Freedom to Learn

I had a good class last night! Not because I was buzzing from an energy drink and a chocolate-frosted brownie, even though I was. (Ugh. What was I thinking??)

I had a good class because in a flash of brilliance, I realized I don’t test for at least 3 years!!! I admit I’m relieved at not dealing with my freaky test anxiety for awhile, but that’s not what I’m excited about. I’m excited because now I can just enjoy learning!

There’s a freedom in being in a post-test phase. I can focus on the lesson without worrying that I need to work on my test material. Or being afraid that my brain might lose something important if I try to stuff something new in there. Or wishing Kyoshi would only teach test material until the test was over.

I know I shouldn’t think this way even pre-test, but I can’t help it. It’s how I’m built. If I have to perform at a test, and it is a performance, I want to focus all my energy on getting ready for that test. The closer we get to the test date, the less I want to stray from test material.

But now, instead of thinking “How does this help me at the test?” I can embrace new ideas. I can play with them, think about them, see what works or doesn’t work for me.

It’s very freeing to realize I can just learn without worrying about performing! I can spend these next few years gaining a better understanding of the things I’ve been learning the past 6 years.

It’s freeing. It’s luxurious. It’s exhilarating! And I’m really excited about this time ahead of me!

I Whooshed!!

I whooshed my bo tonight! I’m SO excited!

At first I wasn’t sure I heard a whoosh, but I did it again and then I knew. I’d finally done it! And not just once. I did it several times. For real. It wasn’t just my imagination. Some of the other students heard it too! 😉

I’ve had the toughest time getting my bo to whoosh. Everyone around me has been whooshing for a long time, but I was only able to get a slight whisper. The only whooshes I’d made were me saying Whoosh. 😀 I’ve been trying for 2 years!

Honestly, I’d given up on ever hearing a real whoosh from my bo, so tonight was really fun for me. Hooray for those little breakthroughs, even if they take 2 years to happen. It was worth the wait!


Pick, Pick, Pick

My knee is nudged forward into a better stance.

The Shodan candidate does her self-defense move again after being reminded she forgot the chop to the neck.

Kicks are tweaked to be stronger, faster, higher. 

Arms are moved ever-so-slightly into the correct position.

‘Tis the season for nit-picking! With the next black belt test just a few weeks away, we know our material. We’ve done it enough times that we can do things without stopping to think about what comes next.

Now it’s a matter of working on the nuances, those things that make our performance even better. They’re teensy little things, maybe even trivial to some, but it’s the tiny little things that show the difference in ranks. This is where the true understanding of what we’re doing shows. This is what makes the difference between dance moves and a good understanding of our art.

Now, instead of Kyoshi teaching us new material or walking us through moves, he is fine-tuning us. Reminding us of those little things, making corrections when he sees errors, and running us through things we’re not sure of.

Sometimes it feels like we’re being corrected on the most minuscule things. And sometimes it feels like we’re just beginners and starting over. But this is all part of the learning process, and just the fact that we’re at the stage of being nit-picked is a good thing! After all, it means we have achieved a certain level of knowledge and are on our way to more. 

For now it’s pick, pick, pick. All to make us better, and all done with love, of course!  😉

A pink gi! My wish has come true!

It’s the day I’ve been waiting for. Hoping for. Wishing for. And now it’s here. I HAVE A PINK GI!!I dyed my gi pink!

It’s funny how pink gis were the subject of two different conversations Friday. Kyoshi and I were talking about it at lunch, then several karate friends were discussing it on Facebook. It’s Save the Tatas month and pink is on the minds of a lot of people!

I wear a 10 oz. cotton Juka gi that I LOVE. After searching online and not finding a pink gi with equivalent fabric, I popped a couple of Xanax (just kidding) and dyed one of my Juka tops. Not just any Juka top but my newest Juka top that I am still breaking in. Yep, that was a little nerve-wracking I will admit.

I haven’t dyed anything for 25 years, and that wasn’t such a success, so I worried. What if it didn’t dye evenly? What if I got a funky color? What if I ruined my nice, new gi? Oh, the nerves!

I was convinced to try it when Kyoshi pointed out it would be a workout gi and if it didn’t turn out perfectly, it wouldn’t matter. Keeping that in mind, I was less nervous but not completely without butterflies.

I planned a test run on some pants that are ripped beyond repair, but I didn’t want to go through the process twice, so I decided to Suck it Up, Cupcake! and just do it.

Dying a pink giI mostly wanted a pink jacket, so I didn’t dye any pants. (Yes, I’ll wear pants. They just won’t be pink.) I have 3 white Juka tops. One is ripped and will fall apart fairly soon (and I will cry, because it is perfectly broken in!), one is my test gi, and one is really new and I’m still trying to break it in. So why choose the newest? Because it was the only one without the association patch, and I wouldn’t have to remove and re-sew the patch. Yep, I’m lazy like that!

I did some research on the Rit Dye website and found a lot of helpful stuff about dying methods, tips, etc. and formed a game plan. I bought a big plastic bucket for the Bucket method, which worked great – except it was too heavy to carry outside by myself to drain the water. That’s what strong college students are for, right?

The Rit Dye website has color combination formulas so you can get whatever shade you want. I chose basic pink, or Fuchsia, as it’s labeled on the bottles. I bought 2 bottles but used about 1 1/2. I also added 1 cup of salt to the mix, as directed, to help set the color. I soaked / stirred for just over 10 minutes. At that point the color was really dark on the gi, but when I washed and dried it the color mellowed. The longer it soaks, the darker the color, I think. Also if I’d used the full 2 bottles I think the color would have been a bit more intense.

Unlike when I cook and bake, I followed all the directions on the bottle. So proud of myself for that!Dying a pink gi I followed the washing instructions and washed it twice last night, adding a Color Catcher sheet to see how much dye was coming off the fabric. After two washings I washed the washing machine with detergent, bleach and hot water and added another Color Catcher to see if any dye was left in the washer. I was happy to see it was pretty clean. I washed the top two more times this morning, and it’s still bleeding some color, so I’ll be careful what I wash it with for a while. I may have pink skin tomorrow after class, but I hope not!

I’d say the experience was a success. I love the color and can’t wait to wear it to class tomorrow!

Happy New Year!

The holidays are over and I’m glad. Not because I ate too much holiday sweetness (I was surprisingly good), but because I’m ready to get back to normal routines.

Even though our karate club didn’t meet, classes were still on at the hombu. The opportunity was there but I only went to one class, partly because I was lazy and partly because I think I needed a break.

Tomorrow we’re back at it at the office; class officially resumes. Yea! The break was good for me and I’m feeling refreshed. I’m ready to learn again. I’m especially looking forward to weapons. I haven’t thrown my bo around for too long, and I’ve got new tonfa to play with!

In addition, this weekend we’re starting a new, more concentrated, jujitsu program at the hombu. Sessions will be longer than normal classes and I think we’ll learn a lot. It’ll be fun to work out on mats (we have a hard floor at work) and I’m looking forward to working with the students from the hombu. I haven’t spent nearly as much time there as I used to, and I’m sure everyone misses me.  ;-D

I’m looking forward to what 2013 brings and I hope you are too! I hope you have things to look forward to in 2013 – whether it’s new classes, new ideas, or new friends to work out with.

Cheers to a new year filled with great martial arts experiences!

Doesn’t that feel good?

Matt: How was class?

Me: My legs were shaking and I was out of breath.

Matt: Doesn’t that feel good??

Yep – it did feel good! First time in class in two weeks, and I made it through.

Fortunately, Renshi took pity on us and didn’t have us do circuits – I probably would have needed oxygen. We worked basics, kata, and a little bunkai. My legs were shaking from holding the horse stances, and I admit I wasn’t at my best, but I didn’t expect to be. I made it through both open hand and a 30-minute weapons class. Yea me!

Oh, I did have a little “whoops” tonight. My hands were so sweaty (seriously? why do hands sweat?!?) one of my tonfa went flying out of my hand. Good thing I was on the end and it flew away from everyone else!

Welcome back! Haha!

I’ve Changed My Mind

An encore post from Colahan’s Martial Arts. I’m happy to say I did survive my gauntlet, despite myself. I have not sparred much since my gauntlet due to schedule changes and a broken toe. And because I still don’t like it much. I admit I’m not heartbroken.   😉

“There’s a popular saying among trainers: If you hate an exercise, you should probably be doing it. The reason: People tend to avoid doing movements in which they’re weak…But the truth is, strengthening your weak spots is the fastest way to build more muscle. Just think of it as the low-hanging fruit of your workout: The weaker an area is, the greater its potential for growth.”  (

I’ve seen this theory a couple of times, and it’s hit home. While I can relate it to several areas in my life, my low-hanging fruit in martial arts is sparring.

In our system, black belt candidates go through a sparring gauntlet. I’m not looking forward to it. Sparring is the weakest area of my martial arts skills, the part of my training that intimidates me.

Recently I told Sensei that I’d probably be one of those people who go through their gauntlet and then never spar again. Well, I’ve changed my mind. I’m female, and I can do that.

I used to avoid sparring because I wasn’t comfortable doing it — partly because fighting wasn’t allowed growing up, and partly because I didn’t know how to spar. But at one point, I just had to make up my mind to do it. To force myself to go to sparring class and to learn to do what freaks me out the most. Fortunately for me, Sensei encouraged me to go to sparring class. Unfortunately for him, I showed up.  😉

I’m a very high maintenance sparring student! I require a lot of coaching and encouragement, but the Senseis are working with me and I’ve become more comfortable. Little by little I’m strengthening my weakest area and as a result, I’m not hating it anymore. I’m still not any good, but I’m making progress.

Part of my growth as a martial artist is to train in all aspects of the art — not just those I enjoy. I have a lot to learn in karate, and a LOT to learn in sparring. I am fortunate to have instructors who are willing to teach me, to share their knowledge with me, to take the time to work with me. So even though I may never love it, I will continue to spar after my gauntlet. Assuming I survive my gauntlet.  🙂