Friday, February 29, 2008

Best "About Me" .... "Daddy Kicks Boxes"

Since I am taking a course in writing blogs, I've paid attention to the AboutMe's. Here's one of my favorites:

welcome to - The title of this site comes from my daughter, who while two years old, saw me working out by kicking a heavy bag in the basement one day and asked me what I was doing.

“Daddy’s doing his kickboxing,“ I’d told her.
After that day, she’d proudly tell anyone and everyone who’d listen, “My daddy kicks boxes.”

A Writing (training) Partner

I just got this in response to my invitation to co-author. Can't wait to call him....

First off, I have to say how much I've enjoyed reading your blog ...I especially liked the video of you sparing. I'm not comfortable with my sparing so it was great to see what challenges you've faced.

I should tell you a little about me. I started training at LaVallee's in June 07 at the age of 43....I'm in upstate NY.... I would be interested in talking to you about co-authoring your blog. I've never done anything like that before but then again, I've never done anything like Martial Arts before and I'm hooked....

PS - I guess having a second or third co-author is thinkable if anybody is interested. BTW - although this blog gets traffic, it doesn't get that many subscribers. Just put your email in and you get the posts right in your mailbox.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Want to co-author this blog?

Would you like to co-author with me? If you train at a Steve Lavallees Black Belt School (it doesn't have to be Ft Lauderdale) and would like to try some writing, then we might have a match. This is a very honory position (as in, there is no compensation) but I can offer you free enrollment in a blog writing course (market value: $99: value to your education and development as a writer: priceless). Other requirements: a personality and writing skills and a willingness for at least two months to post once a week. Other than that, the course will teach you everything you need to know. To apply, you can write in a comment (I moderate all comments so nobody else will see it or your email) or you can email me as john - at - time4learning. Then a period a com (this is to foil spammers who harvest email addresses off the web)

BTW - the real reason to blog is much like the real reason to take karate........White belts welcome.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Please correct me. If you are my friend.

I like to learn and get better. My dojo school leans towards lots of energetic repetition to build muscle memory with lots of encouragement and positive feedback. They correct us less than I personally would like. Sometimes, after months of an exercise, I realize that I'm doing it wrong and have been for months. Now before anyone thinks that I'm criticizing my dojo, let me point out that I'm totally into emphasizing the positive. But, my desire for critical feedback is real too. It is a long-standing pattern with me. I used to live in Paris and I remember once getting angry when someone corrected my use of a word. Not because of the correction (which I appreciated) but because I had been using it wrong for over a year and none of my *friends* had corrected me. I asked my *friends* about their failure to correct me and they (my French friends) answered that: "you sounded so cute and we could understand it so whats the big deal?" ("tu etais tellement mignon et alors, ce n'est pas tres important"). To me, its a big deal. I want to be getting better. I found new friends. I want the straight scoop. So, if you're my friend, correct me. Not just my karate moves, but even my spelling (bbm - thanks. I now know that the stick is a bo, not a bow. )

Martial Arts Humor

I found a new blog that I've subscribe to and which will soon (when I open up my template code) make it to my blogroll: Martial Arts Humor Good job whoever you are.

The Martial Arts Humor blog has sight gags (like this one "borrowed" from his site on the right) and wry make-you-think-about-it-yikes-could-that-be-me-? type stuff (below).

Here is a part of apiece of his on Common Martial Art Student Types

1. Question Lad (aka. What-If?). This guy will bring up every possible permutation for every drill that is being worked. Solution: Make him uki.

2. Captain Slacker. Dogs the drills and sucks away the stunning dynamic experience that occurs during every class. ;-) Solution: Make him uki.

3. The Interpreter. Seems to believe that explanations must be altered to so that the masses can understand them. Even when the masses are already doing the drill. Solution: Make him uki.

4. The Whacker. Selflessly and altruistically strives to make each partner drill ultra-"realistic", for his partner's learning benefit. Leaves a wake of bruises, black eyes, and sprains behind him until he tries it on the wrong person. Solution: trade partners frequently, the right one will come along soon.

The analysis keeps going. Read it...

It does open the opportunity for us students type to archetype (gently) out instructors....Stay tuned...


Monday, February 18, 2008

Turning 50 - A little artwork to ease my way into the silver years

This blog has a few themes, not all of which have to do with hitting, kicking, or perfecting oneself.

One of the themes is this half-century thing. Like in turning 50.

I was amazed and surprised to get this gift.

I got this most incredible sculpture as a birthday present. It's made by a friend of mine who is also a world class wood sculpture and artist.

My honey gave it to me. I'm thrilled. thanks....

PS - Philippe (the artist) has built three different versions of Educated (the name of this sculpture). Mine is slightly different (and better) than the one pictured here. But the photography from Philip's website is better than any snapshots that we've taken so far.

I cannot imagine how anybody could take light mahogny (inside the books), walnut (the violin), dark walnut (the violin keyboard), and create such a sculpture. There's somehow a lesson about art, beauty and training in here somewhere.

This statue just won an Art Competition in Baltimore. Look at the 4th winner from the bottom to find it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

American Bo Form

I'm struggling with the new kata. It's great fun to have a bow (like a long staff). My son and I have spent way too many hours doing "creative" kata in the backyard and learning the basics. So far, one broken glass but no windows or eyes. We started with a broom handle and poker queue stick but now have store-bought bows.

I did get a video of Stefanie doing the kata but it's a little too fast to follow and I filmed it with the camera held sideways. I haven't yet figured out how to rotate it. And I'm finding it very hard to transcribe. Anybody got a great video? Here's a slower one that has only the start (and it's also sideway - PLEASE - if you see me holding the camera sideways - give me a Boot to the Head).

Here's the sequence that I've figured out so far.
  1. The Bow is held on right side, vertically. Tip the bow forward, bow, return to start.
  2. Spin over head to hold it out to the right, on one knee, left hand outstretched
  3. Bring it over head while putting 2nd knee down, lowering the bow horizontally in front of you.
  4. Bow to knees, spread knees slightly, drop then raise head
  5. Step up with left knee while bringing bow over head to the right, strike forward, back, spin over head bringing it behind the head from the left side and overhead strike forward finishing on left
  6. Stand by putting on leg up then down, forward back on left, to the right and back,
  7. Turn 90 to the right taking a small adjustment with the right foot to the right, spin bow over head to the right side, forward, back, to the left, back over head, then strike finishing in hard bow with the right leg forward
  8. High dragon (poke up to the guy on horseback) forward, then low dragon (poke the guy on the ground) backwards
  9. Turn the body 180 making only a slight back (left) foot adjustment step to the left. Hit with the bow to the left, back to the right, hit up, hit down, hit to the left, bring it over the head and down while stepping forward with the right foot into a hard bow - aieesa
PS - For you linguists out there. You might have noticed the confusion between the word bow (as in a long staff) and bow as in what we do from the waist to show respect. I am hyper aware of these issues since one of my alternative identities is as Mayor of where I obsess over issues like homophones, homonyms, and "Same spelling, different sound, different words" (which I can't seem to find a name for).

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Staying alive....

I sparred today for the first time in two weeks. What a way to get reminded that I'm not keeping up at the pace I used to. I really was sucking wind today. A few warm-up rounds of no head gear boxing then five 90 second matches. I've been making it to two classes a week with just one additional run. It's not enough. I'm losing cardio. I'm going to try to get to three classes and two runs.

Am I the only one who has trouble keeping up at this pace?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Three Stories by Steve, a poem by Shel

I'm in a philosphical mood. Here's two thoughts:

One is a poem by Shel Siverstein....

Listen to the mustn’ts, child.
Listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me . . .
Anything can happen, child.
Anything can be.

The other is a great commencement address by Steve Jobs who deserves every honor that we can bestow on him. Although he's a jerk, most importnatly, he is so much (and this from someone who spent a decade in the Valley and completely drank the cool-aid and bleads in every color) the Man with all the vision and know how.

Stanford Report, June 14, 2005
'You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Scenario Training - What are we talking about?

The Google martial arts group that I'm following is having a discussion of scenario-training pros & cons in terms of too much too soon? I'm trying to contribute but I am a little handicapped in that I'm not sure what scenario training is. It's not a term that we use in my dojo. Here's what we do...

In class last night, we did a set of hold & grab exercises. For my group (the intermediates went through a different routine): we paired off and in I-go-You-go we attacked and defended each other as follows:


1- single wrist grab, double wrist grab, cross-over wrist grab
2 - single lapel, double lapel grab
3 - front choke, side choke, read choke two types (both hands on neck, one arm around neck, the other behind)

Then we received a little instruction with demos on:

- when you are pulling someone forward with one hand behind the neck, be sure to keep your elbow in and down so that you preven them from being able to head butt or punch you. (Note the picture has the hand and elbow on the opposite side than the way we conventionally work but it's the only one that I could find)

- when you take them to the ground with a knee in the ribs and controlling one hand, be sure to keep your head up and back straight, otherwise you are easily punched or pulled over. Also, if you are going into an arm bar from there, stay really tight with your legs over him are pulled in and your body (butt is in tight). Also, careful with how/where you hold the arm. Otherwise, it's too easy to have an accident and break the arm accidentally in training.

Then we practiced as instructed (I really don't have the arm bar yet and until my back loosens up, I'm not going to want to go to the mat enough to practice it) and had I-go-you-go with about a dozen random holds and grabs on each other. We picked up the intensity and speed while shifting from one to the other.

Spotlight - Then, since next week is testing, those that are ready for belt promotion lined up in front of the class (we call it spotlight).. They picked blackbelts to be oukis. For the brown belts, they demoed their releases from three different choke holds (they knew what was coming). For the reds, same thing but all wrist grabs. Then, for the black belt candidates, they got eight arbitrary holds and grabs in front of the class. Last, the two candidates got two ouikis each (in front and behind) who did eight rapid random holds and grabs.

There was some hesitancy. I took the brown belt aside after class and asked her to pay more attention to holding and controlling her attacker. While her blows were fierce, her holding (both locking in the hand on the lapel grab and later when she grabbed my head from behind), her grip and control were weak.

Is this closely-related to scenario training or is that an order of magnitude different than these types of drills?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

karate awkwardness

I went to class tonight and I felt awkward. Three reasons.

1. I somehow had grabbed the wrong black gi from the garage. I had my daughters. While it looks just like mine when it's folded up, once I've squeezed into it, it looks ridiculous. Skin tight and short. I went to class anyway.

2. I'm a little out of shape, I have a bruised left knee, I have a big left toe that I can't push off of, and a big right toe that features a broken and swelling big toenail. It's half purple now, it'll fall off in a few months.

3. I've not been to class for a week. Here's the good news. Because I've been off skiing. Which is good but very different exercise.  I'm part of an informal group called: "Broz on Skis" which gets together for a Colorado ski trip most years. It's broz because the heart of it is three pairs of brothers.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Self Defense Scenario Training - Too much too soon?

Rick & Nathan at TDA Training warn against Teaching your Students to Fail. They conclude:

Scenario training is one of the best types of self-defense drills available. However, it’s important that students are adequately prepared. Trying to train a high-stress scenario is much like attempting to run a marathon without the proper preparation - it will most likely result in injury. (Either physical or psychological.) Remember, too much, too soon, is never a good way to train.

I come to this question with little experience in terms of how intensive scenario training can be. If scenario training is like forcing people to endure a marathon, I agree that it should be limited to those with adequate training. But I have had some training in which different attackers came at me in unpredictable and unexpected ways. I've had this training well-before I was able to handle it successfully. I liked it and am without psychological or physical scars from it.

So, 'd put it like this. The question is how to add surprises and intensity to training to avoid it feeling like rote practice but to do it without creating more problems. This is a complicated question but here, I'll stay on the principle that pressure too soon is routinely acceptable in other sports training.

In working my sports comparisons, I would ask the question of whether kids should start playing in real games early-on ....before their skills are refined. Obviously, I would avoid putting a 10 year boy into his first real baseball game when it's the playoffs, it's the last inning, his team is behind by two runs, and there's two outs. That's too much pressure (to be facing a real pitcher with a real crowd and a real championship at stake) for his first time in a real game.

But, I would put a novice player into the game early in the season even if he is going to routinely mess up so that he gets a feel for intensity and pressure. This gets him used to game situations. This will help build desire for him to improve his skills. And it will build respect by him for his teammates who have the skills and cool to handle game situations.

This is how Little League works. Every kid plays in every game. Ready or not.

It's also not a question of whether you expose the kids to high-pressure situations early-on, it's a question of how you expose them to it. Which is another question for another day.

Does this analogy make sense or is there something in scenario training that I'm missing?

Friday, February 01, 2008

kata for soccer & basketball - The Great Debate

I've trained in the martial arts for four years. I've spent alot of time learning and enjoying my kata. I've recently become interested in the greater issues and trends in the martial arts and I've become aware of the "Great Kata Debate". Simply, are kata useful as a training tool to learn to fight or are they only useful for demonstration, sports, training etc?

It occurred to me today that there are no soccer kata. All the soccer players in the world practice soccer in a variety of methods and drills. But, to my knowledge, none of them spend time memorizing and perfecting a stylized set of moves with the ball and body meant as a prelude to playing soccer. When we juggle and kick, we aim for control but never exact repetition.

Basketball too. There are no basketball kata in which you start at the foul line, spin around dribbling with one hand, spin back dribbling with the other, do a fade-away jump shot which comes off the front left of the basket which you catch and then dunk. Followed by a left handed layup etc etc.

My point is this. In these sports, you prepare to play by practicing repetitively but always with a degree of spontenity. You dribble and you shoot (in either sport) with precision but never in the type of repetitive preciseness called for by martial arts kata. Its more like shadow boxing, bag work, or light sparring.

Whats your conclusion?