Thursday, February 25, 2010

Teach Because You Want To

I went to Tai Chi class despite my throbbing shoulder. I knew I would not be able to participate in the entire class or push hand practice. The format of the class is form, exercises, instruction/explanation and push hands. I went because I could still benefit from hearing the instruction and observing the push hand practice.

I listened to my body and only practiced the form. My shoulder creaks and cracks at a specific range of motion...reaching out hand above shoulder or big clearing motion with the bo. I ran through kama last night and left the protective covers over the blades...just in case. I am giving my shoulder another week before I make an appointment to see an orthopedic doctor. I still don't know how I injured my shoulder.

During Tai Chi class, the senior student made a lighthearted comment about fees to instructor. The class is held at a health club and is offered to all members. Students have come and gone but three remain. Some classes (yoga) at the gym require an extra fee to attend. Tai Chi is a weekly class with no additional fees. I walked out to the parking lot with the senior student and asked if he would expand on his comment. He mentioned that our Tai Chi instructor does not get paid to teach the class nor is he even a member of the club. The senior student summarized that our Tai Chi instructor:

Teaches because he wants to.
Teaches to share what he learned.
Teaches to continue the tradition.

I understand.

This is the same lesson I learned from my Okinawa Kenpo instructor. My husband and I have the same philosophy in our dojo. It is the same reason that I teach.

I am lucky and grateful for all my instructors and training partners.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Somebody's Knockin'

A few months after I was married, my family members decided to go away on a day trip. We got home late so my Aunt and I stayed overnight at my parents house. My sister was living at home and was working the late shift at a restaurant. We were all in bed. My aunt was sleeping on the couch a few feet from the front door.

We woke to hear pounding on the front door. My aunt assumed it was my sister coming home late from work. She thought my sister was playing a joke on her. My aunt answered in a silly voice "Who IS it?” The pounding continued and a man's voice responded, "Let me in! Let me in!" My aunt finally realized it was not my sister. We did not recognize the voice so we looked out the window. The person at the front door was a stranger. He knocked louder...."Let me in! Let me in! Domestic violence!"

What would you do?

We did not let the stranger in the house. We told the man we would help him and call the police for him. My sister made the call and we were the third 911 call from the neighborhood. The man went running erratically down the road to the next house. Within minutes, the police arrived and picked up the man.

The next day my mom heard the whole story from our neighbor. The man on the porch was the new boyfriend of a woman who lived down the street. The woman's ex-husband came for a visit and was surprised to find the new boyfriend. The ex-husband attacked the new boyfriend.

My family wondered if we did the right thing. Should we have let the man in? One person said to me "You are taking karate should have let them in?" Ridiculous, I just started classes. If this incident happened a few months prior, I might have opened the door automatically. I believe we responded correctly by offering to help but not answering the door. The ironic part of this story is that the front door was not locked. The last person to arrive home forgot to lock the door. The stranger on the porch could have walked right inside.

Tips for answering the door:

1. Do not automatically answer the door. Are you expecting someone?

2. Look to see if you know who is at your door. If you cannot see the person…do not answer.

3. Verify the identity if the person claims to be from a company/organization.

4. Teach children not to answer the door.

5. Carry your cell phone or portable phone to the door with you.

6. Do not open the door if the person makes you feel uncomfortable. It is ok to be rude .

Tueday Tip: Door Answering Safety

Monday, February 22, 2010

Kata Is....

...the beginning.

These words were spoken by my instructor this weekend at the monthly black belt workout. The focus on the session was on sai and sai vs bo applications. We practiced the kata Kyan no Sai a few times. The remainder of the session was partner drills working sai vs bo.

The class explored distancing, blocks, parries, striking opportunities. We worked on various ways to hold the, closed, one open /one closed. We defended against bo side strikes, overhead strikes, pokes to the body and pokes to the face. For two hours, all you could hear was the crack of sai hitting the bo. Music to the karate practitioners ears...

It was a great session and I am grateful for the monthly training opportunities at the Honbu.

Kata is the beginning.

As a kyu rank, I remember learning a kata pattern and looking forward to learning the next pattern. The patterns came easy to me. But did I really know the kata? The answer is NO. I knew a series of movements. It takes practice and exploration to learn what the kata is teaching. Interpretation can change over time as a result of experience, preference, physical strengths, limitations or injury.

As a class instructor, I remind the students that kata is not just for a single test or promotion. Kata requirements are cumulative. Students are expected to keep improving earlier material. A brown belt student's material should be performed with brown belt level ability.

As a black belt student, I view my kata as a work in progress. I strive to explore, improve and refine. I learned the pattern of the first kata 18 years ago. There is always more to discover and something to improve.


Friday, February 19, 2010


In January, my employer informed me that we would be working a four day week for a few months. I viewed it as a gift of time. I thought about all I could accomplish and how much extra time I would have. Two months into this new schedule...I wonder where the time went. I had big plans for my free Fridays. March is fast approaching and I believe my four day work week is coming to an end.

Lyrics to Pink Floyd's Time:

(Mason, Waters, Wright, Gilmour) 7:06

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I'd something more to say.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What Did I Do?

I woke up this morning with pain in my shoulder and elbow. My shoulder is cracking and my elbow aches. It hurts enough for me to take notice. Why? I have no idea.

I retrace my steps.

Push hands on Tuesday.
Karate practice on Wednesday.
Chopping ice off the dojo ramp.
A little snow shoveling.

I don't remember injuring my arm or over doing it. Is it stress? Did I sleep wrong? Or is it the unpleasant is simply because I am getting older.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Snow Shoveling Safety

This is not the post I intended to write today.

I spent last night sitting in the Emergency Room. My parents spent the day with my sister walking around a nature reserve. They had a good day. On the way home, my Dad started feeling dizzy and nauseous. They immediately went to the ER. My Dad has been seeing a cardiologist since May due to shortness of breath and water retention. The doctor has been monitoring his heart and modifying medications. There is a possibility he may need a pacemaker down the road.

The ER waiting room was packed. My father waited 2 1/2 hours before he was seen by a doctor. The very first question the doctor asked was "Have you been shoveling snow?" My father will turn 80 in September. My sister and her husband live less than a mile from my parents. They shovel my parent's sidewalks each snowstorm without fail. There is no need for him to pick up a shovel but he does it anyway. Stubborn. He did not shovel a lot but a little is too much. This winter Pennsylvania had record breaking snowfall.

The ER doctor explained that snow shoveling put too much strain on the heart. It weakens the heart and prevents it from functioning properly. My Dad had water in his lungs which caused the dizziness and nausea. He was kept overnight for observation. He is feeling much better and will come home today.

From the AARP.Org:

Researchers have reported an increase in fatal heart attacks among snow shovelers after heavy snowfalls, according to Julie Garden-Robinson, assistant professor in the Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences Department at North Dakota State University.

Like weight lifting, which also requires you to exert a lot of energy without much movement, "snow shoveling may cause a quick increase in heart rate and blood pressure," says Garden-Robinson. One study found that after only two minutes of shoveling, the heart rates of physically inactive men rose higher than those normally recommended during aerobic exercise.

Of course, not everyone who shovels snow is at risk for having a heart attack. But people who smoke or have a history of heart trouble, pain, back problems, or other ongoing health concerns need to be really careful, says Nicholas DiNubile, MD, a spokesman for the American Academy Of Orthopaedic Surgeons and medical consultant for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Here are some other tips to make shoveling easier and safer:

Get a good shovel. Look for a lighter-weight shovel that suits your size. A smaller shovel will allow you to scoop up less snow at a time and avoid getting hurt. DeNubile says shovels with a bend in them, as opposed to the straight, broomstick-type style, are better for your lower back.

Pace yourself. Start shoveling soon after newly fallen snow since it is lighter than wet, heavily packed snow, and take small breaks (shovel an inch or two, rest, and repeat). Start out slowly to avoid putting too much stress on your heart all at once.

Push, rather than lift. When you can, try pushing the snow away from you, rather than lifting it, to avoid straining or twisting your back. Look for a shovel with a blade that makes it easier to push snow.

Use your legs. If you must lift snow, fill your shovel no more than half full. Bend your knees and lift with your legs, rather than your back. Keep your back straight. Avoid throwing snow over your shoulder or to the side, which causes your back to twist and can injure your shoulders.

Watch for ice. Look out for ice under the snow or on the ground that can cause you to slip and fall. Black ice, which looks like water but is actually thin ice, can be especially dangerous.

Ask for help. Don't be afraid to ask someone to help you if it's a huge job, says deNubile. "Clean some of it yourself but don't feel like you have to do it all."

Listen to your body. If you feel tightness in your chest or have any pain, stop right away and call your doctor. If you're sore after shoveling, take a hot bath, get a massage, or take a pain reliever, says DiNubile. If you still don't feel well, see your doctor.

Tuesday Tip: Snow Shoveling Safety

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Road Trip

My family embarked on a road trip to Florida ten days ago. I picked up my daughter early from school on Friday Feb 5th and hit the road. We wanted to beat the blizzard dumped two feet of snow in DC. We made it through DC but drove for two hours in blizzard conditions north or Richmond. We made it to Florida on Sunday February 6th. Note to Florida: Where was the sun and the warm weather? A high of 55 degrees and frost warnings! We returned early this morning after driving 16 hours straight. Pennsylvania had two snow storms while we were away and our house is covered by about three feet of snow. Before I start shoveling, I wanted to post some trip high/low points.

  1. Beating the storm through DC only to run into it one hour later.
  2. Driving through snow flurries, steady snow, freezing rain, sleet, torrential rain and drizzle.
  3. Sitting in Applebee's at Daytona Beach and glancing at the T.V. screen. I pointed to the screen and asked my husband "Is that going on now?" Yep...the NASCAR shootout. We did not have a hotel booked because we left early to beat the snow storm. NO HOTEL ROOMS for miles.
  4. Driving down the coast, we stopped at a convenience store for gas. I asked the clerk about hotel rooms and he told us to get out of town NOW. He pointed to bullet holes in the wall of the shop and informed us we were in a BAD neighborhood. Got gas and moved on.
  5. Drove to Titusville and found several hotels. I walked in to the first hotel and asked about availability. The clerk pointed to the poster behind him and said the hotel was book for months. MONTHS! It was the final night launch of the Space Shuttle.
  6. A creepy man in the lobby asked me to meet him outside. I shook my head and he offered to share his room. I don't think so. We kept driving.
  7. My husband wanted to see the launch at 4:49 a.m. We drove around and found a horrid hotel room. We slept in our clothes and did not use the shower.
  8. Woke up to see the launch but it was cancelled due to visibility.
  9. Finally able to get in our scheduled hotel.
  10. Florida weather unseasonably cold. The overnight lows were around freezing with highs of 50 degrees. It felt like PA weather.
  11. Woke up at 4:00 am and watched the shuttle launch from an Orlando balcony.
  12. No Internet access for ten days. Note to self: buy a laptop.
  13. Manatees are very cool.

Well...I better start shoveling.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Repost: Enjoy

This is a repost from July 2, 2008.

If I had one word of advice for karate students, it would be ENJOY. Several other good phrases that came to mind were work hard and be patient.

ENJOY your time in the dojo. Often the dojo community becomes a second family and these people will be there for you when you need them.

ENJOY learning from different instructors within your organization or dojo. If your school has several instructors, take the time to participate in their classes. Each instructor has unique ways of presenting the same material. View it as an opportunity.

ENJOY learning from guest instructors. If available, participate in workshops or training camps that will expose you to different styles and instructors. The purpose is not to change styles rather to augment concepts or ways of thinking.

ENJOY the techniques. During one class, we were working on individual kata. After the student performed, I made a comment on a kick. I told the student to enjoy that part of the kata. Take their time and execute the kick. Enjoy it. The student looked at me and then looked at the other Black Belt in the room. Apparently, in class the night before, he said the exact same thing. Do not rush techniques.

ENJOY the role of student. Absorb as much as you can during class. Learn something everyday whether it is in or outside the dojo. Learning is a gift.

ENJOY the process. I believe that kata is the foundation. First, you must learn the patterns and techniques. Next, take the time to explore the kata and learn what the kata is teaching. Work on bunkai with various partners.

ENJOY sparring. I had a tough time with this one. When I was a kyu rank, I did not like to spar. I had some unpleasant experiences sparring such as a black eye, a broken finger and a dislocated shoulder.

ENJOY how it functions. The bottom line is that the techniques must work. It has to be functional such as a punch executed with proper bone alignment, hip rotation, a self-defense move, a bo disarm, a tunfa swing, a sai strike or a joint lock. We must remember that we are learning a combative art.

What do you enjoy most about practicing a martial art?

Tuesday Tip: Enjoy

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Take Notes

When I started training in karate, I was encouraged to bring a notebook and pen to class. I packed my gear bag and made sure to include paper and pens. I jotted down a few scattered notes but the habit never stuck. The notebook did not make it out of the bag too often. I wish I had notebooks filled with information.

It reminds me of when my daughter was young. My husband and I would try to videotape everything she did. It felt like I was looking at the world through the lens of a video camera. We decided to tape less and enjoy the moment. These days we videotape the important events: birthdays, Christmas, plays and school concerts.

Note taking can cause a similar feeling. If you are taking notes...then you are not on the floor practicing. I have tried to take notes during a seminar. The result...I failed at the taking good notes and I could not actively listen to the instructor. I was always a step behind.

Kyoshi Bill Hayes has excellent seminars. He provides a wall full of notes and leaves the notes up during the entire seminar. After the lecture, I was able to write down all the key points and still participate in the hands-on portion of the seminar.

There is a balance between taking notes and participating in class. You may find that taking notes immediately after the session is the best way for you. could start an online training journal. :)

Tuesday Tip: Take Notes.

Do you take notes? Do you keep a training log?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Churches Embrace MMA

From the NY Times:

Recruitment efforts at the churches, which are predominantly white, involve fight night television viewing parties and lecture series that use ultimate fighting to explain how Christ fought for what he believed in. Other ministers go further, hosting or participating in live events.

The outreach is part of a larger and more longstanding effort on the part of some ministers who fear that their churches have become too feminized, promoting kindness and compassion at the expense of strength and responsibility.

What do you think?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Guest Post: ACL Reconstruction 18 Years Later

The reason I started this blog was to communicate with others who experienced ACL reconstruction and recovery. I found very little information on ACL recovery after one year? five years? Last week I received an email through my Wellsphere account. With permission, I am sharing the contents of the email. This is a story of ACL Reconstruction 18 Years Later.

Michele, are you still looking for acl information?

Here's my story.

August 1981, 19 years old, beginning of school, total tear of left acl.

December 1981, end of semester, scope to repair cartilage.

Due to insurance & basic lack of knowledge, acl left as is for 10 years. In that time, knee gave out 5 times. I was very active, played one year of college baseball, wrestled at times as a form of conditioning, work construction. Learned what "positions" to avoid having the knee give out.

January 10, 1992, 29 1/2 years old: acl reconstructed by Dr. Howard J. Sweeney. (About 10 years ago I learned he was one of the best, if not the best)

January 31, 1992, began physical therapy, 3 times a week for 7 months (august), had some swelling, and had to take 2 weeks off at the end of July. I was told by physical therapists that most patients that had surgery a few years or more after initial injury had some kind of set back. From what I remember, I began running around august (7-8 months post-op). Began testing in august. Once a month until end of October (total of 4 times). Released from supervised PT.

On my own from end of October 1992 to end of February 1993. Tested in March 1993 & given OK by surgeon to compete in baseball without brace. Doctor recommended I not wrestle until I complete at least the next baseball season and consult with him.

After the surgery, I had lost 3 inches in circumference. After my rehab, I had put on 3 1/2.

I’m now 47 1/2. In 1999, someone landed on my left knee. I only felt strain to medial ligament. I have been active the whole time. I don't wear a brace. I still play baseball in an "over 18" league. With some modifications. I know have some torn cartilage in both knees which will need to be repaired. And I’ve put on about 20 pounds. I know this doesn't help.

I do have to work my knees/legs. Everyone needs to do something, but in our case, we will always need to do a little more for our "weak" area, but should not have any problems continuing as we did before our injury.

During a pre-surgical consultation with my doctor, Dr. Sweeney indicated that as long as I did what he said, I should return to 100%. (Within reason. always best to never have the injury). But you know what I mean. That was good enough for me. I did as he said and I’m as good as can be expected.

I became and remain good friends with the physical therapist who worked with me the most during my formal rehab. He now has his own business. I trust him and his experience.

He has indicated that if I have any tears, it is not uncommon and can be the result normal wear and tear, in my case, because I am not only active, but intensely active. As I stated, I still play baseball and sometimes still compete in the 18+ divisions.

Two weeks ago, my knees have been the worst they've ever been. With my new job, I've not been working out as much as I would like. Last week, my friend was here and he indicated I need to do more for my hamstrings. I'm taking a month off from running, bike only, low weights with high reps (25-30 reps), next week i am to start riding the bike standing up. With the increase in hamstring work & time off from running, I can already feel a difference. I'll let you know in a month when I start running again.

If in fact I don't have any torn cartilage, this again is just a reminder that only because of age, but because of our past injuries, we must always be doing some type of rehab type of work.

At my age, 47, I need to modify further still what I do (training, competition) with duration & intensity and rest. Although I like to think of myself as 100%, I/we are never 100% like we were.

Just part of life.

Thank you for sharing your story.