Mentally Practicing

My hands were full, and just before the hotel elevator doors closed a young man slipped through. Because I’d flown into town, I had switched purses and wasn’t carrying my usual array of knives. Even if I had been, they wouldn’t have been easily accessible with full hands.

My thoughts: I could front kick him. Probably wouldn’t drop anything. Do I need to close in first? Ah! This is why Kyoshi had us practice standing sidekicks. Take out the knee. Kick the head.


The MAT therapist seated behind me cradled my head and moved it in various directions to assess my mobility and strength.

Me to the MAT therapist, “This feels like how they teach us to snap necks!” To which he paused, then asked, “They really teach you that?”


I’ve been off the mat for the last year. While I couldn’t run through all my kata without hesitation, and I’d most likely get my self-defense sets mixed up, I’m comforted to know that the important things have stuck with me.

The lessons, drills, and self-defense conversations from my 8 years of training have given me a different mindset than I had before I started training. I’m able to connect the dots – what does the lesson have to do with real life? I didn’t see it in the beginning, but I remember some of my early times when the light bulb would go on.

Now I notice that more and more I think with a self-protection mindset. I’m making an extra effort to pay attention to my surroundings and to the people within my sphere. And I’m running through the appropriate scenarios from the lessons and practicing in my head what I would do if challenged.

Even though I’m not physically practicing martial arts, I’m mentally practicing them so I can be ready if the time comes when I need the skills.

Rolling… er, Kerplunk

I rolled tonight in jujitsu…once.

It’s been so long since I rolled that I couldn’t remember which was my good side and which was the bad side. I thought really hard about it but couldn’t figure it out so I finally just threw myself on the mercy of the mat and rolled!

50/50 chance, right?

Took me awhile but the verdict is in. Based on how my ribs feel, I did the “shove a box off the back of a speeding truck” kerplunk. Kinda like I described in this post: Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

I’ll try the “good” side next time…if I can remember which that is!

Personal space? What personal space?

Someone backed their chair close to mine recently. We were at a farewell bash at the local pub, and making room for more people around the table. Eventually he turned around and said, “Sorry! I moved into your personal space.”

Personal space? What personal space? I’m in karate – we don’t have personal space! Or if we do, I’d have to say “My personal space is your personal space. And your personal space is my personal space.”

I had personal space once upon a time, back when I was new to karate and wore a crisp white belt. It was uncomfortable to touch other students and have them touch me, and maybe a little weird since we all work together. One co-worker tried karate but admitted she didn’t stick with it because she didn’t like people touching her. I’m sure she’s not the only one. In our society, personal space is a big deal and learning karate definitely encourages, even requires, invasion of that personal space.

Somewhere along the line I discovered I was no longer bothered by someone’s face in my armpit, or being trapped on the ground by one of the guys while I’m learning a ground escape. I’ve spent so much time with these guys that it’s like having your brother pin you to the ground and tap, tap, tap your forehead while you scream for mercy!I’m so used to closing in on someone that personal space no longer seems like a good thing, especially in jujitsu. After all, you can’t take someone’s center without getting up close and personal unless you have Jedi powers.

Funny how the normal social conventions go out the door as we got acclimated to working out with each other. At last year’s Christmas dinner, we crammed 14 people into a booth built for 8 or 10. Were we sitting on each other? You betcha! Did we care? Nope, not one bit! In fact, I think it was even more fun because it was easier to steal the gift you wanted during the gift exchange, and nobody missed out on the conversation like sometimes happens with a larger group.

Now that’s not to say I don’t have any personal space anymore. As long as I am in a “safe” zone, with people I know, I don’t need so much personal space. But if I encounter a stranger, I’m in an unfamiliar place, or am otherwise not completely comfortable and maybe even feel threatened, I have quite a large bubble. I would still be comfortable with someone’s face in my armpit, but not with my face in their armpit or my neck in their grasp.

And while karateka don’t necessarily have a ton of personal space when training or socializing with other martial artists, one thing should be remembered. People who don’t practice martial arts still appreciate their personal space! Don’t be surprised if they don’t like you standing right next to them or grabbing their arm in the middle of a conversation to try out a technique. Even though you don’t mind? They might.  🙂 


Renshi (after 2 hours of jujitsu): Did everyone have fun? How could you not?? Throwing people and twisting them up like pretzels!

Me: Mmmm….Pretzels!

What can I say? Karate makes me hungry!

21 vs. 51

Breakfast #1: breakfast sandwich, banana, Gatorade.

Breakfast #2: scrambled eggs, green tea, 2 Aleve.

Guess which breakfast was mine??

Not hard, is it? The 21 year old was going to work, and the 51 year old was going to a 2 hour jujitsu class. The 51 year old will be having more Aleve with her dinner.  =D


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!

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

First there was the tumbling roll. You know the one – crouch down, tuck your chin to your chest, and roll forward over your head. We all did it in grade school. If we were really cool, we’d do it from a standing position.

Next there was the volleyball roll. I learned this one at summer volleyball camp. We hit the floor so many times that week, we totally lost our fear of it! Stretch your arm out to the side (because that ball can’t hit the floor!), fearlessly launch yourself across the floor, hit it and flip your feet over backwards. You’ll end up on your feet facing the net, and look pretty awesome in the process!

And then there’s a jujitsu roll. Ah, yes. That awesome roll where you reach your hand down across your body and hurl yourself over your shoulder. It’s neither a forward roll nor a sideways roll, but something in between.

I had a bit of trouble when I was learning this one. Rolling forward over my head? No problem. Throwing myself to the hard floor and flipping over backwards? No problem. Gracefully rolling over my shoulder on a mat? Uh…problem.

I spent so many years rolling forwards, backwards and sideways that the jujitsu roll confused my body! Or maybe it confused my brain. Anyway, I’ve managed to master the left side; it’s relaxed, fluid, and pretty darned good!

But the right side? Not so fluid. I try. Believe me, I try, but it could never be described as fluid. Or graceful. Or anything else you’d like associated with a roll, really. I picture myself looking somewhat like a large, odd-shaped box that’s been shoved off the back of a speeding truck. Thunk. Thunk-thunk! Thuuud.

Apparently I’m left-side dominant, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Cartwheels (when I could)? Left side. Splits? Left foot forward. Hurdles and starts out of the starting blocks? Left sided!

Last night I managed to stay on the mat when I rolled. It was a small victory! I’ve been known to roll off the mat or wander out of my own swim lane on occasion. Maybe I’m getting better? Hard to say! I’ll keep trying to improve my right side rolls, if only because I refuse to admit I can’t do them. (I might be just a little stubborn.) But for safety’s sake? I’m really hoping I never have to fall and roll to the right!

Now What?

We finally did it. We earned our black belts! See? There we are – Phil, Renshi Colahan, me and Peterbilt (Paul). Woo WOO!! Look at us! 

New Shodans after the USKK Test

Phil Mosher, Renshi Mike Colahan, Michele Jarchow & Paul (Peterbilt) Castro after the 2012 USKK Black Belt Test

Aside from “Congratulations,” the thing I heard most after my test was, “Now what?” People wanted to know if I was finished. Would I return to karate? Was there anything left to accomplish?

Well, as it turns out, there’s a LOT more to learn! Our system trains in three different martial arts. In addition to Okinawan Karate, we offer Jujitsu and Kobujitsu (weapons) programs, and students can earn black belts in all three of the arts.

I’ve achieved my Shodan, my first degree black belt, in Okinawan Kenpo. In our system, there are 10 levels of black belt. I will not achieve the top ranks because I started so late, but I can move forward. By returning to class following the test, I began my journey to Nidan, my second degree black belt. That’ll take a couple of years of finesse, focus and practice, but I’m looking forward to deeper study of this art!

I’m also excited about returning to jujitsu. I used to go fairly regularly and earned my blue belt (the lowest rank in our system), but have not participated lately. To be honest, I’ve been rather clumsy recently, and the only way I should have been training in jujitsu was after being wrapped securely in bubble wrap! Now that our Shodan test has passed, I’m looking forward to once again hitting the mat (get it?) and working on those joint locks.

Colahan Martial Arts Shodan Certificates

One more thing I’m excited about is learning weapons!It took a while for me to become interested in them. Renshi Colahan said it would improve our open hand techniques and that was appealing to me, but I didn’t want to take on so much new material as I was closing in on the black belt test. I also didn’t know how I would fit it in, since the beginner class at the hombu is taught at the same time as our club classes. Lucky for us, Renshi has started teaching weapons once a week at the club, and I’m really excited about that. So far I’ve had a 30 minute class, and I’m hooked! I can’t wait to get out on the floor and learn some more!

So now that I’ve earned my Shodan, is there more for me? Is there something to draw me back to the dojo? The answer is a resounding Yes! Not only do I have more to learn in Okinawan Kenpo, but I also have the opportunity to learn more jujitsu and discover the art of Kobujitsu (weapons). The opportunities may not be quite endless, but they are plentiful, and I’m excited to be moving forward – starting now!!