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 right...at 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 you...glass half full or glass half empty?