Tuesday, December 20, 2011

“He Didn’t Look Creepy…”

My daughter has detailed instructions for after school. The bus drops her off approximately 25 yards from our house.

Get off the bus.
Go in the house.
Lock the door.
Call me.

There are only a few random occasions when she has to go home to an empty house. Yesterday was one of those times. About an hour after my daughter arrived home, she called me at work.

Daughter: “A guy has two flat tires and he wants to know if he can leave his truck in our parking lot until he can get a new tire.”

Me: “What?!!!” Where are you? Where is the truck? Did you answer the door?”

In the background, I hear the man talking about his truck, the tire and the flat spare.

Me: “Go back inside the house.”

When I got home from work, I spoke to my daughter about the man with the flat tire. She assured me that she cautiously looked out the window before opening the door. The man pointed at his truck and the flat tire. He asked for permission to leave the truck until he was able to repair the tire. She called me to obtain permission. My daughter concluded her side of the story with…”He didn’t look creepy.”

We spent the next ten minutes discussing her faulty logic.

You cannot tell if a person is dangerous simply by the way they look.

A person does not have to look “creepy” to be “creepy”.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Deer-Vehicle Collisions

My car stopped inches away from hitting a large deer this afternoon. I was taking a back road by the lake to avoid the holiday traffic.   A deer jumped over the railing to cross the road.  I slammed on my brakes hoping the truck travelling behind me would see the deer too.   The deer ran across the road in a scattered manner.  When my car was stopped, I noticed several more deer running away from the road.  It was mid-afternoon on a cloudy day.

Most of the roads I travel are marked with deer crossing signs.  Seeing deer crossing the road at night is a common occurrence.  The deer usually are moving at dawn and dusk.   I was surprised to see deer in the middle of the afternoon. 

According to data from State Farm, the likelihood of a licenced driver hitting a deer in Pennsylvania is 1 in 86.  State Farm offers tips in avoiding Deer-Vehicle collisions.

Here are tips on how to reduce the odds of a deer-vehicle collision involving your vehicle becoming part of the story we tell next year:
          Be aware of posted deer crossing signs. These are placed in active deer
          crossing areas.

Remember that deer are most active between 6 and 9 p.m.
Use high beam headlamps as much as possible at night to illuminate the areas from which deer will enter roadways.
Keep in mind that deer generally travel in herds – if you see one, there is a strong possibility others are nearby.
         Do not rely on car-mounted deer whistles.
If a deer collision seems inevitable, attempting to swerve out of the way could cause you to lose control of your vehicle or place you in the path of an oncoming vehicle.
Be Safe!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Information Overload

When I was a brown belt student, the dojo offered Intro lessons to prospective students. The Intro was taught by a black belt or 1st kyu brown belt. I remember being asked to lead an Intro session as a brown belt. I was handed a clip board with a detailed sheet listing the items to be covered in each lesson. The instructions…

Stick to the list and try to resist offering too much information.

I followed the advice of the class instructor even though I did not understand it at the time. The sessions covered the basics of courtesy, dojo layout, punches, blocks and a few stances.

I was a class instructor before I truly understood the importance of the instructions. There is a danger of too much information. I also understand how easy it would have been to get carried away with the intro. As a 1st kyu or a new shodan, there is an exuberance and willingness to share.  It takes time to learn how to break down information in digestible pieces depending on the experience level of the student.

As I mentioned to the beginner class last week, Karate and Shrek have something in common.

Karate and Shrek can both be described as being like an onion…layers.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How To Be A Good Customer

I am tired and grumpy.  The "busy" season at work is soon over. I work for a company in the Christmas business.   We distribute seasonal merchandise.   Each year, I hire and train seasonal customer service representatives to work seven weeks in a demanding call center environment.

Overall, we have great customers. It is nice seeing our regular customers who stop in for their order. I am sad when I hear an "old timer" in the business has died.  This year, a few of the customers have been especially challenging.  In an effort to put this season behind me, I present suggestions on How To Be A Good Customer.

1.  "What do you mean?!!!"  is not an appropriate response when told an item is out of stock.

2.  Please refrain from using "Gimme".  Gimme a case of stands  Gimme a box of rings.

3.  It is really difficult to hear if you are on speaker phone.

4.  Please do not call in with an order and put us on hold to answer your other line.

5.  Please have your order ready.  Going through the 30 page catalog...one page at a time should be done before you call.

6.  Please do not swear at us when we tell you there are no parts available for an obsolete machine.

7.  Know who you are.  The database has over 10,000 customers....many with the name evergreen somewhere in the title.  The call will be much smoother if you know your customer number or at least the name your account was set up in.

8. Freight charges are an expensive part of doing business.

9.  If our published pick up hours begin at 8:30, please do not arrive early to get a "jump on your day".

10.  Do not ask us to leave your order outside for you to pickup after hours.  We cannot.

In other news, I should resume regular posting in a week.  Thank you to the readers and followers of this blog for bearing with the lapse in posting. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What Makes A Good Training Partner?

A few weeks ago, I was at the Honbu for a kobudo training event.   We worked weapon applications for about an hour before the group was split up.  Hanshi sent the instructor level students to the first floor to train.  There were six of us on the floor led by two Kyoshi. 

The workout began....

The Kyoshi led us through material at a pace and intensity level I had not practiced at for a long time. 

It was wonderful.

I watched how they trained together.  They were great training partners.  They pushed each other to move faster and conserve movement.  They would stop briefly to answer questions or discuss a movement but would immediately resume the workout with intensity.

I returned to the dojo with a better understanding of what it means to be a good training partner.

In your opinion, what makes a good training partner?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I Don't Know

It has been a while since I posted.  I work for a company that specializes in Halloween and Christmas supplies.  Halloween is over and we are heading toward 8 weeks of Christmas shipping.  I am trying to juggle more than I can handle.  One of the direct results from my schedule has been a temporary absence from the blogosphere.  I would love to announce that "I'm Back!" but I foresee sporadic posting until the beginning of December.

The following topic has come up at work in the last few weeks.   Often I overhear employees respond to questions from the boss with a shrug of the shoulders and "I don't know".  When I hear the words I cringe.  It is not because of the "I don't know" part.  It is because the words are not followed by a "but..."

but I will find out.
but I will look into it.
but I will let you know.

Other responses could be...

Let me get back to you.
I will get you the information you need.

The same is true for the karate instructor.   When students ask a question, it is ok not to know the answer.  The amount of knowledge to acquire while learning a martial art is endless. There is always something to practice, read, learn and explore. Similar to my work example, "I don't know" could be followed with:

but let's find out.
but we can research the topic.
but let's explore the question.
and so on...

In fact, "I don't know" opens the door to new learning opportunities.

Enjoy your training!

Thank you to the readers and followers of this blog.  I appreciate your comments!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Words of Advice for Beginner Karate Students

We have a small group of beginner students in the dojo.  Everything in class is new and exciting.  The group looks forward to each class.  They are disappointed when they cannot attend a session. 

My question:   "What words of advice would you give to new karate students?"

In my experience, one of the most difficult concepts for new students to grasp is the cumulative nature of karate.  The students learn material/basics/principals and are eager to move on to the next kata, the next weapon, the next self-defense technique.  In the search for "the next", they often leave some material behind.  Karate is a constant process of learning, refining, exploring, questioning and practicing.  One piece of advice I offer beginner students...Karate is Cumulative.

Your advice?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Are You Through?

I was given a calender with daily quotes for my desk at work.  Most days I forget about the calendar propped up in the corner of the table.  I usually have to tear off several pages to get to the current date.   The following quote caught my eye:

When you are through trying to improve, you are through. - Vince Lombardi

It is true with my karate practice.  Each time I walk in the dojo, teach a class or read an article, my goal is to improve. 

I am not through!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sports Injury - Concussion

My daughter is playing softball this season.   As I turned the corner to arrive at the field, I saw my daughter walking with a coach.  She was holding an instant ice pack on her throat.  They saw me and walked over to the car.   The coach explained that a softball bounced off her glove and into her neck.   My daughter told me her neck hurt, it was hard to swallow and difficult to talk.  The impact of the softball made it difficult for her to breath for 30 seconds.

We packed up her gear and drove away.  Instead of heading home, I drove in the direction of her doctor's office.  I called the doctor and a nurse answered.  She told us to come to the office right away.  The doctor checked her neck and throat.  Her neck did not appear swollen.  My daughter complained of a headache.  The doctor tested her neurological symptoms and determined she had a concussion.  Her head aches, eyes hurt and noise/light sensitivity. The doctor made arrangements for an X-ray of her vertebrae at the hospital as a precaution. 

I sat in the office trying to stay calm.  I was doing fine until I heard about the X-ray for possible fractures to the spine.  The doctor handed me the referral and we were on our way to the hospital.  Two hours later, we left the hospital knowing the X-ray was negative for fractures.  My daughter has a follow-up appointment this week.  She is restricted from physical activity (sports and gym) until cleared by the doctor.

During the exam, the doctor discussed children athletes and injuries.  His first question before he examined my daughter..."Did you continue playing after the injury?".    The doctor explained that he sees many patients with sports injurys.  The kids get hit and keep playing despite a headache or other symptoms.  The kids who keep playing have a longer recovery time from a concussion than those who stop playing.

From the Mayo Clinic:

No one should return to play or vigorous activity while signs or symptoms of a concussion are present. Experts recommend that an athlete with a suspected concussion not return to play until he or she has been medically evaluated. Experts also recommend that child and adolescent athletes with a concussion not return to play on the same day as the injury.

Monday, August 29, 2011

10 Things I Learned from a Day Without Electricity

Hurricane Irene spent some time in Pennsylvania this past weekend.   We are 60 miles West of Philadelphia and the estimated rainfall was 3 inches.  We lost power on Sunday at 2:00 am until 7:00 pm.  The power returned as I was loading coolers full of food to transport to my parents freezer 20 miles away.

10 Things I Learned from a Day Without Electricity

1.  It takes 2 gallons of water to flush a toilet. 
2.  Even though I knew the electricity was off...I kept automatically trying to turn lights and faucets on.
3.  The first floor of the house is much darker than the second floor.
4.  It is important to have a land line phone in addition to portable phones.
5.  I missed the instant access to news and information from the TV and Internet.
6.  However, I got a lot of work done around the house without the distraction of the TV and Internet.
7.  I need to purchase a battery operated radio.
8.  Peanut Butter sandwiches are yummy.
9.  Kids can occupy themselves for several hours without being "plugged in".  My daughter worked on a few crafts, completed her summer reading project and math worksheets.
10. It is easy to take things for granted.  I am very thankful the electricity is back on!

Sending well wishes to all those who were in Hurricane Irene's path...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Do You Advertise?

On my way to work this morning, I was sitting in traffic at a congested intersection. If you are familiar with the road conditions in PA, you know sitting in traffic at a construction zone is a daily occurrence. A common joke among long distance truck drivers…There are two seasons in Pennsylvania….Winter and Construction.

I glanced at the license plate of the car in front of me. The first three digits were the abbreviation of a martial arts organization. The remaining digits were 7DAN. I understood the meaning of the vanity plate but am fairly certain people unfamiliar with karate/martial arts would not extract the message.

Before anyone gets angry, let me stop right here. I am not opposed to the license plate. People can have whatever license plate they want. However, the license plate got me thinking about my own circumstances. I wondered if I advertise that I am a karate practitioner.

If I answer honestly, my answer has to be “Yes”. My karate training is personal but I also have a responsibility to the dojo.

I have more karate t-shirts than I can count acquired over the years at seminars and tournaments. I can think of at least one jacket and several gear bags. I have t-shirts advertising our dojo, business cards and a karate blog.

I don’t often wear karate t-shirts unless I am attending a karate event. I remember going to Hershey Park with Tom several years ago. He was wearing a dojo t-shirt. A young man, who was working at the park, stopped Tom and asked him if he took karate lessons. As soon as Tom told the man he owned the school, the conversation ended and the worker went on his way. It was an odd exchange and I always wondered why the man asked the question. At the time, it felt like the worker was looking to cause trouble.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Interesting Article on Sports and Aggression

Interesting article from Science Daily:  "Leaving Anger on the Field: Statistics Show That Sports Help Ease Aggression in Boys"

A prescription for a healthier body and mind

"We set out to determine whether sports training would have a positive impact on these children by lowering aggression, and how this result can be achieved," explains Shahar. It would be more effective than verbal therapy, she says, because while verbal therapy encourages children to control their behavior, research indicates that it does not reduce negative emotions. The introduction of sport, however, is able to reduce aggressive behavior as a result of quelling negative emotions.

In 25 schools across Israel, Shahar and her fellow researchers analyzed a 24-week-long after-school program based on sports. Half the participants comprised a control group who did not receive sports instruction, and the other half were systematically introduced to a variety of sports for five hours a week. Three times a week, students ranging from grades 3-6 played group sports such as basketball or soccer. Twice a week, they participated in martial arts, including judo and karate.

After 24 weeks of programming, Shahar compared questionnaires and evaluations executed at the beginning of the program with the same tests administered at the end. Her results demonstrated an improvement in traits relating to participants' self-control, such as self-observation, problem-solving skills, and delayed gratification -- which ultimately led to a decrease in the incidence of aggression. Only those children who exhibited higher levels of self-control also demonstrated the decline in aggression.

Boys benefit most

Girls had a much weaker response to sports programming than their male classmates, Shahar's research showed. Statistically, there was little change in the female population. Shahar reasons that girls do not often suffer from the same aggression problems as boys, and are less likely to exhibit a passion for sport.

American Friends of Tel Aviv University (2011, July 7). Leaving anger on the field: Statistics show that sports help ease aggression in boys. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 17, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2011/07/110706195908.htm

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Discussion: Attack Scenarios

The following post describes a practice session/discussion on attack scenarios in our dojo.

Last night the dojo black belts had a discussion on attacks.  Prior to class, each participant was to research possible street attack scenarios.  The scenarios were from personal experience/concerns, newspaper articles, books, Internet searches and YouTube videos.  Each person added a few items to the list for discussion.

1.  Grab belt from behind in a workplace environment. 
2.  Grab neck with one hand.
3.  Grab from behind in bear hug.  Arms are pinned.
4.  Blocking a door or entrance.  (work cubicle, elevator, etc.)
5.  Being followed.
6.  Attacker charges and attacks with strikes.
7.  Push...Push...Push.
8.  Attack while at urinal or in bathroom stall.
9.  Neck attack...hand hooking around back of neck.
10. Side by side contact when trying to leave an area.
11. Attacker throwing object to distract while charging.
12. Attacked when exiting or entering cars or homes.
13. Being jumped on while asleep.
14. Rear choke.

This list represents the items discussed in a dojo session.  It is not a comprehensive list nor did we include weapons in this session.  The group discussed each scenario and practiced defending against the attack.  We only made it part way through our list and will have to revisit the session.

Personal Observations:
1.  Often we practice linear attacks/grabs in the dojo.  We need more practice in circular conflicts.
2.  Blocked Entrance.  I found this difficult.  One participant described an actual situation which happened at work.  A man stood at the cubicle entrance and would not let the person through the door. 
3.  Following.  I had an immediate reaction when someone was following me. 
4.  Attacks not likely to be "karate" attacks. (technically correct punches with chambered fists)
5.  We have more work to do.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sandwich Night

Sandwich Night is our dojo name for karate training and dinner.  We try to have a Sandwich Night once a month.  It started with a teenage black belt's band fundraiser.  He asked the group if we wanted to buy a hoagie to support the high school band. Everyone bought a sandwich. The sandwich delivery coincided with our black belt class. 

Sandwich Night was born.  We use this time to explore topics of interest.  The sessions vary from kata/bunkai, knife throwing, improvised weapons, book reviews and video reviews.  Tonight, we will be discussing attacks.  The session was prompted by Journeyman's post Mind the Gap - Part III - Learn to Attack.

He suggests the following:

It's important to research realistic attacks.  The internet can be a good source of information, just try to make sure that information you get are from a reputable sources.  Read the news.  Consider seeking out people who are exposed to real violence, most likely through profession, who offer seminars or courses on personal protection.  Basically, find out what you actually might face, and practice responding, or defending, from that.

Should be a good night of training...
...and dinner.  :)

Welcome new readers and followers of this blog!   

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Rant to Parents

I don't like to rant on this blog. But every once in a while....

Parents...please watch your children.

Yesterday, I had jury duty in town.  I reported to the courthouse at 8:00 a.m.   We waited 2 hours before we were called to the courtroom.  The jury selection was for a civil case to award damages.  The case involved a dog.  I may have mentioned in previous post that I am afraid of dogs.  When I was young, I was chased by a large German Shepherd at a playground.  My sister was with me and we ran up a sliding board and stood on the top platform.  The owner of the dog saw the whole thing but did not call off his dog.  After a few minutes, the dog ran back to his owner.  I logically know this situation was about more about the dog owner than the dog.  This event caused me to be afraid of dogs.  I was not picked for the jury.

I was dismissed from jury duty at lunch and headed to work.  I was driving out of the city one traffic light at a time.  I approached the city limits.  There was a single lane of traffic in each direction.  There was parking permitted on each side of the street.  To the left was a large cemetery and on the right a row of houses.   There was a man parking his car on the left across from the houses.  A small toddler in a bright pink outfit was on the sidewalk to the right.  I am driving slow and watching. The toddler ran out in the middle of the street toward the man.  She had no concept of the danger.  I hit my brakes and stopped a cars length from the toddler.  The man came across the street and scooped up the child.  The man gave me a dirty look.

Who was watching this child?  She was standing alone on the sidewalk next to a busy street.

When my daughter was little, I made sure she held my hand.  I tried to be diligent about parking lots and streets.  There are no sidewalks in my neighborhood.  The kids play in the street.   There are at least two portable basketball nets sitting on the edge of the street between parked cars.  The kids like to wait until a car drives up the street.  They shoot baskets over the moving car from across the street.  The same unsupervised group of kids used to ride their Big Wheel on the street.

So parents...please watch your children in parking lots and near streets.  This advice comes from a person who was run over by a car at 2 years old.  We were standing in front of an ice cream shop.  I pulled away from my group and darted off the curb.  My Mom told me there were tire tracks on my clothing.  The doctor thought my arm was crushed.  It healed completely. 

I was very lucky.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Parking Garage Safety

I don't like parking garages.

There are too many places for people to hide - stairs, elevator or between cars.  The parking garages I have seen are often poorly lit and dingy.  Several years ago, a co-worker was attacked in a parking garage in broad daylight.  She was the HR Manager and had to go to the courthouse for an unemployment hearing.  A man approached her but she yelled and swung at him with her briefcase.  He was surprised by her reaction and ran away.

This morning I had to drop my daughter off at the community college for play practice.  I drove in the parking garage and there was a group of 4 men standing at the entrance.  My daughter looked at me and told me to keep driving and find another entrance.  I pulled in the nearest space because I was late for work and in a hurry.   We got out of our car and one man walked away from the group.  The remaining men stood at the entrance talking.  We walked through the exit  and went to the theater. 

Everything was fine but I believe I made a mistake. 

I should have went to another exit.  I made assumptions about the group due to the time of day (8:00 a.m.).  The men looked like college staff members because they were holding papers.  The men were casually dressed.  No one had an ID badge.  My assumptions could have been incorrect.

Here are a few tips for parking garage safety.

1. Awareness.  No headphones, cell phones or text messaging.
2. Know where you are going. 
3. Park near a light.
4. Have your keys ready.  Be ready to use your panic button alarm on your key chain.
5. Try not to be overburdened with packages or bags.
6. Lock your doors and keep your windows up.
7. Trust your instincts. 

Please add to the list.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

By Request

In my previous post, I mentioned somber posts written about my karate training during a rough year. 

Caterina commented "Naturally, it's up to you what you choose to publish on your blog. But sometimes it can be helpful to know that other people have "somber" moments too." 

The following post was in the draft folder since the Fall of 2010.  My outlook has come full circle and I am enthused about training and teaching.  I hope sharing this post will help someone else through a somber moment. 

It's gone...

I wore a gi for the first time in three weeks. I reached for my uniform on the shelf and it was coarse and heavy. I looked at it for a minute and sighed. I put on my uniform and it felt wrong...uncomfortable. I slowly tied my obi around my waist.

Where did it go? Is it lost or was it taken? Is this feeling temporary? Could it be permanent? Where do I look for it? Will it ever be found?

I have written many posts on an important aspect of karate and training. I firmly believe that a person should enjoy what they are doing. I does not matter if it is karate, soccer, music or art.

At this moment, in regards to karate training...I can't seem to find the joy.

What helped me through the somber time?
1.  Time
2.  Karate Friends
3.  Training Road Trips
4.  Patience
5.  Practice
6.  Students

Monday, July 11, 2011

Refueling My Karate Spirit

This past weekend I attended the 27th IKKF Annual Training. The instructors included Hanshi C. Bruce Heilman, Kyoshi Ann-Marie Heilman, Hanshi Miguel Ibarra, Hanshi Jody Paul, Kyoshi Bill Hayes, Kyoshi Nancy Caliguri, Kyoshi Carla Molinaro and OKKKU Directors Hanshi Larry Isaac, Hanshi Victor Coffin, Hanshi Al Louis and Kyoshi George Epps.

The opportunity and wealth of information was endless. I was fortunate to attend sessions taught by seven of the guest instructors. The final hour of the event was a Question & Answer session. In each of the sessions, instructors shared their experiences and offered encouragement. I left the training knowing I witnessed/participated in a historic event.

Topics and teaching styles varied but there was a common theme which resonated through the sessions.

Karate is a Gift.

I would consider the past year a bumpy road along my martial arts journey. Regular readers may have noticed a reduction in the number of karate related blog posts. There are many posts in my draft folder with too somber a tone to publish. It was a year of questioning, doubt and searching.

It is time to put the bumpy year behind me.

Thank you to my instructors Hanshi C. Bruce Heilman and Kyoshi Ann-Marie Heilman for this training opportunity.

IKKF Website

OKKKU Website

HKA Website

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July!

I wanted to share a few pictures from the 82nd Airborne Museum on Fort Bragg.  I visited the Museum last month.   My Dad was in the 82nd Airborne from 1948-1954.  Check out the post Thanks For Serving, 82nd Airborne 1948-1954 - Photos I and Photos II.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

19 Days

Last night was my first night on the dojo floor in nineteen days.  I was surprised when I checked my calendar and counted off the days.  Has it really been that long?

June has historically been a slow karate month for me.  The beginning of the month is busy with end of school activities for my daughter.  In the middle of the month, we drove to Miami to go on the Cruise I won at the AAA travel show. During the past week, I was busy procuring items for a raffle to benefit a local children's theater.

Time flies...

There was a time when missing time in the dojo would make me feel bad or a bit guilty.  I don't want to feel that way about karate.   I accept there will be times when I am able to practice more....and sometimes practice less.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Anonymous...or Not?

Six months ago....

The phone rang at midnight.  Late night phone calls startle me. I immediately think there is something terribly wrong.  I rushed to answer the call.

I did not recognize the voice on the other end of the phone.  After a long pause, a person began talking but did not disclose their name.   The person asked me a series of questions.  I did not respond other than to ask "Who are you?"

I was about to hang up the phone but the next question froze my hand to my ear.  The caller made a specific reference to a post I wrote on this blog. 

The caller knew who I was but I had no idea who they were.

I hung up the phone.

How did the caller connect my blog to the dojo phone number?  After hours of online searching, I figured out how the person found the phone number. 


A setting was automatically changed which listed my site URL on the public profile page.  In a few clicks and searches, I was able to connect the blog-dojo-organization-instructors-work information.  I corrected the setting.

When I started my blog, I decided to be semi-anonymous.  Yes...Michele is my real first name but I try to be cautious about disclosing too much information.  It was months before I told family members about my site.  I am sure their are nuggets of information scattered throughout blog posts and comments which could connect all the pieces. 

Are you anonymous?  Do you blog using your full name?  Is it even possible to be semi-anonymous or anonymous?  Has anyone tracked you down through your blog?  In the age of social networking and instant connections...does it even matter?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Graftbolt: ACL Surgery

Interesting article about a new "bolt" for ACL Surgery:
GraftBolt aims to improve the patient’s quality of life by successfully repairing their injury first time and improving the quality of bonding of the graft to the bone, which speeds up the healing of the graft implant and hence improves the patient’s rehabilitation,’ said Wang.
Read more: http://www.theengineer.co.uk/sectors/medical-and-healthcare/news/inventors-say-implant-could-revolutionise-knee-surgery/1009083.article#ixzz1Q1oy5BlQ

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Hello Readers! 

I am back from a road trip to Miami (approximately 2300 miles round trip).   It was great to get away but it is nice to be home. Here are a few photos from the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, FL.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Ohiopyle 2011

Whenever I download pictures from my camera, there are usually a few pictures of paths or roads.  I like the point in the image where you can no longer see where the path goes.  Where is the path going to take me?  I need to keep moving along to find out.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Parents: Should They Stay or Should They Go?

When parents/guardians bring their children to their first karate class, they sit on the sidelines and watch the session.  Our dojo is open so the parents can see and hear what is happening in class. The parents talk to the instructors and ask questions about the class, style, dojo and policies.  One question often asked:

Do I have to stay during class?

When I taught at the dance studio, which was located in a mall, most of the parents dropped off their kids and went shopping.  The  teaching space was behind closed doors with a glass observation window.  It was the worst space I ever taught karate.  The owner of the studio liked to put me in the "gym" room complete with purple walls and a trampoline.   I taught very young kids (3-6) a pre-karate program.  We worked on balance and co-ordination.  I liked to keep my door open so the parents could hear what I was teaching their children.  The owner wanted the door closed at all times.   So...I invited the parents in the room when I felt they should hear what I was teaching.

I took my daughter (who was 5 at the time) for dance lessons at the same studio.  I would stay and watch the classes.   A few of the karate parents of the youngest karate group would stay all the time.  (Thank you!) One mom dropped her 3 year old son off and left each class.  He always needed to go to the bathroom during class.  The studio policy was that if the parent was not in the waiting room...the entire class had to escort the child and wait outside the bathroom.  These classes were only a half hour long and we spent 10 minutes each session in the lobby outside the bathroom....waiting. 

In the 16 years since our dojo has opened, we had a wide range of parents.

Sit and wait. (largest group of parents in our dojo)
Sit and wait but eventually join class.  :)
Sit with friend - talk and wait.
Sit and wait - work on computer.
Sit and wait for a portion of class - take a short walk outside.
Drop off
Drop off and go fishing at the lake.

So...what is my answer to the question...Do we have to stay?

It is really up to the parent/guardian and the child.  If I felt strongly that a parent should stay, for whatever reason, I would tell the parent individually.

As an instructor my preference is for the parents of young children (5-8) to stay.  I think it is important for the parents to hear what their children are learning.  They learn appropriate age level self-defense.  I think it is also important the parents know we tell the children that karate practice is to be done in the dojo with an instructor for safety reasons.  There is no practicing on parents, friends, brothers/sisters or pets.

One other consideration for our dojo is the proximity of the local Fire Company.  The Fire Company social hall is only 100 yards down the street.   A few parents have asked if it was ok if they hang out at the Fire Company when their children are in class.  They usually add this tidbit of information after I tell them staying is up to the parent.   I know they serve food at the social hall but when most people are hanging out...they hang out at the bar.

What do you think...should parents stay or should they go?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Summer of No and Less

I have declared this to be my Summer of No and Less.  My revelation happened when I was cleaning out a wardrobe closet looking for a specific item of clothing for my daughter.  I emptied the closet and was surprised by what I found:  6 hand made baby blankets (my daughter is 12), 1 cheerleader shoe from 1st grade, tap shoes from kindergarten, a Hess truck, 3 Halloween costumes, 2 comforters, a beach towel, 2 sleeping bags, a Pooh clock and 4 parasols.  Why does my daughter have 4 parasols?

Of course, I did not find the item I was looking for.  There is too much stuff in our house.  The attic is full of plastic tubs.  The garage is lined with storage boxes.  My goal for the summer is to go through the boxes and plastic bins and decide what I should keep.  One bag of clothes was sent to the Goodwill already.  There are two more bags waiting in the hallway.  :)  I am dusting off my eBay account and ready to sell. 

I also need to practice saying "No".  I have one "No" on the books already for the summer.  My daughter had to choose between softball and soccer as her fall sport. I said "No" to trying to do both.  I think it is important for her to focus on doing one sport well.   She chose softball.   We have been warned that 7th grade is challenging...more homework, science fair projects and Confirmation preparation.

I am looking forward to this summer!  I hope I will have more room, less stuff and a few extra dollars in my pocket.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Things to Avoid at Black Belt Testing

The dojo has two students preparing for dan rank testing in July.  During the weeks leading up to black belt testing, I am always asked questions about my testing experiences.  I have shared advice on this blog about Preparing for Black Belt Testing.  Today, I am going to recommend some things to avoid. :)

1.  Ocular Migraine:  A few hours before formal testing, I got an ocular migraine.  I was seeing flashes of lights and stars.  I went home to rest for an hour.  I honestly did not think I would even be able to drive back to the testing site. Luckily, the migraine subsided and I was able to test.  To this day, it was my first and only ocular migraine. 

2.  Bunkai partner MIA.  It was my turn to demonstrate open hand bunkai.  My partner and I practiced for weeks.  I looked around the room for my bunkai partner and she was no where to be found.  She was in the bathroom!  I did not want to make the testing board wait so I asked another person to work with me from the crowd. I will always be grateful to my replacement bunkai partner.  :)

3.  Scheduling surgery.   After my daughter was born I was diagnosed with gall stones.  Surgery was recommended but there was no hurry.  A few weeks later I was told that I would be testing in a few months.  I scheduled surgery two days after testing.  :)

4. Short preparation time.  Keep training and practicing.  You never know when you will get testing notice.  I have had anywhere from a year to 5 weeks notice.

5.  For female readers only...Does black belt testing always coincide at the worst time?  Seriously...

The above list is from my personal testing experience.  The good news....despite all the unplanned things that happened...I made it through each of my tests. 

I am sure you have more suggestions. Please add to the list!

Best of luck to all those preparing for testing!  To the students in our dojo preparing for Nidan and Sandan...keep up the good work!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Poll: Training

Summer is around the corner!   The kids are out of school and vacations are planned.   Some people may find it harder to maintain their regular training schedule.  For others, the summer provides more opportunities to train and attend seminars.

Question 1:  Do you have more time to devote to training in the summer?

Question 2:  Besides a dojo/training hall, name another location you practiced karate.

My answers: 
Question 1:  I should have more time to devote to training in the summer. In addition, I am planning on attending a seminar in July.

Question 2:  When I was a kyu rank, a small group would go out to eat after class on Thursday nights.  This was many years before my daughter was born. There were many late-night impromptu practice sessions in the parking lot of the pizza shop.  Questions were asked and answered, kata reviewed and a bo form was taught. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

From The Draft Folder: Practice, Patience and Time

Here is a post from my Draft Folder originally dated 06.29.08.

A key part of learning karate is patience.

I have heard audible groans when I told the class that we were going to review earlier material. There have been many students who leave behind material because they are so focused on what is ahead.

Not only does a student need to take along earlier material as they progress, they must improve the earlier material. A brown belt needs to demonstrate a white belt level kata with brown belt skill. In order for this to happen, a student must take the skills they learn at yellow, green and brown and apply it to all their material.

This takes practice, patience and time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Roll Falls

Teaching karate students how to fall properly is part of our curriculum. We drag the mats out and practice our falls…front, side, back and roll. The kids in the karate school love to practice falling almost as much as they like to spar. As an instructor, I have seen people practice falls that make me cringe. One student could not get over the fear/feeling of falling. He was so rigid and he would fall like a plank of wood. In fact, this teenage student was attacked by a group of older kids at a community festival. He was pushed back and fell with his arm stretched out resulting in a compound fracture.

Have you ever needed to do a roll fall outside of the dojo?

Yesterday, I took a walk around the neighborhood. I live near a lake and there are many trail entrances close by. I wanted to see where one of the trails started so I walked down the path. The beginning of the trail was muddy due to a few days of rain. The trail opened up to stone road used by the Park Rangers.  I walked on the stone road and my foot caught the edge of a loose rock. My ankle twisted and I stumbled forward. I tried to regain my balance but the momentum pulled me forward.

My mind screamed “ROLL!”

I did.

I stood up and brushed myself off. Tom was walking with me and witnessed the fall. He commended me on my textbook roll fall. I think he gave it a 9 out of 10.  :)  The dirt tracks on my clothing went across my left shoulder to my right hip and leg. My head, knees and elbows did not make contact with the ground. The palm of my hand was cut where I scraped across the stone road. I woke up today a little sore across my ribs and the heels of my hands.

A few things:

Rocks and dirt are much harder than the dojo floor.

Even though my hands were scraped, I sustained only minor injuries from the fall.

I believe karate training took over and advised me to roll instead of bracing against the fall.

If I wouldn’t have rolled, I would have went Splat.  I most likely would have sustained injury to my knees, arms, wrist and head. The fall may have been severe enough to warrant a trip to the ER, a few stitches and time missed at work.

Do you have any stories to share? Do you practice falls in the dojo?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

ACL Reconstruction - Four Years

May 15th is the anniversary date of my ACL surgery.  I almost forgot about writing my anniversary post! I remembered yesterday when I saw a person walking around the grocery store with an ACL brace.

Four years....

For the most part...my knee is good.  I have resumed all pre-surgery activities and have full ROM.  This past year has been exceptionally busy with work and family.  I  put my gym membership on hold for a few months due to work responsibilities.  I have resumed my membership but my time at the gym is sporadic.  I joined the gym 4 years ago with the sole purpose of keeping my knee strong. 

I notice the difference.  After a long karate class, my knee feels tired and sore. I am hesitating with certain movements in kata such as the jump in Chinto and the pivoting in Tekkos.

My plan for the next year is to rededicate my efforts to keep my knee strong.  I will go to the gym regularly.  If I cannot get to the gym, I must remember to do leg strengthening exercises at home (similar to my original PT protocol). 

There is still one spot on my knee where the nerves don't seem aligned.  If I rub the inside of my knee, I feel prickling on the outside of my knee.  I don't think this will ever go away.
My previous anniversary updates can be found below.
3 Year Update
2 Year Update
1 Year Update

Thank you to all the readers of this blog. If anyone finds this blog and wants to share their ACL story as a guest post, please contact me. If you have a blog about ACL surgery and recovery and would like me to add it to my blogroll, feel free to post a comment or email.

If you find this post because you have an ACL injury...best of luck on your recovery!

Monday, May 9, 2011

In Between

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar taught by Kyoshi Bill Hayes.  Major Hayes is the author of “My Journey With The Grandmaster”.  I wrote about a previous seminar I attended in the post Get Uncomfortable

If you have the opportunity to attend a seminar by Kyoshi Hayes, I highly recommend attending. Make sure to bring paper and a pen…you will need them. If you have not read the book “My Journey With The Grandmaster”....read it. It will change the way you think about training.

I want to share with you one of the concepts presented at the seminar.  The dojo wall was lined with charts, definitions and concepts.  I have pages of notes but one line of text on a chart jumped off the page for me.
Written on the third line of the chart comparing "martial science" to "martial arts" was the following:

Martial science - end of motion bunkai. 
Martial arts...in between motion.

Focus on the "in between".

Enjoy your training!

Welcome and thank you to the new Followers of this blog:  Patty Pitman and Yamabushi.  I appreciate all the Readers and Followers!   Thank you to all who comment and share their insights!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blank Page

It is what I am staring at when I try to write a blog post. I have ideas for posts in my draft folder but there are only titles or a few sentences. In an attempt to get back on track, this post will list the random karate thoughts in my brain.

Confidence. How do you teach confidence? We are working on kata presentation. I am talking about presence not showmanship. The confidence needs to come from the inside with training as the source.

Stress. I need to use my karate training as a resource to handle stress. My only New Year’s Resolution was to NOT accept other peoples stress. My family uses me as a repository for stress. I will get panicked calls about missing cell phones, keys, ATM cards, heavy traffic on the way to the airport and forgotten homework. I was determined to not let their stress become mine. I am trying.  I need to take a lesson from one of our young white belt students. It was told by his parents that he practices kata during breaks at school. The teachers reported the boy seems calmer when he returns from his break.

Brotherhood. I have been thinking a lot about the use of the term brotherhood in martial arts. I often hear male practitioners use the word brotherhood or refer to each other as brothers. I never felt as if the male practitioners were using this term to exclude the female practitioners.  I asked several of the male black belts in our dojo what they mean when they say brotherhood. Some of the answers were…a group with a common goal, an alliance, or fellowship. I followed up with the question…Are female practitioners part of the brotherhood? The answer was a unanimous “Yes”.

Any thoughts on the above topics?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Lucky" or "How Much Will the Grand Prize Cost Me?"

A few months ago, I reluctantly went to a travel show with my sister. I had no intention of going to the show. I went because my daughter asked (begged) me to go. We arrived at the show a half hour before it ended. We walked in the hotel lobby and was immediately given a bag and a sweepstakes form. The woman working the registration desk told us to fill out the contest form first so we could be included in the drawing for a 4-night Bahamas cruise.

I neatly folded my entry and dropped it in the box. We walked around the travel show but something told me not to leave until the Grand Prize drawing. I sat in the lobby waiting for my daughter and sister. I am not sure how but I knew I was going to win the cruise. We waited for the announcement of the winner. I saw my neatly folded entry pulled from among the thousands of entries.

The announcer read the paper and wrote down some information. There was a puzzled look on his face. Anyone with a long last name would be familiar with this look. My name was announced as the winner of a 4 night cruise to the Bahamas. I was handed a certificate and told to call the office in a few days.

I did not have many details. The only thing I knew for certain was that my daughter was thrilled. I was in shock because I don’t usually win anything.

The Details
The prize is a 4-night cruise to the Bahamas for 2.
There are 3 people in my family.
Cruise leaves from Florida.
I live in PA.
Transportation to Florida is not included.
Passports are not required on a closed loop cruise but highly recommended.
We do not have passports.
I will be issued a 1099 for the value of the prize.

I feel lucky to have won such a nice prize. Despite feeling excited and grateful about winning, I started adding up my out of pocket cost…$375.00 for passports…$900.00 plane transportation to Florida…or $??? drive to Florida….$450.00 for additional person…taxes on the prize.

I better start saving!

Although I feel "Lucky",  the practical me still can't help wondering "How much is the grand prize going to cost me?"  :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Back To The Gym

The last two months have been extremely busy.  In fact, the word overscheduled comes to mind when I think back over the past weeks.  I need to learn how to say "No" and do a better job managing my time.

Whenever I am busy, the first thing that suffers is my time at the gym.  I don't feel like driving 15 minutes to and from the gym.  I tell myself that I will workout at home and save the commute time.  It never works out.  I get involved with other things and the next time I look at the clock...it is midnight.

I need to get back to the gym.

From the Self Magazine article "How Long Does it Take to Fall Out of Shape?":
After two weeks off . . .
"We will probably start to see a decline in general fitness levels," says Rasmussen. "These can occur at different rates in the muscular and cardiovascular systems." At this point, it's probably safe to jump back in at the same intensity you were cranking at before the hiatus.

After more than two weeks off...
"The longer that is taken off, the more you need to scale back," says Rasmussen. "I would recommend scaling volume and intensity back a bit, but you do not have to start back at square one." The good news: Assuming you had a solid foundation already in place, "you will regain fitness levels back at a faster rate than someone who has never had them in the first place." Phew.
I have maintained my karate schedule over the last two months but I have not worked cardio or weight training.  I can feel the difference in my fitness level.  In fact, my right knee tells me after every karate practice.  My ACL reconstructed knee has been feeling weak and a bit loose.   I joined the gym 4 years ago because of my commitment to keep my knee healthy and strong.

I need to get back to the gym!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Observations From a Rural Route Delivery Person

I may have mentioned previously on this blog that I work part-time as a rural route delivery person.  I work one night a week delivering newspapers on a driving route.   After my daughter was born, I quit my full time job to stay home with her.  I was used to working and I wanted to have spending money of my own.  A rural route delivery position was perfect for my schedule. Many rural newspaper carriers are mothers or retired people.  I returned to full-time employment when my daughter entered first grade.  I kept my part-time position.

Newspaper carriers usually deliver between 3:00 A.M. and 5:00 A.M.  Here are some of my observations and experiences:

1.  There are a lot of police officers patrolling at night.  I know exactly where they set up to monitor speeding motorists.  The police officers know my car and the reason I am in the neighborhood.  One police officer stopped me to inform me of a crime spree in the neighborhood.  He asked me to keep my eye out and report any suspicious activity.

2.  Homeowners should check their garage door before they go to bed.  I see at least one open garage door with the lights on each shift. 

3.  Parents...Do you know where your kids are?  During the summer months, I am surprised by the number of young teens walking around at 3:00 A.M.

4.  A note to the guys standing in their open garage "smoking"...you can smell the smoke two blocks away.  If your neighbors are awake, they will know you are not smoking cigarettes.

5.  People like to sit on their porch in the middle of the night. 

6.  A teenage boy (16-18) sat alone on his porch in the dark.  He was always there...sitting...waiting.  I knew the address of the house because they were one of my customers.  One day, I heard on the news that a boy from the same address committed suicide by walking in front of a tractor trailer.

7.  Sometimes the neighborhood watch thinks I am the suspicious character.  I was followed by a red truck until the person realized I was delivering the paper.

8.  Motion lights never fail to startle me.  I know which houses have the lights yet I still jump when they turn on.

9.  Every once in a while, I get a prickly feeling at the back of my neck.  Once, I looked in my rear view mirror to see a figure about a hundred yards behind me.  The figure stood there watching me.  I quickly went on my way.

10. There is a lot of train activity at 3:00 A.M.  I hate to get stopped at a crossroads and have to wait for a 200 car train to pass.  I feel vulnerable and make sure my car doors are locked.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Benefits of Being a Martial Arts Practitioner While Raising a Teenage Daughter

Ok...my daughter is not a teenager yet.  She thinks she is a teenager despite the fact she only turns twelve next week.   Outings at the mall with friends and talking about boys are on the top of her priority list. 

Just for fun.

Benefits of  Being a Martial Arts Practitioner While Raising a Teenage Daughter

1.  All prospective dates will enter the house through the dojo while class is in progress.
2.  If no class is in progress, it would be a great time to clean the sword collection.
3.  Introduce prospective boyfriends to ALL our karate friends. 
4.  Suggest the location of the first date be a self-defense class.
5.  Make sure to volunteer him as the Uke.

Suggestions are welcome!  :)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What Should I Be Working On?

When I started learning karate I was given a booklet which outlined all the belt rank testing requirements. Each level was outlined in detail and included vocabulary, basics, kicks, waza, kata, kobudo, sparring and self-defense. I liked having a tangible list. I would often refer to the outline to see what I should be working on and what was next. Some of my classmates would highlight their list after they learned a technique, kata or weapon.

In some ways, things were easier as a kyu rank. You knew exactly what was expected and when the material was required. After black belt, students discover there is more time and less pressure. It will be years…not months…between testing.

When new black belt students in our dojo ask…“What should I be working on?”… I suggest the following:

Continue learning the required material.
Refine your basics and movement.
If you have the opportunity to attend seminars…Go!
If you find a martial arts book that interests you…Read it!
Explore bunkai.
Assist in class.

Recently, the black belt group in the dojo has worked on kata, kobudo, self-defense, knife throwing, tegumi drills, individual kata and two-person weapon forms. On the schedule...a night to video our open hand and weapon kata and a street clothes self-defense class.

If you get a chance, stop by and wish Bob, author of Middle Aged Martial Artist, a speedy recovery.  He was the first blog I found when I was researching ACL reconstruction.  Bob tore his left ACL in 2007 during the final minutes of his black belt test.  He posted last week that he injured his knee.  The MRI confirmed he tore his right ACL.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What Type of Thinker Are You?

I took an online quiz which tests nine types of thinking styles. My results: Intrapersonal Thinker. Spend a lot of time thinking about and trying to understand themselves. Reflect on their thoughts and moods, and work to improve them. You understand how your behaviour affects your relationships with others. Other Intrapersonal thinkers include Sigmund Freud, Gandhi, Grahame Greene Careers which suit Intrapersonal Thinkers include Psychologist, Teacher, Pilot, Child Care worker, Explorer, Drama therapist. My purpose for taking the quiz was to see how my thinking style relates to learning karate. There is an area of my training I want to improve. I don't "see" things the same way some of my training partners do. They are engineers and craftsmen and would probably be considered logical-mathematical thinkers. What is your thinking style? How does your thinking style impact your martial arts study?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mean Girls Strike Again - 2011 Version

I spoke too soon.

I recently commented that my daughter’s 6th grade year was better in regards to bullying. The moment the words came out of my mouth I wondered why I dared say it out loud.

The voice on the other end of the receiver asked if I could pick her up “right now” at school. My daughter was scheduled to attend Girl Scouts and softball practice. A group of girls deliberately excluded her from the group, called her names and hid her books and pencil case. The assistant softball coach saw the group hiding the items in the locker room. The girl’s said it was just a game.

It is not a game…it is bullying.

The assistant softball coach, who witnessed the behavior of the group, informed the other assistant coach who happens to be the father of the lead “mean girl”.

So what happened?

I received a phone call from the girl’s parents. I appreciate the call because I am sure it was not an easy one to make. We had a long discussion and I informed them of the duration and extent of the bullying. They had a talk with their daughter and want me to tell them if the bullying continues.

Hopefully things will get better but I am concerned it could get worse.

For excellent articles on bullying prevention check out John Zimmer's My Self-Defense Blog and Sensei Matt Klein's article Bullying: A Parents Guide to Prevention.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


A little less than a year ago, I wrote the post Get Uncomfortable. During an excellent training seminar, Kyoshi Hayes, author of “My Journey With The Grandmaster”, told us to embrace discomfort.

Today…I am feeling uncomfortable. It has everything to do with a project we are working on in the dojo tonight. It involves a deck of index cards with the 51 open hand and weapon kata written on the back, a similar deck with the names of the black belts and a timer.

I am trying to embrace my discomfort. I’ll keep you posted.

Check out the new feature on this blog…subscribe via email.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Returning To Karate Training After A Long Break

It has been years since you were inside a dojo. Your gear is packed in a gym bag stored in the attic. Your karate uniform is long gone. Your bo is propped up in a corner of the garage. Every once in a while you reminisce about the time you spent training. You stopped practicing karate for various reasons....moved away, college, married, kids, sports, employment. You want to return and your mind is filled with "What if's".

What if I don't remember anything?
What if it is harder now that I am a older?
What if people are there who I trained with before and now they outrank me?
What if I have to start at white belt again?

After a few weeks of pondering the "What if's", you make the decision to train again.

Here are a few of my recommendations when you return to karate training after a long break.

Welcome back!
Contact your instructor and inform him/her of your wish to return.
Discuss your concerns and ask questions.
Your instructor should inform you of the protocol.
Dust off your gear and inventory.
Determine what you will need for class.
Attend as many classes as your schedule and the dojo allows.
You may want to start off with a few private lessons for a jump start on your return.
Don't be so hard on yourself. It takes a few months to remember what you learned in the past.
Find a training partner who will work with you before or after regular class.

As with all physical activity, you may want to check with your doctor before your return.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Dojo Door

New students begin their journey.
They come to class each week.
Students learn, question, drill, improve and enjoy.
They become part of the dojo community.
Parents sit and watch their children.
They too become part of the dojo community.
Instructors share and encourage.
Students continue to improve.
Instructors see the potential.


Students take a break from training.

Sometimes they return...often they do not.

I understand how difficult schedules can be. I struggle with my own...work, family, dojo, house, tai chi, part time job and my daughter's softball, soccer, choir, Girl Scouts, living Stations and Play. Despite being able to understand...it is still hard to hear.

How do I respond?

The dojo door is always open. We look forward to your return.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Love What You Are Doing

Two weeks ago, I picked my daughter up from the extended care program at her school. The moment she saw me she came running over…“Can I play softball?”

The request was a complete surprise. There was an open gym practice at school. Instead of sitting around in study hall waiting for me to pick her up, she decided to hang out in the gym. Sign ups for softball were weeks ago and I immediately dismissed the email because she was signed up for spring soccer. Not to mention the fact she never, ever expressed any interest in softball. In fact, I believe the first time she picked up a real bat and a real softball was two weeks ago.

I needed more information about the team. I asked my daughter to find out when practices are and when the games are played. She talked about softball the entire drive home. It sounded like this…

Do you think I can play softball? Do you think I can still sign up? What day do you think the games are? If the games are on Sunday, can I play? Maybe I can miss some of the soccer games? Do you think Daddy (aka the soccer coach) will be mad? I only need to buy shoes because there are softball gloves in the garage. The practices are in the afternoon before soccer. I can make the practices. I really like softball. And on…and on…and on…

All the info was gathered and the schedules were checked. We determined she could fit in softball in addition to spring soccer, play, Girl Scouts, flute and choir. When she started soccer, it took her a few seasons to learn the fundamentals. I know for certain she is only playing basketball to be around her friends. She told me she did not even like basketball.

Softball seemed different.

On our first round of catch, she was throwing the softball with accuracy. A few times, the ball was thrown so hard it stung my hand. The timid girl, who ducks when a soccer ball comes anywhere near her head, was fielding ground balls. She picked up a bat to show me how to swing. Her swings are smooth and level and she consistently hits the softball.

The assistant softball coach, who is the head basketball coach, stopped me while I was waiting to pick up my daughter from practice. He was pleasantly surprised by her softball ability and joked “Who is this girl? Where did she come from?” Her effort and enthusiasm at softball practice was remarkably different from basketball practice.

The moral of the story: Love what you are doing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Would They Pose A Risk of Violence?

There was a message on my home answering machine requesting a return call. A former co-worker gave my name as a reference for a job. The company requesting a reference is a national retail chain. The message had a sense of urgency.

Please return my call regarding X. I need you to answer 3 questions before X can be considered as an applicant for a job.

I did not want to hold up my former co-worker's job application. I called the human resource person and was quickly asked 3 questions. The questions were not what I anticipated. I was expecting basic employment information.

The Questions:
Question 1: In your opinion, would the applicant pose a risk of violence?
Question 2: Similar to question 1 but I cannot recall the wording
Question 3: Do you know of anything that would prohibit the applicant from doing the job?

The human resource person thanked me and ended the call. This is not the first time I was a job reference but it was the first time I was asked about the potential risk of violence.

OSHA defines workplace violence:

Workplace violence is violence or the threat of violence against workers. It can occur at or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide, one of the leading causes of job-related deaths. However it manifests itself, workplace violence is a growing concern for employers and employees nationwide.
I answered the questions about my former co-worker. Then I began to over-analyze the phone call. I am responsible for interviewing applicants for seasonal positions at my employer. I am not a human resourse professional but I do know there are questions you cannot ask during the interview process.

Should businesses ask opinion questions about violence during the application process? Should I have answered the question? Is the workplace being cautious? Are they protecting themselves against a negligent hiring lawsuit?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Take Up More Space

The black belt group in the dojo meets on Wednesday night. The group has been working on kata, 2 person weapon forms, tegumi drills and kobudo. At the end of the session, each person demonstrated Chinto kata for the group. We analyzed our individual kata, observed the kata of others and made general comments. My overall comment to the group was "Take up more space".

I looked over at the newest black belt in the group. His hand went to his chin and he had the look of wanting to ask a question. His question:

What did I mean by "Take up more space"? I am glad he asked the question because it forced me to break down what I was seeing. It could be one or more of the following.

1. Stance. When moving through a kata, it is important to maintain stance. There are times when stances become shorter as a practitioner moves through kata.

2. Incomplete techniques. This happens more often with beginners. Students who are trying to keep up may shortcut a technique and rush to the next one. A full punch may only make it half way to the finish point before the next technique is started. It shortens up the movement and makes the technique smaller.

3. Arm movements close to body. Arm movements that collapse and move close to the body. I see this in Nai Hanchi punches. The arm practically rests on the mid section rather than being in the punch position. It is important to maintain your frame and keep arm positions in a functional position.

4. Presence. This is the hardest one. Have you ever seen someone demonstrate kata and seem larger than life regardless of their physical size? They take up space with their presence.

In regards to this particular night and the specific kata Chinto, I was referring to stance... moving on a diagonal, shifting from kosa to seisan and back again, 360 degree turns, scooting and shifting.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Repost: Go Outside and Play

I am reposting an article from March 2009. Last night in the dojo, the parents were talking about how things were when they grew up. They spoke of going outside and playing until dark. They rode their bikes, played games, invented games and learned how to interact with each other.

The parents all mentioned how things are different for their children.

My daughter and I volunteered at the local Conservancy sponsored book signing and lecture with Richard Louv. Richard Louv is the recipient of the 2008 Audubon Medal and author of the National Bestseller Last Child in the Woods Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Louv claims that children are spending less time outdoors in a natural setting. This is the result of structured activity, over scheduling and being plugged in. Children are losing their imaginations due to the lack of unstructured play.

In Louv's lecture, he discussed the differences between children who play in a natural environment to those who play on a flat (concrete, black top) environment. He noted that the leaders that emerge from these play situations are different. The leaders on the flat environment are usually the physically strongest. The leaders in the natural environment tend to be the smartest. The group playing on the flat surface tend to be involved in structured games. The children playing in the natural environment need to make up their own games using their imagination. He was quick to point out that this is not urban versus rural.

Another interesting point Louv made in his lecture was that people have a special place. He told a story about when he was a child. There was a corn field near his home where he made an underground fort. This field/fort was his special place and even though he did not legally own the land...he felt a sense of ownership to that place. He was forever connected to that place.

Hearing Louv talk about his special place reminded me of my father. My father was born in the coal regions of PA in 1930. His family was poor as most were during that time. Dad tells stories of what he used to do when he was a kid. He would talk about the nearby dairy farm, streams, woods and the coal yards. When I was little he took me to where he played when he was young. He had me walk along the same streams, woods, dairy farm and coal yard. As we walked, he would point out where things used to be and how things have changed. At the time, I was just going for a walk. Now, I realize he was showing me his special place.

I think about my daughter and hope that she feels a sense of awe and wonder about the world. I want her to feel connected to nature. I think she does. Often when I drive her home from school she comments on the roadside litter. She asks me how she can start a recycling program. She is the type of kid who captures a slug in the backyard and wants to keep it as a pet. Her science fair topic is on the effect of pollution in rivers and streams.

Louv's lecture gave me a lot to think about. I have his book and I can not wait to read it. Who can argue with his message...Go Outside and Play!

The photo of the tree was taken by my daughter as a submission in a back to nature photo contest. She did not win but her entry was part of the slide show presentation at the Richard Louv event.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mirror, Mirror on the Dojo Wall

The dojo wall mirrors have been a training tool since I started practicing karate. I remember one of my first class instructors stopping the beginner class in the middle of a kata. We would remain in stance while he walked around and correct each student individually. The instructor would reposition our hands and check our stances. We would look in the mirror and hold the corrected position.

And we waited….

until every student was reviewed. The entire process took 10-15 minutes depending on the amount of people in class. I was a beginner and not accustomed to the stances and hand positions. My arms and legs would ache after a few minutes. We learned quickly what the position “looked like” and “felt like”.

Years later when we opened our dojo, the first major equipment purchase was a piece of mirror for the wall. Mirrors are expensive and we only could afford one piece. As the student population increased, we realized that a 6 foot section of mirror was not enough. We invested in mirrors to cover the entire front wall.

Mirrors are not a necessity but I find them to be a valuable training tool. Here are a few of the benefits:

Benefits of Mirrors – As an Instructor
1. You can see the entire class.
2. In a group class, you can gauge if the students are following along or having difficulty.
3. When teaching kids, you can monitor their position. Did you ever notice kids tend to stand only a few inches from the person next to them?

Benefits of Mirrors – As a Student
1. You can see the instructor no matter where you are in the room.
2. You can see what you look like executing a technique.
3. You can learn to identify and correct your mistakes.

What is your experience? Do you use mirrors as a training tool? Advantages? Disadvantages?

Friday, February 25, 2011


My schedule has been busier than usual. It seems like I am always in the car driving with my daughter…school, work, basketball practice, choir and play practice. On a night when I teach karate, I have one hour after I leave work to pick up my daughter and get ready for class. This pattern is affecting my dietary habits. Sometimes it is much easier and faster to pick up a hamburger or a pizza on the way home from work.

I want to break this habit.

My sister encouraged me to write down everything I eat on a daily basis. I found the website Calorie Count which is a free online food log. It takes a few minutes each day to log your food intake and activity level. Each food is given a grade from A – F. There is a report card at the end of the day which totals your grade for the day. The site offers a tool to analyze the recommended daily nutritional requirements. You can easily see which items are too high, good or too low.

It has only been a week and I am surprised at the difference it has made in my daily diet. There have been a few nice surprises and some shocking revelations. One thing is for certain, the food log has changed the way I think about food. When I make choices, I wonder what grade the item will have. Some of choices I made, which I thought were healthy, were actually a grade of “C” or lower.

At the end of the day, it is not easy to be “good” on all the daily nutritional requirements. The most surprising results from my first week are “too high” sodium and “too low” calcium.

Logging the food makes me aware of accountability. I am responsible for making quality, healthy choices.

The same can be said about martial arts practice. I have a supportive dojo community, excellent instructors and helpful training partners. But at the end of the day…

I am accountable for my practice.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

ACL Surgery - Hamstring or Knee Tendon Graft?

Interesting article from the Los Angeles Times:

The hamstring may have it, a study finds. In research presented at a recent meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine in San Diego, 180 people ranging from 13 to 52 years old who had ACL reconstruction surgery were followed for 15 years. Half of the patients had a knee tendon graft, and the others had a hamstring tendon graft. Symptoms such as knee mobility, pain and swelling were measured at two, five, seven, 10 and 15 years from the beginning of the study.

Those who had the knee tendon graft had much worse results than those who had the hamstring graft after 15 years. Overall the hamstring group reported less knee pain and discomfort but higher levels of activity than the knee tendon group.

Among those in the hamstring tendon group, 77% could do at least strenuous activities,compared with 62% in the knee group. When it came to assessing pain while kneeling, 26% of the hamstring group and 42% of those in the knee group said they had aches. The knee group also reported worse results for osteoarthritis and loss of motion.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Two More Blocks

We headed to Philly this weekend for a scavenger hunt at the Reading Terminal Market. We had two hours to answer 17 questions, eat at 6 different vendors and return to the starting point. There were 13 groups and we finished a respectable 3rd place. At each vendor, we had to take a photograph of the group eating something from the stand (chai, soft pretzel, egg sandwich, fudge, corn bread and an orange).

After the hunt, I took my daughter to see the Liberty Bell. My sister and her husband waited outside for us. We walked through Old City and eventually arrived at Penn's Landing. It was cold and the wind was gusting up to 35 mph. Our next stop was South Street. At this point, we had been walking for 4 hours. It was time to head back and it was at least 35 blocks to our scheduled restaurant. My sister Kim would open her map and tell us it was only two more blocks.

Five blocks later she would repeat...two more blocks.

My daughter would ask "How much farther?'" every few minutes.

It reminded me of this....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Me, My Daughter and Tai Chi

It has been a few weeks since I attended tai chi class. The Northeast had its fair share of winter weather...especially on a Tuesday. My plan was to go the gym and drop my daughter off in the child care room for an hour.

My daughter has been surrounded by karate since she was born. I have pictures of her when she was an infant sitting in her bouncy chair in the dojo. I think she was even holding foam nunchaku. We brought her along to tournaments. When she was a baby, I remember Tom being called for his weapon division holding her instead of his bo. He was quickly reminded "There are no live weapons." :)

My daughter has probably worn every size gi from 000-2. She starts taking classes then stops a few weeks later. I made the decision a long time ago that I would not force her to learn karate. I have seen many karate kids walk through the dojo door. Some stay for a while and earn a black belt. Others stay for a few years until school, sports or jobs pull them away. I know kids who were forced to come to class and hated every minute of it. Some return after a long absence and continue as adult students.

I am not going to lie...I want my daughter to take karate. I believe one day she will start the journey...when she is ready.

Instead of going to the child care room as planned, my daughter asked if she could take a tai chi class. My instructor granted permission. During the next hour, she practiced the Yang long form with the rest of the class. At one point she whispered in my ear..."tai chi is so relaxing...all the stress of the school day just melts away".

She wants to go to tai chi class next week.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Adapting to Environment and Limitations

I work for a seasonal distribution company. The building is in an industrial complex off a major highway. The space is divided between offices, a showroom and a warehouse. My office is in the back of the room (no window) and I cannot see the door from my desk. The building is alarmed and a low chime rings when a door, window or dock entrance is opened. The complex is busy with regular traffic (trucking companies, salespeople, package delivery services and the USPS).

Unexpectedly on Monday, I was alone in 25,000 sq ft of space. My co-workers were sick or away at trade shows. To make matters worse, I could not hear well. My left ear is driving me crazy and is completely blocked. All I hear is constant ringing. I went to the doctor and he prescribed ear drops. I have a follow up appointment next week. I could not hear the door chime.

There was at least one salesman who dropped by on a cold call. A customer picked up a large order of baskets, a lost truck driver came in for directions and a person stopped by to see if we were hiring. The UPS man made his scheduled delivery and pickup.

What did I do differently on this particular Monday?

I moved out of my office and sat in a seasonal employee desk which was facing the entrance. The desk was in an open space next to a window. I made sure the warehouse dock doors were secure and the only open entrance was the front door. When visitors came, I did not mention I was in the building alone. There is a company truck parked out front so it appears like there are several people in the building. I kept my cell phone and car keys in my pocket.

I made minor adjustments to my work day that only took a few seconds.

This post has been sitting in my draft folder for a few days. I read the post this morning and I wondered how this post would be perceived. Do the minor adjustments make me seem fearful? Paranoid? Prepared? Aware? My answer: Aware. On that day, I had a limitation...hearing. I was aware of the limitation and adjusted accordingly.

Thank you and welcome to the new readers and followers of this blog! I appreciate your comments and thank you for reading.

On a side note: I am still struggling with my ear. On Thursday, it opened for a few hours and it was wonderful! I never had a blocked ear before and did not realize how sick it makes you feel. There are a lot of Internet suggestions on how to unblock an ear including ear candling. In this 15-45 minute procedure, a hollow candle is burned in your ear to create negative pressure. Uh...no thanks!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

About Knives

Journeyman from Japanese Jiu Jitsu is posting a Knife Survival Series.

From his article:

To understand how I've come to arrive at my conclusions, and where my opinions and strategies come from, I'll share the following:

I've been lucky enough to have cross-trained with a true master of Kali, and with several other high level knife fighters. I've learned a great deal from them, and some of my content on knife survival has definitely been influenced by this training.

While this has proved invaluable, the bulk of my material is as a result of real world application or observation, mostly from my work experience. I am also part of a larger group which analyses any use of force by law enforcement agencies. I am privy to the nature of violence towards police and the public and measure and evaluate the effectiveness of the response to it. As such, I am involved in the ongoing process of developing training methods and methodologies to respond to the realities of policing in major urban centers. The remainder of my opinions stem from ongoing research - from books, blogs, training, experimentation, interviews and seminars.

Check out his entire series at Japanese Jiu Jitsu: A Journey