Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Why Tai Chi...Why Now?

I was getting ready to go to Tai Chi class. My husband asked me "Why Tai Chi? Why now? Does Tai Chi have something that Okinawa Kenpo doesn't?"

His question stopped me in my tracks. Why am I practicing Tai Chi? I have been training in traditional Okinawa Kenpo since 1993. The style is comprehensive and includes kata, kobudo, sparring and self-defense. Our rank certificates state "there is a wealth of knowledge in the art of Okinawa Kenpo Karate Kobudo". It is true...there is so much. I am happy with my training, the dojo, the students and my training partners. I am lucky to have two amazing instructors and to be a member of a Federation. I plan to continue training, learning and teaching Okinawa Kenpo. Learning Tai Chi has not changed my goals in Okinawa Kenpo.

So...Why tai chi...why now? Reasons for doing or not doing something change over time. Here is my current list of 'why':

1. I like going to class and practicing.
2. I have a good instructor.
3. I like the other students.
4. Tai Chi practice has strengthened my knee.
5. Tai Chi is challenging.
6. Tai Chi makes me think about martial arts in a different way.
7. Tai Chi pushes me out of my comfort zone.
8. I think it makes me a better instructor of Okinawa Kenpo because it reminds me what it is like to be a new/beginner student.

My husband said "O.K." as I walked out the door.

Photo Credit: My sister sent me this photo she took on her recent vacation. There is a bison in the foreground covered in snow. I liked the picture and she gave me permission to share it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday Tip: January Is Radon Action Month

January is the National Radon Action Month. Radon is a cancer causing radioactive gas that you cannot see, smell or taste. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Click here to see a map of Radon zones.

I live in a high radon zone. Ten years ago, when my daughter was born, the hospital sent us home with a voucher for a free radon test. We tested our home and had a borderline reading. It is time for another test. We sent away for a radon kit and will be testing our home again.

How do you test for Radon? The quickest test for radon is the short-term test. "Charcoal canisters" are most commonly used for short-term testing. Check out the EPA's site A Citizens Guide to Radon for information.

If you live in PA, you can send away for a free radon kit from the American Lung Association.

Tuesday Tip: January is Radon Action month.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Internet and Martial Arts

In 2007, I was diagnosed with a complete ACL tear. The first thing I did after hearing the diagnosis was turn to the Internet. I spent hours searching and reading about ACL surgery, recovery times, physical therapy protocols, graft choices, knee injury forums and recovery blogs. If I really wanted to (I didn't) I could have watched ACL surgeries. The information was available and easily accessible...just a click of the mouse.

The same is true for martial arts. Imagine for a moment that you have no martial arts experience. You search and a list of sites pop up for your review. I searched Google and the highest listed video was on the Human Stun Gun a martial arts instructor demonstrating a no touch knockout. The instructor was taught by Grandmaster George Dillman. A brief aside: As a young teen my husband trained with George Dillman in the early 1980's. My husband's instructor was George Dillman Jr. (the son). There was a split between the father and son and my husband continued training with the son. George Dillman Jr. introduced my husband to traditional martial arts and recommended an instructor (we are still training with this instructor). My husband was exposed to the no touch knockout training during his early training. My husband describes limited uses and success rate. The reporter in the linked video is skeptical and discovers that the "Human Stun Gun's" students react differently than students from a local BJJ school or her staff. The video ends with a shameless promotion...come train for a week and see for yourself.

I continued my Internet search and found that I could get an online black belt. The classes are available 24/7 and were created to meet the needs of those people who would not have the opportunity to train. I could achieve the rank of black belt and never step foot in a dojo.

With all the information available on the Internet, how would someone with no experience navigate their way through? Would they be able to determine the difference between good and bad training practices? Will videos and online training replace dojo and training halls? How is the Internet changing the teacher/student relationship?

Personally, the Internet and martial arts has been a positive experience for me. I have been inspired, motivated, impressed and surprised. I have learned by reading blogs, participating in forums and sharing information. The community of martial artist have been welcoming and supportive.

However, I am concerned that new and future students of martial arts will lose out in the digital age. What do you think the effect of the Internet is on martial arts? How about in ten years?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Human Stun Gun

I searched "Martial Arts" on Google and this is the highest listed video.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday Tip - Use a Refillable Water Bottle

In the United States in 2006, bottled water consumption reached a record 8.3 billion gallons, 185 million gallons of which was imported. The total amount spent on bottled water was over $11 billion. (Beverage Marketing Corp.)

In contrast to tap water, which is distributed through an energy-efficient infrastructure, transporting bottled water long distances involves burning massive quantities of fossil fuels. Nearly a quarter of all bottled water crosses national borders to reach consumers, transported by boat, train, and truck. (
Earth Policy Institute)

It costs more money to drink bottled water than to put gas in your car--up to five time more--due mainly to its packaging and transportation.(
Earth Policy institute)

Bottled water companies do not have to release their water-testing results to the public, whereas municipalities do. (
Natural Resources Defense Council

If you want to know what the recycling codes on the bottom of the plastic bottles mean, you can click here. It is best to look for numbers 1, 2, 4 & 5.


What are some of the problems associated with plastic bottles? Take a look at these facts.

Americans will buy an estimated 25 billion single-serving, plastic water bottles this year. Eight out of 10 (22 billion) will end up in a landfill. -- Container Recycling Institute

Bottled water is a rip off - consumers spend an estimate $7 billion on bottled water in US each year.

Worldwide 2.7 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year. -- OneWorld

1.5 million barrels of oil is used annually To produce plastic water bottles for America alone - enough to fuel some 100,000 U.S. cars for a year. -- Earth Policy Institute

Imagine a water bottle filled a quarter of the way up with oil. That's about how much oil was needed to produce the bottle. -- National Geographic

The bottled water you purchase is often in #1 PET or PETE bottles (polyethylene terephthalate), which may leach DEHA, a known carcinogen, if used more than once. --

A growing problem: "In 1990, Americans bought 1.1 billion pounds of plastic in the form of bottles, according to the Container Recycling Institute. In 2002, they bought more than three times that - 4 billion pounds." -- Christian Science Monitor

Increasing evidence of adverse health effects tied to Bisphenol A, or BPA a widely used chemical in the manufacturing of plastic polycarbonate bottles, including baby bottles, water bottles and food / beverage containers.

Like all plastic, these bottles will be with us forever since plastic does not biodegrade; rather, it breaks down into smaller and smaller toxic bits that contaminate our soil and waterways.

Along with plastic bags, plastic bottles are one of the most prevalent sources of pollution found on our beaches.

Many studies show that the quality of bottled water may be no better than tap water.

Tuesday Tip: Use a Refillable Water Bottle

Monday, January 18, 2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Alone At Work

Last week I was the only person in the building at work. The warehouse is empty for the winter and the boss was out of town at a convention. It was just me…alone…in 24,000 feet of office/warehouse space.

In fact, most of my employers required me to be alone in the workplace at one time or another. When I was in college, I worked the opening shift at a Friendly’s Restaurant. One time I walked into the restaurant and the door was already unlocked. There was no one in the building but I should not have gone inside. We never did find out why the door was open.

I worked for a non-profit organization for several years after my daughter was born. The organization was located in Public School Building built in the late 1800's. I was always alone in the building. The building is reportedly haunted by a sick young girl who died while waiting for help to arrive. At least that is the version of the story I heard. The local paranormal society has taken pictures of orbs, photographed images in the windows of stairwells and has audio of a young girl singing. In my office, the calculator would turn itself on and off. I felt cold patches in the hallway. There were a few times it felt a little creepy in the old school building.

I must digress here and tell the story of the strangest conversation I had at the non-profit organization. A rotund older man walks in the office. He does not say anything rather he moves a chair within inches of my desk. He sits down. He is so close that his knees are against the front panel of the desk. He places his elbows on the desktop and leans forward…

Man: I need your help.
Me: Ok…How can I help you?
Man: I am here to do gynecological research.
Me (thinking): What? Did he really just say what I think he did? Really? Yes, he did.
Man: I want to find out if my ancestors came from German lands through the Port of Philadelphia.
Me (speaking clearly and slowly): Oh! You need help with ge-ne-a-log-i-cal research.

Back to the post…

I am rarely alone at my current location. The building is alarmed and chimes ring whenever doors open. Upon entering the lobby, a person can walk either into the warehouse or into the reception area. My office is in the back of the room and has one entrance. If it is quiet, I can hear the doors open and the chimes ring. If the printers are running or if I am on the phone, the sounds get lost into the background. On any given day, people regularly come into the office such as UPS, random sales people or the USPS.

Alone at work, I think about self-defense scenarios, awareness and environment.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday Tip - Quadricep / Hamstring Strength Ratio

At my first gym visit of 2010, I went to the file cabinet and pulled out my progress chart for the first time in months.. The chart lists the exercise machines, the current weight I am lifting and the machine settings. The personal trainer (1 complimentary with gym membership) recommended that I chart my progress. I diligently wrote my routine, weights and reps...for about two months. I ended up spending equal amounts of time charting as I did lifting so I began updating the chart once a month. Eventually...I charted no more.

The main reason for joining a gym was to maintain a strong knee after ACL reconstruction and rehabilitation. I knew that knee strength would be an important part of my routine. My right hamstrings were weakened after surgery because the surgeon used two hamstring tendons to reconstruct my ACL. My right leg was noticeable weaker than my left leg. The trainer suggested I perform hamstring curls with my right leg only. I worked my right leg and exercised using both legs. My right leg slowly increased strength.

Last week, I was using the hamstring curl machine and out of curiosity tested my left hamstring. I was shocked. My left hamstring was considerably weaker than my right hamstring. I am now using the machine to build up my left (non-surgical leg). How did I let this happen? I am certain I would have realized this sooner if I continued to chart my progress.

I was curious about the relationship between the quadriceps, hamstring, strength ratios and knee injuries. I found an excellent article Weak in the Knees by Krista Scott-Dixon Ph.D. She discusses many risk factors but this one caught my eye.
Strength ratios. Women tend to have stronger quadriceps relative to their hamstrings, which may decrease the hamstrings' ability to stabilize the knees. The general recommendation for a healthy hamstring-to-quadricep strength ratio is for the hamstring to be at least 60 percent – and ideally closer to 80 percent – as strong as the quad.

So back to the gym I go....

New Goals for 2010:
Balance out the strength of my right and left leg.
Calculate and improve my quadricep / hamstring strength ratio.

Tuesday Tip: Be aware of the quadricep / hamstring strength ratio for knee strength and injury prevention.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

2009 Blog in Review

I wanted to briefly list the highlights of Just A Thought for 2009. I do not often look at the Analytics of this blog so I was surprised by some of the details such as top search inquiries and most popular pages. Somehow this ACL and Martial Arts site has "In The Kitchen With Bob" making the list of Top Search Inquiries and Top Pages.

Top Search Inquiries

Shimi Igiri Bo Ichi Video
In the Kitchen With Bob
Please Stop Laughing At Me
Functional Braces
ACL Recovery Blog
ACL Surgery Blog

Top Pages

What Is That Sound?
ACL - 17 Months
Review - Please Stop Laughing At Me
In The Kitchen With Bob
ACL - 2 Years Later
10 Things Not To Ask A Traditional Martial Arts Instructor
Functional Brace
Fear of Injury A Response

It is interesting how many people searched for knee noises and reached my blog. The list includes: crunching, knee noise, cracking, noisy kneecap, clutching knee, clicking, creaking, crackle, squelching noise, terrible noise, bad noise, snapping, sounds like paper, tearing noise, rice crispy sounds and quinching sound.

The following were the top 8 referring blogs to this site. Thank you for including me in your blogroll.

Mokuren Dojo
My Journey To Black Belt - Sue C
Martial Views
Middle Aged Martial Artist
Martial Arts and Modern Life
Traditional TKD
Martial Arts Mom
My Self-Defense Blog

Thank you to all the 2009 readers and followers!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How Do You Hold Your Car Keys?








Comments made on the post 10 Self-Defense Prevention/Awareness Mistakes left me wondering how I should hold my car keys. It is important to have your keys ready. The main reason is for quick, easy access to your vehicle.

Can keys be used to jab or scrape an attacker? Would there be a high risk of losing the keys? I asked a few people (who graciously allowed me to photograph their hands) to demonstrate how they hold their keys. All sets of keys rings vary in number of keys, key rings and fobs. In the above examples, each person is holding the same set of keys.

Which photo closely matches the way you hold your keys? Why do you hold them in this manner?

Black Belt Students - Keep Moving Forward

A group meets in the dojo to train every Monday night. We practice the Dan rank requirements, explore application, discuss concepts, review videos or pose questions. There is no curriculum or class instructor.

This past Monday, we decided to challenge ourselves one step further. Each Monday we are going to come up with an assignment for the week. Assignments could include bunkai, reading an article, creating a drill, researching a concept, learning about history and culture, preparing a lesson...or whatever else crosses our minds!

Simply put...we are a group of black belt students keeping our training moving forward.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Know Important VSC's

My sister called me and sounded worried. I can always tell when something is bothering her. Eventually she told me about some disturbing telephone calls she received.

The Phone Call

My sister answered the phone. The caller spoke her name in a soft voice. The caller made an obscene request then hung up. The phone rang again and the same caller addressed her by name. The caller told my sister that he was right outside her house. Since she does not have caller ID, she immediately used Return Call feature (*69) on her phone. This feature allows you to automatically return the last call you received. The phone number came up "Private Caller".

The phone call shook my sister up. The caller knew her name and said he was right outside the house. I was glad she was not home alone. The next day she called her telephone company and was given advice.

Immediately after receiving an obscene/harassing/threatening call use the Call Trace (*57). Call Trace service records your number and the caller's number and stores the information with the telephone provider. The telephone provider will only release trace information to law enforcement. There is a fee and special requirements for this service. Only used this feature if the call is considered life threatening or if the harassment is to the point where you wish to press charges. Please check your local phone book or call your service provider for more information.

Obscene or Harassing Calls are a crime under PA and Federal Laws. The local 2010 Yellowbook directory suggests the following steps if you receive obscene, harassing or threatening calls.

1. Hang Up at the first obscene word.
2. Give no info such as your name or address.
3. Advise your children to give no information to strangers.
4. If the call persists call your local Business Office or Police Department.

Tuesday Tip: Know Important VSC's. A Vertical Service Code (VSC) is a special code dialed in conjunction with a telephone number, usually preceded by an asterisk or * (star), that activates a special telephone service. Here is a list of VSC's.

Please note that not all services are available to all areas. Check your local phone book or call your service provider for available features.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

10 Self-Defense Prevention/Awareness Mistakes

The last few months have been incredibly busy with work and the holidays. I was often rushing here and there while trying to accomplish many things simultaneously. I would catch myself breaking some of the basic tenants of self-defense prevention/awareness strategies. I shake my head and say "I should know better!" Every once in a while it is good to review the basics.

10 Self-Defense Prevention/Awareness Mistakes

1. Walking alone or running alone with head phones. This is my personal awareness pet peeve. I see people doing this every day. Take a look around your neighborhood and see how many people are plugged in and not paying attention.

2. Gas tank on E. I catch myself driving on fumes way too often. I think I can get to one more destination before I need to pump gas. My Dad fills up the moment it reads half a tank. I should be more like my Dad. :)

3. Distracted. Who hasn't been busy...overburdened with packages, on the phone, texting, etc. Make awareness a self-defense priority.

4. Unlocked. Lock your car and home (including windows). I only have one set of car keys and tend to leave the car unlocked. I need to get an additional key and lock up.

5. Ripping not shredding documents. I have a shredder but it is in the garage. I need to shred documents/mail with personal information instead of ripping them up.

6. Not carrying a cell phone. I have gotten in the habit of leaving my cell phone at home. I need to carry it and keep it charged in case of a family emergency.

7. Keys at the bottom of a purse. Always have your keys ready. I am good at this one because I do not often carry a purse. :)

8. No emergency car kit. I put a flashlight back in my car. Other useful items...blanket, band-aids, fix-a-flat/pump, flare and tire gauge.

9. Forgetting where you parked the car. This happened to me once this shopping season. When the parking lots get crowded, my usual parking area was full. I parked in the nearest available space. The only problem...I did not initially remember where my car was parked.

10. Women going to parties/bars alone. My husband added this one to the list and it is his personal self-defense prevention/awareness pet peeve.

There are many more but these are the ones that immediately came to mind. Please add to the list!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Looking Forward - Looking Back

From Wikipedia:

In Roman Mythology, Janus was the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings and endings. His most prominent remnant in modern culture is his namesake, the month of January, which begins the new year.

Looking Back

It has been two years since this blog was created. It began with posts discussing ACL Reconstruction and Recovery. My goal was to return to martial arts and I shared my ACL recovery process. As my knee became stronger, my blog posts shifted to martial arts, tai chi, bullies and parenting.

This blog has given me the opportunity to connect with fellow martial artists for which I am grateful. Please check out the excellent blogs listed under Martial Arts Links. A big "Thank You" to all the readers and to the people who left comments on this blog.

Looking Forward

My employment situation is changing slightly during the next few months. The busy time is now over and we are preparing for Halloween and Christmas 2010. There is talk that we will be starting a four day work week. This will be new for me but I think I can get used to it! :)

I will continue my martial arts training in Okinawa Kenpo and Tai Chi. The year 2010 will mark my 18th year in Okinawa Kenpo and my 2nd year practicing Tai Chi. In June, the dojo will reach its 15th Year Anniversary.

As for this blog, I want to continue writing and connecting with martial artists. I have learned much from reading your articles. Your writings have been inspiring...thank you.

Happy New Year!