned breath control and deep meditation. Through meditation, I learned to control my seizures. I am 46 years old, have two kids, 9 and 10, a wonderful wife and a career running my own school.

Through meditation I learned to control my seizures, I've not had a seizure or medicine treating them in over 20 years. I still feel my epilepsy, it's there, tingling on my right side, but I control it.

In that one moment, when my dad said, "Put on your uniform, it's time to go," he saved my life and insured the birth of his grandkids.

Think carefully about your decision to allow your kids to choose a destiny you have the wisdom to see, but they do not.

Everyday I see my father's wisdom, more and more.

Also, this is a good example of the butterfly effect.

Anonymous, thank you for sharing your story.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Three Right Knees

My husband had right knee surgery in 2005 to repair his lateral meniscus.

I had right knee surgery in 2007 to repair a torn ACL.

My daughter injured her right knee last week at soccer practice. It was an accidental contact injury. Two people charging for the ball at the same time. Her foot planted and the impact was on the outside of her knee. She stood up and continued practicing. She even played a soccer game this weekend. As I watched the game, I noticed that she would rub her knee after she kicked the ball.

I scheduled an appointment with the pediatrician today. The doctor examined her knee and there may be soft tissue damage. The doctor mentioned the MCL and meniscus. The doctor said there was no tear but recommended that she see an orthopedic specialist.

I hope her knee is ok....

Friday, October 22, 2010

Should Karate Class Be Fun?

Every so often the topic of karate class and fun is discussed among the black belt in the dojo. It is a difficult balance especially when working with new and younger students. Last night I taught the second intro lesson to an 8 year old girl. It was the girl’s idea to take karate lessons. In my experience, there is a big difference in the student when it is their idea rather than their parent’s idea.

The intro lesson included straight punches, front snap kick, blocks and self-defense against a push. We used the punching bags and the foam blockers. It was a good session and the girl looked happy when she left the dojo. After the class was over, the other instructor in the dojo asked me if the girl seemed to like karate. His comment about the new student was that during next lesson we need to make sure we do something fun. My reaction was immediate, “Class was fun!” His response, “Fun for you…”

The black belt instructor made a good point. Karate class is fun for me. I like drills, kata, kobudo, self-defense bag work etc. A few weeks ago, we spent 45 minutes discussing the U-punch. That was a fun class too. My idea of a fun karate class is probably not the same as a young student’s idea of a fun karate class. In our dojo, when teaching young students, we disguise basics, movement drills, and balance/coordination exercises in a “game”. We devote the last few minutes of class to “fun” drills.

Flash back eight years ago. I worked as a karate instructor in a dance center for one year. The woman who owned the center wanted to get more boys involved. The owner had a prosperous dance center for young (3-6) children. She saw moms drop off their daughters and walk out of the center with their sons. The owner thought karate was the answer. The program only lasted a year because the facility was not equipped to handle dance and karate. The karate classes were only offered on off-nights due to space limitations.

The owner of the dance center was very good at what she knew. She offered princess tea birthday parties, princess dance camps and beginning ballet and tap. The facility was in the middle of a shopping mall and parents would drop off their children, shop for an hour and return for pickup. The owner did not know anything about traditional karate. At the end of my classes she would stand outside the door and ask each child (in a sugary sweet artificial voice) “Did you have fun?” I realized quickly that teaching a martial art in this environment was not going to work.

So back to my question…should a karate class be fun?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

All Work...

Just a quick update. I can't believe it has been over a week since my last post!

I have been working a full time and two part-time jobs. The company I work for is a distributor of Halloween and Christmas merchandise. We supply tree lots, lawn and garden centers and wreath makers. We sell the pin Christmas tree stand for pre-drilled trees.

In the dojo we are working on flow drills, Eiku and bo-kama. We have a new group of beginner students that are doing well. My tai chi instructor is scheduling a date to bring the class to our dojo.

My life feels out of balance.

All work...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happiness Is.... (Karate Version)

Happiness is selecting new karate weapons.

Happiness is having an instant cold pack in your gear bag and not having to use it.

Happiness is an enthusiastic white belt student.

Happiness is a dedicated black belt student.

Happiness is watching students from the dojo test for shodan.

Happiness is great training partners...past and present.

Happiness is seeing people from my karate past.

Happiness is attending weddings and graduations of former "karate kids".

Happiness is making connections...the "ah ha" moments.

Happiness is karate road trips.

Happiness is a voice mail message from my tai chi instructor telling me the class wants to visit the dojo.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

When You Know Something You Shouldn't

Did you ever know something you should not know?

I know something I don't want to know. It is none of my business or concern. It is one of those things you wish you could un-know. If only I could cover my ears and hum loudly...

The problem is that I do not want to say something by accident. It is not a good situation.

It is a weight on my shoulders.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

First Karate Uniform

In our dojo, we offer a few weeks of introductory lessons for potential students. We want the student and/or parents to experience a typical karate class. We want parents to meet the instructors and learn about our teaching philosophy. During the introductory period, the potential student attends class in street clothes. They usually wear shorts or sweatpants depending on the season.

Once the decision is made to sign up for lessons, we determine what size uniform to order. We always fit the jacket because the pants are almost always too long. There are times when we have to order uniforms because we do not have a specific size in stock.

Last night, I handed out three new karate uniforms. There is something special about the first karate uniform. The look on the kids faces was priceless as they were handed their gi. They were so excited. They stepped on the dojo floor with their heads held high.

Do you remember the first time you wore a gi?

Update...What's Going On?

I am finally feeling better!

Last week was crazy because I had to buy a car. It was not something I planned and was definitely not in my budget. I have been dealing with a cursed car since 2008. I do not like dealing with car salesmen. I researched several cars and contacted dealerships. I reviewed the article Car Dealer Tricks, Strategies, Scams and Tactics. One dealership pulled all the tricks over the phone. I told the sales manager I would not set foot in his lot to be bombarded by the sales team and limited time deals.

I was able to practice karate last Thursday for the first time in two weeks. We ended up spending 45 minutes discussing a U-Punch. The discussion was prompted by the kata Passai. Good times! :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Kicked In The Head

Ok..not really but it is how I feel.

I am dealing with the worst sinus infection I ever had. I missed two days of work and I am on ten days of Antibiotics and Prednisone. I woke up one day last week and half my face was swollen. Thankfully, most of the swelling is gone and I am back to work.

I want to thank all the readers of this blog! I appreciate the comments, readers and followers. I apologize for my delayed responses to comments and my own lack of commenting on other blogs sites. I have over 115 posts in my Google Reader to catch up on.

Here's to a better week!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Make An Impact

Photo: 2010 Okefenokee Swamp

We all have the potential to make an impact on another persons life. Sometimes it is as simple as a kind word, a helping hand or a note of thanks. A small moment that perhaps we will forget happened but will be remembered by the recipient.

We all assume various roles. I am a parent, spouse, daughter, sibling, friend, co-worker, training partner and martial arts instructor. We have opportunities on a daily basis to offer encouragement, support, praise, assistance, empathy and compassion.

My daughter has attended the same school since she started pre-school at age three. She has been part of the school community for eight of her eleven years. I remember being stopped by a teacher in the parking lot of kindergarten graduation. The teacher wanted to let us know that our daughter was kind to the other children. It was nice to hear.

Last week, my daughter received a hand written envelope at school. It was a note from her art teacher.

Dear E,

It has been so much fun watching you grow into such a lovely young lady over the years. The art work you did for me this week was perfect! Thanks again for helping me out.

Mrs. B.

My daughter was thrilled with the note. She immediately showed me the card and explained how she helped the art teacher and a few other students. I am certain my daughter will remember the gesture, the teacher and the contents of the note. This was the same teacher who stopped us in the parking lot years ago. This teacher made an impact.

As a martial arts instructors, we have the opportunity to make an impact. Recently we attended the wedding of a student who we have not seen in years. She took lessons during her teen years attaining the rank of brown belt. We were happy to be invited to her wedding. During the reception, the father of the bride visited our table. He shook my husband's hand and thanked us both for teaching his daughter karate. He credits the time she spent with us in the dojo as instrumental in her path to be the confident person she is today. We ran into her mother a few weeks after the wedding. The mother thanked us for coming to the wedding and told us that we are very close to her daughter's heart. We made an impact but did not find out until after eight years have past.

Each day, we all have opportunities to make an impact.

Thank you and welcome to the visitors from Aikido Journal. Many thanks to Brandon Clapp for listing my post "Managing a Break in Your Martial Arts Training" as a recommended link.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Youth Soccer – “Show No Mercy!”

My daughter plays youth soccer on a T3 Under 12 team. I am glad she is part of a team and I enjoy watching her play. I am the quiet parent sitting on the sidelines. I usually sit alone near the center of the field. I watch the game and listen to the commotion on the sidelines. There are parents who cheer, complain, criticize, yell, grumble, applaud and moan.

Game 1:

I found an open spot on the sidelines to set my chair. Within minutes, parents of the opposing team filled in the space next to me. Sitting next to me was an exuberant, chatty father. Through the course of the game, I learned a lot about him. He told me where he was from, why he moved, how he loved living in a rural area and about his chickens. He told me about the opposing teams practice schedule, their drills and the coach. The coach was a local celebrity and soccer professional. The coach retired from competitive soccer and is teaching a girls team for fun.

The chatty father pointed out his daughter and wanted to know which one was mine. He gestured to the end of the field and said, "The Amazon playing defense is my daughter". Yep, he actually said Amazon. The chatty father apologized to me in advance because his daughter was probably going to knock some of our team down. Their coach was teaching some of the more talented players to knock opposing team members over without being called for it. The chatty dad got it half-right. His daughter stomped over my daughter and knocked her down. The referee called a penalty.

Game 2:

Once again, I found and open spot on the sidelines to set my chair. This week I was surrounded by parents and grandparents of our team. The moment the whistle blew the commentary began. The grandfather did not stop talking the entire one-hour game. “They need to run to the ball. Look at the other team, they are running to the ball. They need to kick the ball forward not backward. Look at the other teams goalie, she should have brought a lawn chair. They need to run. The coaches need to be harder on the girls. Kick the ball forward.” Repeat over and over again.

Our team was losing at least 8-0 with only a few minutes left in the game. The other team was excited and seemed to become increasingly aggressive. At one point, an 11-year-old girl on the opposing team shouted, “Show No Mercy!”. A moment later, our goalie was hit in the face with the ball and an opposing player knocked her down. The goalie had to leave the game with an ice pack.

What do you think of the “Show No Mercy!” comment? Do you have any youth soccer stories to share?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Religious Objections In The Dojo

This blog post is my opinion based on my experiences in a traditional dojo and my personal religious upbringing. I am a practicing Catholic who attends church on Sunday. My daughter attends parochial school. My husband was born to a Greek Orthodox father and Lutheran mother. The students in our dojo practice a wide range of religious traditions.

A new family, a father and two children, came to the dojo for their first class. My husband Tom taught class. I was not in the dojo because I took our daughter to the doctor for a sinus infection. When I arrived back home, I stopped by the dojo to inquire about the new students. I asked how class went and the black belts in the room shook their head and said, "Not good".

I was surprised to hear there was a problem because our dojo was referred by friends of the new family. During the course of the class, my husband explained basic dojo etiquette. We bow before entering and leaving the training area. At the beginning and end of class, we bow to the instructor and to the shinza.

The new student objected to bowing for religious reasons.

Bow - to bend the knee or body or incline the head, as in reverence, submission, salutation, recognition or acknowledgement.

My husband explained we bow as a sign of respect. The students bow to the instructors to thank them for teaching. The teacher will bow to the students to thank them for participating in class. We bow to the shinza to pay respect to those who have trained before us.

Everyone has the right to their beliefs. Sadly, I do not think the new family will be back.

After searching for articles regarding martial arts and religion, I share with you the following links:

In August 2007, John Vesia explained in his post Losing My Religion:

...that while Taoism and Zen are the philosophical foundations that most Asian martial arts are built upon, they are not theistic religions as we understand them in the West. Bowing, meditation, and other forms of dojo etiquette could be missconstrued as paganism to an outsider, but they're just part of the stock ritual that exists at most schools.

The Accidental Aikidoist wrote a commentary reacting to this post which argues that Christians should not practice the martial arts. Accidental Aikidoist states:

I find this funny, funny that this man has gone to great lengths to try and prove that something is “evil” of which he has no knowledge or experience of the arts. I will speak for myself when I say that experience is a virtue that is prized by many.

Please feel free to comment and remember everyone has the right to their own religious beliefs. Due to the sensitive nature of this topic, I have temporarily enabled comment moderation.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tweens, Dances and Disposable Clothing

I was warned on more that one occasion. Parents of tweens and teenagers would give me a knowing look and say, “Just wait…you are going to have your hands full”. I did not realize it would start so soon….

School picture day was Monday and I offered to take my daughter shopping for a new dress. Normally she wears a uniform to school: plaid skirt, white blouse, navy knee socks, black shoes. On picture day, the students are allowed to wear regular clothes that fit appropriately. There is a long list of “No’s” such as No jeans, No short skirts, No sleeveless tops, etc.

We arrived at the mall an hour before closing. We planned our route and knew which stores we wanted to shop. At our last store, with only fifteen minutes to spare, my daughter found a top she liked. She came out of the dressing room and modeled her choice. I liked the top but made a grave error. I told her that the top would also be great for the first CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) dance.

My comment caused a dilemma and an immediate reaction. The following spilled out of my daughter’s mouth:

You ruined everything!
How could I possibly wear this top for picture day AND the first dance.
I cannot wear the same top twice.
Everyone would remember!
If I wear the new top to the dance, what am I going to wear for picture day?
What am I going to do?
None of the other kids wears the same outfit twice.

I waited for the monologue to finish. I told her that clothing is not disposable. The tween years have officially begun.

Any tips on surviving the tween/teen years?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What Would You Have Done?

Over Labor Day weekend, I had the unexpected opportunity to go to Florida. My sister planned to take my daughter to Discovery Cove to swim with the dolphins. Initially, they wanted me to go on the trip but I could not get the time off work. A few days before the trip, I could get time off work and was able book a reasonable flight.

My sister loves to travel and when she goes on vacation there is no rest. Kim calls her three-day trips “warrior weekends”. Here is a sample of our itinerary:

Day began at 3:30 a.m.
Fly from Philadelphia to Jacksonville.
Arrive in Florida by 10:00 a.m.
Drive to Georgia via an unpaved road along railroad tracks.
We bought lunch at the only restaurant in Fargo, Georgia (population 380) where they served excellent sweet tea and lemonade.
We rented a boat in the Okefenokee Swamp. On our self-guided boat tour, we saw alligators, black water, turtles and cypress trees. We were stuck in the swamp once and had to use our oars to paddle out. Our only major mishap was driving the boat into a tree. We tried to reverse and ended up going forward. (We only had a two-minute lesson on boat driving.)
Drive to hotel in Orlando (3 hours).
After a quick dinner, we went swimming in the hotel pool.
Return to the room by 11:00 p.m.

The schedule was non-stop. Whenever I travel with Kim, there are always stories to tell on our return. The stories are usually funny or silly. On this trip, a situation unfolded which left me wondering...

On Sunday night, our small group was heading to the pool. We walked along a pathway that winded around the hotel complex. It was well lit and populated by hotel guests. We heard screams from inside a room…”Help me! Help me!” The door opened and a woman carrying a toddler and a cell phone came outside. The woman walked over to us and stood among our group which included my 11 year old daughter. The woman was excited and wanted to talk to a manager. She said her husband was trying to hurt her.

The husband walked out and stayed a few feet away from his wife. He told everyone that his wife was drunk and everything was fine. I told the woman she could walk with us to the pool where there would be a hotel attendant on duty. As soon as I made the suggestion, she walked away from our group and headed in the another direction. The husband followed at a distance repeating, “It is o.k. She is drunk.” The woman walked away with the husband following her. The other hotel guests on the path or on their porch did not say anything. My group continued walking to the pool. At the pool, we looked to see if the husband and wife were on the path but they were gone.

I observed the following:
No obvious smell of alcohol.
No slurred speech.
No apparent bruises or rumpled clothing.
Woman had cell phone out and ready.
Man did not appear agitated.
Toddler was not crying.
Woman did not want to walk with us to the pool area.

What would you have done?

Approximately a half an hour later we ran into the woman and man on the path back to our room. She was still carrying a toddler. The only difference was that she had a margarita in her hand instead of the cell phone. The husband followed about twenty feet behind her.

Thank you for reading! If you are new visitor, please consider becoming a follower or subscriber.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Having Versus Being

For the most part, I try to keep my blog post's positive. I want to encourage, share and discuss. But every once in a while...

The black belts were in the dojo after class having one of our discussions. Some of the best karate discussions are the ones which happen after class. A relaxed, impromptu exchange of ideas. The topics range from martial arts, technique, current legislation, scenarios, local interest, agriculture, our kids, current news, etc.

Last night, we were talking about our kids, school and activities. My daughter participates in club soccer. During the course of the conversation, we discussed the fact that two of the players on the U12 team are "retired" black belts. They attended the local chain karate school and received black belt ranking. I am sure the girls worked hard and accomplished what they needed to earn shodan rank in their school. This post is not about the two girls.

My question to the group...What happens when students who earn black belts at a very young age and retire are adults? They are still black belts...right? Everyone in the group agreed but we made a distinction which applies to all ages. It applies to all of us.

There is a difference between having and being.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Managing A Break In Your Martial Arts Training

As an instructor, I have been notified by email, phone, voice mail and face-to-face when a student is taking a break in training. There have been instances when a student just stops coming to class. I will only find out later, when I run into them in the grocery store or at the mall, they are taking a break. The conversation sounds something like this....

Student: I need to take a break for a few months due, baseball, swimming, vacation, school work, job changes, scheduling conflicts etc.

Me: I am sorry to hear that you are taking a break but I understand. You will be missed in the dojo. If you have a free night, please feel free to come to class if you get a chance.

Student: I will definitely be back in a few months.

I smile and wish them the best.

From my experience, after the "take a break" conversation, I know there is about a 50% chance the student will return. The time set aside for karate training quickly gets absorbed into other activities or projects. One black belt who took a longer break than he expected was surprised how difficult it was to get back into training. He was concerned about forgetting material and feeling out of shape.

Last night, I had the same conversation from a different perspective. I called my tai chi instructor and told him I needed to take a break until December. I put my gym membership on hold due to work responsibilities. The conversation was the same except I was the student. It was a new perspective. As an instructor, it is never an easy conversation to hear. As a student, it was a tough phone call to make.

I do not want to be part of the 50% who does not return to training. I am planning ahead and making a list of ways to manage break in my tai chi training.

1. Keep in contact with your instructor and the other students.
2. Stop by for a class...even if it is once a month.
3. Practice on your own so you don't forget the material.
4. Keep reading and studying.
5. Set a date for your return. Don't leave it open ended.
6. Invite your training partners for an informal workout.
7. I invited my tai chi instructor to teach a guest session at our dojo.

Have you ever taken a break in training? How did you stay involved/interested? Did you return? Any ideas to add to the list?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Splinters, String Cheese and Black Salve

One of those days....

This morning was my daughters second day of school. She woke up tired and had a list of complaints - socks were too short, shoes were too new and uncomfortable, not enough sleep, book bag too heavy and switching classes too difficult. This morning was the complete opposite of the glorious morning yesterday. On the first day of school she was ready early, ate breakfast and had a few minutes to listen to her favorite music. How quickly things change!

I arrived at work to find out the owner of the company was visiting and I completely forgot today was the end of month. Orders need to ship, reports need to be run and statements need to be sent out. I unloaded cartons from my car and realized I have a metal splinter in my hand. A trip to the first aid kit to retrieve alcohol swabs and tweezers. No luck. The sliver of metal is still in my hand.

I brought a few items from home for lunch today including a pack of string cheese in the fridge. I open the cheese to find a black piece of material (rubber?) in the cheese. I immediately made me suspect of the whole package. Do I throw it all away? My co-worker suggested I send the company an email. Who knows where the black object came from?

Back to the splinter. My hand is now red and irritated because I tried several remedies to remove the splinter. I tried to use the tweezers to pull out the splinter. I soaked my hand in water to soften the skin. Someone suggested I cover the splinter with tape and pull the tape off quickly. Nothing worked. If the elderly woman who lived next door when I was a child was still alive, she would run into the house and bring out the black salve. It was a tar-like ointment with a nasty smell. She was always running into the house to get her jar of black salve.

Any ideas for the splinter?

Monday, August 30, 2010


I made a difficult decision regarding my gym membership. I put my account on hold for three months. I simply do not have enough hours in the day. I work full-time and have 2 part-time jobs. This is in addition to teaching two nights in the dojo. I work for a seasonal distribution company and we are approaching our busy season which requires long work days. Last year, I only made it to the gym a few times during October and not at all in November. In addition, the gym is a twenty minute commute one way.

It seems like a simple decision...but it is not. You see, my tai chi classes are at the gym. I have no intention of giving up tai chi but I need to take a three month break from the gym due to my work schedule.

I know it was the right decision but that does not mean I am happy about it. :(

Friday, August 27, 2010

ACL Injury - Surgery or No Surgery

An interesting article in The New York Times regarding a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

A summary from The New York Times:

Over two years, the injured knees were assessed using a comprehensive numerical score that rated pain, function during activity and other measures. At the time of the original injury, the knee also had been scored. At the end of the two years, both groups showed considerable improvement. The scores for the surgically repaired knees had risen by 39.2 points. The scores for the more conservatively treated knees also had risen, by 39.4 points. In other words, the outcomes were virtually identical. Despite a widespread belief that surgery leads to a stronger knee, the results showed that surgically reconstructing the A.C.L. as soon as possible after the tear “was not superior” to more conservative treatment, the study’s authors wrote. The findings suggest, the authors concluded, that “more than half the A.C.L. reconstructions” currently being conducted on injured knees “could be avoided without adversely affecting outcomes.

....By one estimate, as many as 1 in every 556 fit, active people will tear an A.C.L. — particularly if they participate in sports that involve frequent pivoting and landing, like soccer, football, tennis, skiing and basketball. ”

I chose to have ACL surgery in 2007. I don't think I would have been able to continue karate training without a stable knee. I was also in a hurry to have my knee "fixed". However, I do worry about the long term health of my knee. Early onset arthritis is a common occurrence in a knee with an ACL reconstruction.

Interesting Comments Heard in the Dojo

In 2010, the dojo turned 15 years old. We sold our small house in the suburbs located minutes from the Honbu dojo in 1995. We purchased an abandoned bar/restaurant and converted it into our house and dojo. The style of karate we teach is traditional Okinawa Kenpo Karate and Kobudo. Over the years, we had our fair share of interesting requests, comments and inquiries. Here are a few:

From a potential student
I have been training for several years in my basement watching videos. What belt does that make me in your dojo?

From the same student taking his first introductory lesson
I learned how to stop a beating heart from a video. Can I try it on you?

Potential student answering the question "What type of martial arts are you interested in?" What I am looking for would scare most people.

From a parent
My son is being picked on in school. Can you teach him to beat up the other kids?

2:00 AM phone call. Loud music and talking in the background. It sounded like he was calling from a bar or club.
Can you teach me self-defense?

From a beginner student after dropping into a split and punching the air during a sparring match.
I saw it in a movie.

A recent request from a parent
Would you teach my 10 year old son cage fighting?

Have you heard any interesting comments you would like to share?

Friday, August 20, 2010

10 Ways to Get Out of a Martial Arts Rut

Have you ever felt like you were in a rut? Doing the same thing and feeling like you are getting nowhere. Did you ever feel that way about your martial arts training? You come to class but don't feel like you are improving, learning or enjoying the process. Here are a few suggestions to help get out of a martial arts rut.

1. Examine your goals. Make sure you have short term and long term attainable goals.

2. Read a book. Be inspired by new ideas.

3. Go to a seminar. Seminars are a great way to jump start your enthusiasm. Personally, I am always motivated to train with more intensity after a great seminar.

4. Try something new.

5. Get out of your comfort zone.

6. Compete in a tournament.

7. Expose yourself to other martial arts styles and ways of thinking.

8. Take a road trip and train with friends. This is my personal favorite!

9. Take a small, scheduled break with a date of return. A few days/week away may remind you how much you enjoy training. Careful with this one...don't turn a short break into an extended absence.

10. Write a martial arts blog or comment on other blogs. Joining the blogging community kept me involved in martial arts while recovering from an injury.

Any other suggestions? Please add to the list or share your experiences.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back To School - Ready or Not?

In two weeks, my daughter returns to school. I look at the calendar and cannot believe how quickly this summer went. She has been busy with camp, community theater and bible school. I am not ready for the summer to end. I look forward to the crisp fall weather but not the start of school.

When I was in school, I could not wait for the new school year to begin. I loved buying school supplies, picking out a new backpack and seeing my friends. As an adult, there is still some joy when buying a brand new box of Crayola crayons.

As a parent of a 6th grade student, I am dreading the new year. Sixth grade means school dances, lockers and science fair projects. This is the year that the boys and girls start "going together" - whatever that means. She is too old for the after school program but too young to be on her own.

I am not ready...but I think she is.

I guess that is all that matters.

Are you ready? Or not?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How Can You Help Motivate A Student to Continue Martial Arts Training?

My blog is receiving traffic from the search criteria - How can I convince someone to continue martial arts training? This is a difficult subject and everyone and every situation is different. As instructors we need to lead by example, encourage when possible and reinforce the positive. I am writing this from a karate instructor's viewpoint. We have had success dealing with students who want to quit due to a confidence or self-esteem issue and not a lack of interest in martial arts.

Here are some ideas:

1. If the student is overwhelmed with the depth of the material, it is important to set short term goals and reinforce their accomplishments. The student should be focused on their next kata not all the kata.

2. If the beginner student feels uncomfortable with their performance or feels awkward, you can remind them that everyone was a beginner at some point. If the student gives it time, they will become more comfortable. Old videos and early photos of class instructors and classmates as beginners can be a useful tool.

3. If the student is falling behind peers or family members, remind them that karate is individual. Individual training varies depending on age, ability and amount of time available for training. Often times when multiple family members start training at the same time (parents/children/siblings) they will progress at different rates.

4. If the student is reluctant to perform material individually, an instructor can be sensitive to this issue and assess a person's growth in a class setting. Have the student perform in front of a small group at first. Many times the beginner student will demonstrate alongside the class instructor for support and encouragement. The instructor allows the student to lead and follows the student giving them support.

5. If the student is over-scheduled, remind the student that martial arts is a lifetime endeavor and they should not feel pressured to be ready to test at every available opportunity.

6. Students who take a break can be reluctant to return because they feel left behind or don't remember material. Class instructors or higher rank students can work on material with the student to help them transition back to the dojo. Once again, remind the student that training is individual and not a race.

Ultimately, the student or parent will decide what is best.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Improvised Weapons - A Discussion

Last night we had an excellent discussion on improvised weapons for use in self-defense. To prepare for the session, each person was asked to bring two ordinary items to the dojo. The group consisted of black belt students over the age of fourteen. Here is a sample of the items:

Teenager (male) - fishing rod, drum sticks
Young Adult (male) - large metal bolt removal tool used on trucks
Young Adult (female) - hard cover book
Adult (male) - umbrella, masonry hammer, magazine
Adult (male) - batteries, garden hoe, belt, metal ruler
Adult (female) - hip pack - contents include brush, phone, keys
Me -claw hammer, a stapler and clackers.

Each person presented their items and why they chose them. I chose a claw hammer because it could be used similar to a tunfa or kama. I brought the stapler because it is an item on my desk at work and home. And the clackers...why not?

Aside: The clackers were a toy from my youth in the 1970's. They rightfully belong to my brother. My parents took them from my brother and hid them in the closet behind a shoe box. My sister and I knew exactly where they were. We would find them, play with them and once our arms were bruised from being hit with the acrylic marble we would return them to their hiding place. A few years ago, my Dad put them in a box to be sold at a yard sale. I quickly reclaimed the clackers. Now I have to hide them from my daughter! Clackers were discontinued because they were a safety hazard and could be destructive. Only in the 70's....

One of the class instructors led the discussion and reference the book "Surviving Armed Assaults: A Martial Artists Guide to Weapons, Street Violence, and Countervailing Force" by Lawrence A Kane. The book includes chapters on Awareness, Avoidance, Scenarios, De-escalation, Conflict, Rules and the Aftermath. I will definitely be buying a copy of this book!

We examined our items and discussed potential uses and ways to defend. We found some items awkward to hold while others had surprising possibilities.

Low Tech Combat has some interesting articles on improvised weapons - Improvised Weapons and Grips and Holds. You should also check out Journeyman's post on The Cane

Just a quick disclaimer - This is a personal web log and this post is not intended as advice or instruction.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Glass Half Empty

I had a "glass half empty" week. Nothing seemed to be going all. I wrote a depressing post about my karate training that never made it to the publish stage. The post remains in my draft folder. I spent a portion of my week watching the weather forecast. My family had tickets for the Pennsylvania 500 at the Pocono Raceway. We had tickets last year but did not see the race because it Rained and Rained. The forecast changed every three hours...20%, 60%, 40% , 80% chance of rain for August 1 in Long Pond Pennsylvania.

We woke up Sunday morning and it was raining with a 65% chance of showers and thunderstorms. Do we take the chance and drive to the race? Last year we spent 5 hours trying to leave the parking lot when the race was cancelled. This year we waited for the Speed Network to broadcast from Long Pond before we made our decision. The announcers were cheerful when they spoke about the weather. One announcer mentioned the 65% chance of thunderstorms. He continued to say that in racing they focus on the 35% chance! He was having a "glass half full" day. From a marketing perspective...he had too.

We decided to go to the race. It started to drizzle as we approached Allentown. By the time we were on the Northeast Extension of the PA Turnpike it was raining. I had to be at work on Monday so if the race was cancelled I knew I could not make the trip back to Long Pond. I asked my husband and daughter to promise me they would drive back to Pocono if the race was cancelled. I wanted them to see a race...especially my daughter who is a Jeff Gordon fan.

We were less than ten miles from the track and it was still raining. We took the back way to the track so we were winding around the back roads of the Poconos. The rain stopped as we made our last right hand turn towards the track. The sky was cloudy but there were patches of blue sky. It turned out to be a good day for racing.

Elliott Sadler #19 making a pit stop. On lap 165, Elliott Sadler crashed headfirst into an ARMCO barrier. Video. Thankfully, he was able to walk away from this frightening crash.

It was a tough week but I learned a lesson. I spent too much time thinking about things which I had no control over. I looked at my glass as "half empty" even though I want to view it as "half full".

I am looking forward to a better week!

What about half full or glass half empty?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Congratulations! and Thank You!


Two students from our dojo, Fritz and Austin, were promoted to 1st Dan in Okinawa Kenpo Karate and 1st Dan Kobudo on July 10, 2010. They worked hard and did a great job at testing.

My husband was promoted to 6th Dan Karate, 6th Dan Kobudo. This was a difficult test for Tom due to chronic injuries and back pain.

I would also like to extend congratulations to fellow martial arts bloggers on their recent promotions.

Sandman was awarded his Black Belt this weekend.
SueC is now 1st Kyu Sue!
Frank was promoted to Orange Belt.

Thank You!

I would like to thank the Physical Therapy Assistant Schools blog for including my site in their list of 50 Best Karate Bloggers You Can Learn From. My blog was included in the teacher blog category.

I consider myself an accidental blogger. I was at the computer reading BobSpar's blog and I clicked on the button 'create blog'. Initially, I felt uncomfortable having information on the Internet that anyone could read. The first person I told about my blog was my sister. She told me not to worry about blogging because no one is going to read it.

Thank you to all the people who have read posts, commented, subscribed or became a follower of this blog!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Women and Martial Arts

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled What Women Want – Karate Version. In this post, I responded to Steve’s question “Do women want to be treated like training partners or treated like female training partners?”

In reaction to my post, an anonymous commenter makes some excellent points about strength, rank, capabilities, technique and the old masters. However, I must disagree with the conclusion of his comment.
Most women just aren’t very motivated and they tend to have completely unrealistic expectations about training: yes I want to learn how to defend myself but at the same time I don’t want to get my hands dirty or sweat too much. This is just the way things are and there’s little one can do about it. Men are by nature more drawn to physical activities and sports and are more likely to take responsibility for their own safety (who else is going to do it?) while most women couldn’t care less and will often quit when the going gets tough.

I recognize that the author of the anonymous comment used the words “most women”. However, in my experience, the women in the dojo are not worried about getting dirty or sweaty. They are in the dojo because they are taking responsibility for their own safety. Before writing this post, I called several of my female friends and family members and asked the following question. “Who is responsible for your personal safety?” Every woman responded, “I am”.

The anonymous comment reminded me of a previous post – Where Are the Men? In this post, I discuss a program taped at a local TV station. The topic of the panel discussion was women and martial arts. A male home viewer called and asked the female panel “Where are the men?” My response was simple – my personal safety and self-protection are my responsibility.

What do you think? Are men more likely to take responsibility for their own safety? Are women in the dojo afraid of sweating or getting dirty? Are men more drawn to physical activities and sports?

I also ask the women who read this blog – Who is responsible for your personal safety?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Home Alone - At What Age?

At a recent family gathering, my sister-in-law recounted a story about the first time she left her son home alone. My adult nephew was 10 or 11 years old at the time. My sister-in-law needed to run a quick errand that would take less than an hour. She went through "the rules" with my nephew and left the house. She returned home to find a police car parked in front of her house. I can only imagine the worry she felt at that moment. My nephew heard a noise and thought there was an intruder. He called 911. This happened only a few minutes after my sister-in-law left the building.

I started wondering about my own daughter. She is 11 years old and we do not leave her home alone. At what age can a child be left home alone? Is this up to the parents discretion or is there a legal age. From

The National SAFEKIDS Campaign recommends that no child under the age of 12 be left at home alone.

However, consider a child's age and maturity level. For example, if a child is extremely impulsive, it might be best to wait until he or she is older than 12.

There appear to be very few states with specific regulations about the age of a child left at home alone. However, since the number of latchkey kids is growing significantly due to 2 income parents and single parents and guardians, there is a growing movement within state agencies to set guidelines.

In Illinois, the minimum age requirement for a child to be left home alone is fourteen. In Maryland and South Carolina, the minimum age is eight. There is no minimum age limit in the state of Pennsylvania. Click here to see the chart by state.

I was in high school (13 yrs) before my parents left me home alone. My sister and I would walk home together from the bus stop. We would be home a few hours before our parents came home from work. My parents were overprotective. I was only allowed to ride my bike on the sidewalk in front of the house. My Dad logged countless hours sitting on the park bench at the playground. I was not allowed to see R-Rated movies or go to Under 21 nights at the local dance clubs. My husband lived in a neighborhood where it was easy to bike to school, to the pool or to friends. He would leave early in the day on his bicycle and return by dark. He was the youngest of four brothers and had more freedom at an earlier age.

Now that I have my own daughter...I have become my parents. I still walk her to the bus stop. I wait at soccer practice.

I am not ready to leave her home alone.

What do you think? At what age would you leave your child home alone? And for how long? Was it different when you were young?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Can You Feel…

…where your energy is coming from?

My Tai Chi instructor asked this question on Tuesday night.


The class was so quiet you could almost hear the sound of people blinking. After a long pause, one student spoke up and asked, “What happens if the answer is No?”

Three heads quickly turned to the instructor.


The instructor explained that it is something you need to feel. Students need to “go inside” and become aware. The joints open up, energy flows and movement generates from the center. Meditation, focus, practice, push hands and the form help students make connections and “feel”.


The word used by the senior student as we left the building.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What Women Want - Karate Version

I have been reading with great interest a series of articles by Steve on his site Steve BJJ Log. Steve has been training in BJJ since 2006. He asked the following question as it relates to his BJJ training.

Do women want to be treated like training partners or treated like female training partners?

I am a karate practitioner and the only thing I know about BJJ is what I read on Steve's excellent blog. I know his question was directed to women who study BJJ. However, it made me think about my karate training and what I wanted as a female karate practitioner. The most surprising thing was that I did not have an immediate clear cut answer. What did I want...?

When I walk into a dojo, I see people in karate uniforms. I does not matter if they are male or female. I admit...most of my training partners are men. When I first started karate there were only a few adult women in the dojo. Most of the female students were kids or teenagers. I tested for shodan in 1996 with three male training partners. Steve's post made me wonder what my training partners think of me. Do they think of me as a "training partner" or a "female training partner"? I am going to ask them.

In my opinion, in regard to open hand and weapon kata, I have not experienced a great difference between the genders as training partners. But what about sparring? Is this where we see a distinction of male and female? In our dojo, I have watched my fair share of sparring rounds. The male/male and the female/female rounds were often more intense than the male/female rounds. Is it about gender? Size/weight? Preconceived societal norms? There have been a few male students who initially refuse to spar a females. They said, "I don't hit girls".

Back to Steve's question...Do women wanted to be treated as training partners or treated like a female training partner?

I can only answer for myself as a karate practitioner.

I want to be treated as a training partner who happens to be female. I want the opportunity to train, share ideas, make mistakes, correct mistakes and try new techniques. I want training partners that push me to be the best I can. I will do the same in return. I want to learn, experiment and test my limits. I want a training partner who understands my limits are mine to determine. I want training partners who understand basic anatomical differences between men and women.

Above all else, training partners should communicate what they want...regardless of gender.

Thanks to Steve for discussing this topic on his blog.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thanks For Serving

In February, my family drove to Florida only hours ahead of the Washington DC blizzard. We got in our car and headed down I-95. Our plan was to drive as long as we could in order to avoid most of the snow. We made it to Fayetteville, NC when we stopped for the night.

The next morning I called my parents to check on the weather conditions in Pennsylvania. I told my parents we were in Fayetteville. My Dad was in the background. I could hear him talking fast and asking questions. He was talking about a museum and catalogs. Finally, my Mom handed him the phone.

My Dad served in the 82nd Airborne from 1948-1954. He served as a paratrooper and made 52 jumps in the US, Philippines and Japan. He was stationed in NC and GA for over three years. He spent 6 months in the Philippines and 18 months on Okinawa. My Dad asked if we could get him a catalog from the Airborne museum. I told him I did not know what our schedule was for the day but I would see what I could do.

I found information on the Airborne and Special Operations Museum. We drove to Historic Downtown Fayetteville and found the museum. It was great. The exhibits were excellent and the volunteers were friendly and willing to share stories. I bought my Dad a baseball hat with the 82nd Airborne logo. He loves his hat and wears it often.

Thursday July 1

My family and I went to a minor league baseball game. We stood in line waiting to hand in our tickets. The man collecting the tickets paused to talk to my Dad. My Dad was wearing his favorite hat. The man said, "82nd Airborne. Thanks for serving".

My Dad smiled and nodded to the man. Simple words of thanks that made an impact.

Happy 4th of July!

I posted a few of my Dad's pictures from the military in previous posts. Please stop by and check the out the photographs.

82nd Airborne 1948-1954 - Photos

The note on the back of the photo reads "It is only 250 feet from the ground - not so high. They take us up and drop us. The parachute drops us about 16-20 feet per second. When you hit the ground you hit like a sack of potatoes but it is sand and you don't hurt yourself too much."

Close-up - Top of Tower

Getting ready to jump.

Inside the plane.

82nd Airborne 1948-1954 - Photos ll

My Dad in front of his barracks.

Training - How to exit the plane

Training - How to exit the plane.

Close up of training tower.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Okinawa 1951

My Dad took these photos around 1951 on Okinawa. He lived on Okinawa for 18 months during his time in the Army.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Life Without Martial Arts

Martial arts have been part of my life since, learning, teaching. My husband opened his dojo in 1995. Currently we have classes three days a week. I attend monthly workouts at the Honbu and regularly attend Federation training events. I had two lapses in training...during pregnancy and after ACL surgery. When I was pregnant, I stopped teaching at 6 months because I was making the students nervous. They were concerned about losing weapons and accidentally hitting me. I was off the dojo floor for three months after ACL surgery. I returned with a long list of restrictions.

For the past three weeks, I feel like I have been on a karate vacation and have spent considerably less time on martial arts. My tai chi instructor is out of the country. My husband has taught all the karate classes due to black belt test preparation. I work full time and my evenings are spent helping a community theater group. My daughter is in a play and the practices are in the evenings from 6:00-9:00. Parent involvement is essential. Jobs range from costumes to scenery to raffle sales. It is almost 10:00 p.m. by the time we arrive home.

Now I must confess... I have practiced a little. I went to one seminar in Altoona, attended the monthly Honbu workout and worked on the Yang long form with some of the other tai chi students.

Have you ever thought about stopping completely? What would life be like without martial arts? What would fill up my time? Would it be easy to stop training? I think about the last few weeks and this it what life is like without martial arts....

Rick Matz from Cook Ding's Kitchen commented on a previous post that martial arts training is like gravity. I has only been a few weeks and I can feel the tug back to the dojo. I am counting down the two weeks left of play rehearsals. I look foward to tai chi class next week when my instructor returns. I am planning to participate in the last few sessions of black belt testing at our dojo. Next weekend, I will be at a 3 day Federation seminar.

Thank goodness for gravity!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On Forgetting

Have you ever forgotten something...keys, glasses, phone numbers, names, online passwords? In my household, we are always searching for our car keys. There is often a scramble to find our keys and to remember where we set them down. Inevitably, this happens when we are already running late. It does not help that our cats like to play with keys until they slide underneath a piece of furniture.

Why do we forget?

One of today’s best known memory researchers, Elizabeth Loftus, has identified four major reasons why people forget:

1. Retrieval Failure
Have you ever felt like a piece of information has just vanished from memory? Or maybe you know that it’s there, you just can’t seem to find it. One common cause of forgetting is simply an inability to retrieve a memory. One explanation for why
retrieval fails is known as decay theory. According to this theory, a memory trace is created every time a new theory is formed. Decay theory suggests that over time, these memory traces begin to fade and disappear. If information is not retrieved and rehearsed, it will eventually be lost. One problem with this theory, however, is that research has demonstrated that even memories which have not been rehearsed or remembered are remarkably stable in long-term memory.

2. Interference
Another theory known as interference theory suggests that some memories compete and interfere with other memories. When information is very similar to other information that was previously stored in memory, interference is more likely to occur. There are two basic types of interference:

* Proactive interference is when an old memory makes it more difficult or impossible to remember a new memory.
* Retroactive interference occurs when new information interferes with your ability to remember previously learned information.

3. Failure to Store
We also forget information because it never actually made it into long-term memory. Encoding failures sometimes prevent information from entering long-term memory. In one well-known experiment, researchers asked participants to identify the correct U.S. penny out of a group of incorrect pennies (Nickerson & Adams). Try doing this experiment yourself by attempting to draw a penny from memory, and then compare your results to an actual penny.

4. Motivated Forgetting
Sometimes, we may actively work to forget memories, especially those of traumatic or disturbing events or experiences. The two basic forms of motivated forgetting are: suppression, a conscious form of forgetting, and repression, an unconscious form of forgetting.

In my own martial arts training, I have experienced retrieval failure, interference and failure to store.

Retrieval Failure: I have stood ready to compete in kata and my mind went completely blank. How does my kata begin? A few weeks ago at a Honbu training session, my instructor announced the bo kata we were going to practice. I must have made an inquisitive face with my eyes raised slightly to the left. My instructor laughed and told me that since I was looking up to the left...that's where my kata was stored. It took a few seconds to remember or retrieve the information.

Interference: We study two very similar bo kata Tokumine Nokun Ichi and Tokumine Nokun Ni. I was learning Tokumini Nokun Ichi and I almost had the pattern. My instructor decided that I should compete with Tokumine Nokun Ni in an upcoming tournament. I quickly learned the second kata and to this day Tokumine Nokun Ni is my favorite bo kata. However, Tokumine Nokun Ichi is hard for me to remember. It was as if the second kata bumped the first one from my brain.

Failure to Store: Have you ever left a class/seminar with information overload?

Any thoughts on forgetting?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Most Important Thing to Bring to a Martial Arts Seminar

You signed up to attend a martial arts seminar. After making the necessary arrangements (transportation, time off from work, childcare), it is time to pack your gear bag. I include the following items:

Sparring Gear (if required)
Water Bottle
Notebook and Pen
Instant Ice Pack
Band Aids
Power Bar / Granola Bar

I have forgotten items. Once I even picked up my husbands obi instead of mine. I had to make last minute stops for water or naproxen. A few times, I had to borrow weapons when I left my kama, tekkos or nunchaku at home. The items in the above list are all important but I would not consider any one the most important.

In my opinion, the most important thing to bring to a martial arts seminar…is an open mind. You need to be ready to listen to new ideas, receive the information, and recognize the possibilities. Have you ever overheard participants say, “Well, I do the technique this way”? Have you seen seminar participants practicing their way instead of trying the new technique? If participants are not willing to explore new ways of thinking, they are missing a great opportunity.

When attending a seminar, pack you gear bag with all your necessary items. However, most importantly…remember to bring an open mind.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

"It is wrong.... tell me why it is wrong."

I overheard my husband Tom saying this to the black belt testing candidates. Tom explained to the students that if they knew why it is wrong it would help them correct the problem. When the students stopped and thought about why...they knew the answer.

When students first begin learning karate, they are shown how to do a technique. We practice, drill and tell them how to do the movement. At this point in their training, a long discussion or analysis of a technique might be too much information for the student. They need to know how the technique should be done. As the student progresses, the instructors demonstrate and describe techniques. The students continue to practice with added discussion or analysis from the instructor.

Tom was pushing the students to think about the techniques. He could have easily told the students what needed to be corrected and why. It is time for the students to think about their practice on a different level. Small changes in body position and weapon manipulation mean big things in application. Practice looking at the bigger picture. For example, if a bo position is off center line, the correction may not be to adjust the hand position but to correct a wide/short stance.

Despite the fact that my husband and I are both instructors in the same dojo, we are not often on the training floor at the same time. I have mentioned in previous posts that we train parallel. We have the same instructor but did not take the same classes. When I was a kyu rank student, Tom tested for shodan. He taught classes at the Honbu and made sure he was never my class instructor. Tom wanted my training to be my own. When Tom opened up his dojo, there was no opportunity for us to train together.

I liked Tom's question to the 1st kyu students. It reminded me of the concept Instructor as Guide.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Karate Kids

My husband opened his dojo in 1995. I can recall the first two students like it was yesterday. Two neighborhood boys walked the two block up the street to the karate school. We had one mirror, an unfinished ceiling and ugly red flowered carpet left over from the building's bar days. The outside of the building needed new siding and a ramp needed to be installed. You can check out the before and after pictures of the dojo.

It has been 15 years since the first student walked through the door. There have been many kids that took karate lessons over the years. Some kids train for a few months and others for a few years. A few will earn a black belt while other will only last until 9th kyu. We had good times but we also experienced tragedy and loss.

Lately, I have bumping into a few of the kids who took karate with us. I have seen former students at the grocery store, in a mall, on Facebook, at a birthday party, at a indoor football game and even at a community theatre production. Some people I recognize instantly because it has only be a few years since I last saw them. There are some students that I have not seen for over 8 years. Since many years have gone by, I sometimes do not recognize them because they have changed so much.

Children have more opportunities now then when I was a kid. When I was young, sports teams started around 6th grade. Cartoons were only on TV on a Saturday morning. I loved visiting my cousins because they had Pong. There were no soccer clubs and we did not ask to learn karate, dance or gymnastics.

Take for example my daughter. I enrolled her in Gymboree when she was 18 months. It was a Mom and Me class. It was designed to help with socialization skills. What I didn't know was that it was more of a Mom clique. I only lasted one session because I hated it. My daughter took dance lessons for a year, started soccer at 5 years old, choir, Girl Scouts, K4J, saxophone for a year, bible school, two seasons of basketball and community theatre for 5 years. A few weeks ago, she asked if she could give up the saxophone to learn the electic guitar. We went shopping around for lessons and equipment. We walked in a music store and she announced "I want an Amp!". We are still in the inquiry stage on the electric guitar.

A lot of kids with pass through the doors of a karate school. Some will stick with it while others will move on to other activities. As instructors, when we teach a class of kids, we do not know how long they will be in the dojo. It is my hope that their time in the dojo makes an impact no matter how long they train. Perhaps the wrist grabs they learned the first few months of class will be a useful tool one day. Maybe they will remember the kind words of encouragement after they demonstrated an individual kata. It just might help them give a speech in school.

Over the next few months, we will be attending a graduation and two weddings of former "karate kids". I am honored to be invited and look forward to the events.

There is only one downside...It does make me feel a little old. :)