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.

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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?