Merry Christmas and After Christmas Shopping

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! My family and I stayed home all day yesterday and just relaxed after opening presents. It was nice to just sit back and enjoy the day and not have to worry about any obligations.

My post mentions after Christmas shopping, but I did not dare go out in all the rush like my mom did today. Instead, I did some 'surfing' and 'clicking' and found something I really needed on (Link to their website is on the top corner of the page) A new sparring gear bag.

My current one has one compartment to hold all my sparring gear and my belt. One compartment is NOT a good idea for me. After some of our workouts in class, I really don't want to store my belt with all of the sweaty sparring gear, so here is what I'm getting:

Have a great rest of December!

Class Party and End of Year Break

Today is December 22nd. More accurately, by the time that I finish this post, it will be December 23rd. Where did the rest of the month go? It can't possibly be time for a new year to be rolling around yet, but it is.

Back on the 8th, we had our annual Christmas party at TKD. There were tons of drinks and snacks which I was too busy to enjoy until after class, seeing as how a small forest's worth of boards were brought in for us to break. Everyone, (including parents) got a chance to break if they wanted to try. The reason why this is special for our class is because breaking is not something we focus on -- or test on. Add a bunch of white and yellow belt kids who have only been coming to class as of this year and you can see why this is always an exciting time for us. Most of the kids went home with an armload of the wood almost as tall as they were. I mostly supervised and watched, but I had my share of breaking time too, beginning when I was asked to explain how to set up the first break of the night and then demonstrate.

Our class was for the most part, a break from the norm. We did begin with a warm up and a few basics, but then we jumped right into the breaking and games. We played several rounds of dodgeball and one game of kickball. However, our games still required some essential things that we work on in class: Speed, coordination, focus, and good form on the kicks just to name a few.

Another important item of the night was the surprise 2nd part of a brown belt test for my friend and training partner Rachel. Even I didn't know it was coming. Needless to say, she earned her 3rd kyu brown belt! I am so excited for her!

All in all, it was a great night. But our Christmas parties also mean one thing. It's also an 'end of the year party,' which translates to: 'no more Tae Kwon Do class until January the 5th of 2010.'

Oh. No.

I hate having any kind of break from my normal routine of Tae Kwon Do class every Mon/Tue/Thur. So to help relieve some of my anxiety over not having an organized class tonight, I conducted my own 'class' in my driveway. I dragged out all the puzzle mats I have and set them up. After going through a fairly comprehensive warm up, and persuading the cat to stay out of the 'dojang,' I worked on several of my kicks and forms, followed by a 30 minute brisk walk around my street.

So even though I didn't go to class tonight, I still feel fairly satisfied with my at home practice.

As my ending thought, I have a question. What do you do when you are unable to attend class or have an extended break? Do you practice more at home? Get together with some training partners and work out? Sit back and enjoy the break?

Oh, and have a Merry Christmas!

Great News -- The Actual Post

My  plans to write this post yesterday didn't quite work out, so now that I have a good two hours before I leave to go to my Thursday night class, I'm beginning this... erm.... novella-length post.

So....for my great news! How do you like the new blog colors? I thought it was appropriate since on Tuesday, December 1st 2009, I was able to test for my 3rd kyu brown belt! Woohoo! Cue the celebratory music and confetti!

I think I'm still in a state of shock. I think it's because I have been a blue belt for quite a while and I just cannot believe that the day of the test finally came. Even though my instructors gave me a vague timeline for my test date, Tuesday night was still a great surprise, and one the best early Christmas gifts I could get.

I wasn't sure if Tuesday was going to be the night. When we started, the kids class lined up with us since there was going to be a surprise test for two of them. That test lasted a good 20ish minutes, and the two brothers received their new green and yellow belt ranks respectively. Their class then dismissed for the night.

Our class of five students and five black belts divided everyone up. Mr. G singled me out to work on all of my advanced kicks. By this time I was definitely suspecting. The black belts then called up the other blue belt, and then me (separately). I was asked if I felt confident of my four self defense techniques. By this time, I knew what was about to happen.

A few minutes later, the most exhausting and difficult test that I've ever taken began for both of us. I was and am still glad that I did not have to test alone. The testing itself was comprehensive of just about everything we knew, which translates into a very. Long. Time. Not that I kept up with the time, but I do know that we went past class time.

Some memorable events of the night included:

  • Starting with Basic Blocks and Punches -- the first set of techniques (that could be called a form) that white belts learn other than basic stances and commands -- and having to start over because we were not putting in quite the snap that the black belts wanted. "We could just go back to 1 steps for the rest of the class night instead of this test if you want...."
  • Being told that when we were going home at the end of the night, that we should not have nothing left in us to give. Absolutely nothing. It should all be out on the floor. Basically, we would be dead on our feet, having given everything we had and then some.
  • Answering our female black belt's statement to me by saying "Yes sir" and then realizing immediately what I had done and correcting it.
  • Demonstrating and teaching my 4 Self Defense techniques that I had been worrying about for months (and months and months) and them going off smoothly.
  • After finishing a teaching spar, a spar against a black belt, and a spar against a green belt guy, being told that I had to do a 2 on 1 spar with two of my instructors -- my first time to do so. Ever.
  • Focusing on what I was asked to demonstrate so much that at times I forgot about the other students and parents who were watching us.
  • Realizing that I really am doing this.
And finally,

  • After everything I've worked towards -- all the years I've put in -- all the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears, and most importantly, all the support I've been given, being awarded my 3rd kyu brown belt.
If you can't tell, I'm ridiculously happy right now. It's just a huge relief. All the anxiousness from waiting and not knowing when it was going to happen after being told months ago that I was going to test is gone. I feel like I have room to breath again if that makes sense.

But that's not to say that I'm going to slack off now. No. Even though I did take a day off, I'm getting right back to work. Since Christmas is coming up soon and my TKD classes will end for the year, I have to stay sharp. Especially since there's going to be a black belt test on January 2nd and I have to be prepared to be involved in that test.

Before I end this post, I'm going to leave one last thought that just came to my mind. It goes well with the last paragraph actually. After the test, one of my instructors talked to me for a bit. He basically said, and I'm paraphrasing: "You think that it was hard at blue belt and that we were critiquing you a lot then? Well at brown belt.... It just got a lot harder. Put that in your blog."

Great News!

So I have some excellent, fantastic, absolutely wonderful news!

But at the moment, I'm dead on my feet -- even though I'm currently seated at a desk. I'm somewhere between asleep (maybe the correct term is passed out?) and a zombified state, so my long, detailed post rant is going to have to wait until tomorrow afternoon. Sorry, but I couldn't do it the justice it deserves right now. It's almost 11:30 and I have an eight 'o clock class tomorrow plus a research paper to turn in.

Until tomorrow then!

Have an awesomefultastic night!

Spinning Reverse Crescent Kicks

Try saying that five times fast. If spinning reverse crescent kicks isn't a mouthful, I don't know what is.

I'm keeping this post short since I have an American Lit research essay due in a few days and I need to get back to working on that. Ah, research essays. Don't you love them?

Back to the kicks. As of this past Wednesday (Thursday night class was moved back to Wednesday for the occassion of Thanksgiving), I began learning the spinning reverse crescent kick. I first started practicing a reverse crescent, and then a regular crescent kick on a hanging heavy bag. Since I don't think I can do it justice trying to explain how the kick is thrown, I'm including a link that explains --> Crescent Kick

Later, we began working on the spin. I have to say that this is the most challenging kick that I've ever attempted and yet I am told that once I "get it," it's so very simple. If that's the case -- and I'm confident that it is -- I don't see how it could be true at this point in time. And this is all without having made it to the actual kick -- I'm still stuck on the spin. It's a full 360 degrees, but I don't find that the hardest part. I'm used to: a) starting the spin with the hips when kicking, and b) controlling my kicking leg throughout. This kick seems like the exact opposite. Not only does it begin by getting the shoulders all the way around, then the hips, but the kicking leg is almost limp, and as far as I understand, you don't control the kick the same way as you would say a front snap kick. The trick is all in the setup. The spin winds you up, and the release is when you unwind with the kick.

I'm still trying to figure this thing out. I'm sure it's going to take quite a bit of time, but I will update on my progress as I learn more.

Oh, and since I know that this blog is now known to at least two of my instructors, one of whom taught me this kick -- I have one last thing to say. Next time we work on the spinning reverse crescent kick, we have to use the homemade spin kick table again. =)

You Just Kata Do It!

I can hear the groans already from my bad pun. Moving on....

So I've had a lot that I've been working on since my last post. From the title, you may be able to tell what form my thought patterns have been consumed with. Call them what you like. Kata, forms, patterns, hyung, tul, or poomsae -- that's been my main area of concentration.

In my style of Tae Kwon Do, we have three basic forms and five advance forms before you get to the black belt form Hwa-Rang. I hope I spelled that right...  4th advance is what I call "my" form, as it is the one I am required to demonstrate for my test. I will most likely be asked to demonstrate everything I know, including all of the forms, but 4th advance is the most important for me to nail at the moment.

I know my forms well enough, it's just a matter of polishing them until they shine. What I mean by polishing is that the forms need not to be just technically correct, but they must also have proper snap, good timing, smooth transitions from one stance to another, and a dozen other technical things that I'm trying to keep straight in my head. All that, but also the addition of the constructive criticism and suggestions that I receive from my instructors. Believe me when I say that this is hard work. I have to think about this, but also try not to think about them at the same time. Make sense? Well, in a straightforward way, what I mean is that I need to know the forms inside out -- so well that I could do them in my sleep. Or blindfolded.

Blindfolded. Now that's an idea. I have tried practicing forms with my eyes closed before, which presents a challenge in itself. But never blindfolded when I wouldn't have the temptation to peek. I might have to try that this week.

Anyway, I have been getting a lot of experience with practicing on a variety of surfaces which I will give the pros and cons of.

Away from class, the most common surface is carpet. Rough, awful carpet. I can't stand it. I must be a little too heavy on my feet, because I keep getting carpet burn on the side of my big toe and the ball of my foot when practicing. I think I'm dragging my feet too much. That and my feet keep catching when I slide forward. I can't think of any pros to training on carpet. Maybe if you're only doing hand technique drills and kicks, but not forms. Ugh.

Smooth, waxed gym floor concrete. This is the floor that we have in our dojang. I've been training on this type of floor for years, and I cannot find many cons to it. The only horrors of this type of surface would be in the following situation. Imagine that your martial art class is meeting in the gym/lunchroom area for a church that also houses a school. Picture what training on a lunchroom floor means. Even with sweeping, there's still going to be who knows what on that floor. Now look at your feet and groan with horror and disgust at the layer of black gunk stuck to the underside of your foot. Got all of that firmly in your head? Good. I'll leave it at that.

Regular Concrete. Ie: the concrete of your driveway. Not one of my favorite surfaces. Either you have to put on shoes, or try desperately not to scrape a layer of skin off the bottom of your feet. I'd rather deal with the former, so that's what I've been doing. Most of my at home practice takes place at the bottom of my driveway, which a portion of is at a slight incline. Not ideal, but I make do.

Grass. Again, not my favorite, but better than carpet and regular concrete in my mind. The pros? A somewhat more forgiving surface than concrete. The cons? Grass + dirt + rain = muddy mess. Grass can also be slippery and have hidden rocks and other nasties. Don't forget the bugs and for me, the multitude of mosquitoes that seek me out when I take to the grass at my home.

Lineoleum and Wood. I haven't had much experience with these. I would like to find a place where I could train on the latter, especially if it's a smooth hardwood floor.

I didn't realize I was going to spend so much time talking about training surfaces. It's getting late and I have three classes tomorrow, so I'm going to call it a night.

Belts and Birthdays

This post is going to be fairly short because.....

It's my birthday today and I don't know if I'm going to have much more of an opportunity to sit here in the peace and quiet and write this blog post. This afternoon I'm going to be helping bake and frost cupcakes for tonight's Trunk or Treat at church. I'm really looking forward to that, but once I leave for the first thing I mentioned, I probably won't be back until really late.

Anyway, there is something that I want to mention before I go. Wait, I don't want to mention it. I'd rather shout it out, but for the safety of everyone's eardrums, I'll refrain.

You may have noticed something new about a certain belt rank that's pictured on the right side of this post. Last Tuesday night, my instructors surprised me with...well, I really don't know what to call it. It really wasn't a least, I don't think it was. Ahem. Anyway, They had me do one full form, a side kick with both legs, and then the very beginning of 2nd advance form. After that...they awarded me a stripe on my blue belt. To say that I was surprised is an understatement. I was completely and utterly shocked. In a good way though. Definitely a good way.

They also told me that this doesn't mean that now my brown belt test day will be extended to some time in the future. I could be tested next week, two weeks from now, etc. It depends on me as to when they test me.

And with that, I will end with one final line.

I hate these surprise test dates. They drive me insane with all the waiting.

P.S. Have a Happy and safe Halloween!

Can't Get Enough of Tae Kwon Do

I have so many things on my mind that I want to talk about that I'm not sure where to begin. The past couple of weeks have been absolutely wonderful for two reasons. The first is because my hip has healed and I can resume my regular practice without suffering any pain when I come home. The second reason why these past couple of weeks have been incredible is because I have now added a third class of Tae Kwon Do to my schedule. Yes, I said a third class. I'm learning so much from every one of them that now I question how I was even surviving on 1 class a week.

Here's a basic schedule of my week:

Mondays: 3:00pm-4:15pm. I go to an after school class at an elementary school. While Mrs. C teaches her white belt students, she gives me most of the class time itself to work on forms. The rest of the time I help her teach.

Tuesdays: 6:00pm-8:30pm. This is formal class night.

Thursdays: 6:30pm-8:30pm. Another blue belt and I have been meeting in the workshop at Mr. M's house to work on sparring, and more recently, forms, kicks, 1 step sparring, and the like.

I think I'm obsessed with Tae Kwon Do. Not that it's a bad thing, but now it's an obsession more than ever. I come home from classes pumped up and ready for more. I tallied up the amount of time I spend in class every week, and it comes out to 5 hours and 45 minutes a week, not counting practice time at home.

Now I will admit that my practice time at home is not what it should be. I'm working on that, because practicing at home is key to getting better, and that is what I'm aiming for.

I blog about martial arts. I'm a member of a martial arts forum. I write about each class in journal fashion. I talk about martial arts so much to my family that they're probably getting a little tired of hearing it so often. Oh, and I also can't stop thinking about it. I'm constantly going over forms and Self Defense techniques in my head.

Something that's probably contributing to all of this is the fact that I'm getting ready to be tested for my brown belt. In the next month. Ie: November 2009. And this has me on edge. I want to do my very best on that day and I have to be ready. I need to be at the top of my game.

Anyway, this has gotten to be fairly long, so I'm going to wrap it up for the day. I'm planning on a post for tomorrow, so be on the lookout for that.

On Injuries/Sickness and the Mental Aspect of Martial Arts

Well, it seems that within the past month or so, nearly everyone around me has been getting sick with something or other. From allergies and colds, to flu or worse. For the longest I avoided it, but my immune system finally succumbed at long last. I don't exactly know what bug I had, but it plagued me for almost two weeks -- that is why I'm just now getting to update my blog. Anyway, I'm feeling mostly better now. Thank goodness. I'm just trying to get rid of the tail end of some cold or allergy symptoms.

Now to the main point of this post.

I've recently added a second Tae Kwon Do class night to my schedule. There's the formal class on Tuesday nights, and now the new more informal class that a few of us have been attending on Thursday night's. The reason I say informal is because we meet in the workshop at my instructors house and wear street clothes/sweats instead of the full uniform.

I have really been enjoying the Thursday night class especially because we are focusing on sparring and we're getting a workout that way. But this also brings up the next point that I want to talk about.

About two weeks ago on a Sunday morning, I woke up with a pretty intense pain in my right hip. It wasn't constant, but every once in a while when walking or doing a movement that used the hip, I would get a stabbing pain from my hip to right above the outside of my knee. With rest, the pain went away entirely.

Well, being the kind of person that I am, I went to class on Tuesday night and since I wasn't feeling any pain, went through class as normal.

I was fine until I came home. It flared up again when I was going to bed. Once again, it stopped hurting entirely with rest.

After after talking to some people and doing some research online on my own, I'm pretty sure the problem is a strained tendon. I figured out that my side kicks in particular are what's causing the pain. Well, soon after that, I decided (with a lot of urging from my dad who has suffered quite a few tendon/ligament injuries due to football) to take it easy for a while. On Thursday night, I let my instructor know about the problem, and so now we're working on some things that will not bother my hip. Now that I've held off on the kicks and some of the exercises, the pain has decreased and whenever it does hurt, it's down to a dull ache.

I'm itching to get back into the swing of things soon. I've had to back off on my kicks and forms big time and focus on not-as-strenuous techniques and more of the mental aspect of Tae Kwon Do. As for mental, I mean the process of understanding why we do the techniques the way that we do, being able to know the material inside out so that I can feel comfortable explaining it, and being able to teach it to others.

I would say that the mental part of martial arts is as important, if not more so, than the physical. You can learn a set of movements in a form, but until you see why it is done that way and what it is used for, then you are doing nothing more than going through a dance.

That's a interesting thought to end with. I may have to continue with that in my next post.

The Right Fit

In case the title does not give you a clue as to what this post is about, I'll explain in a few dozen/hundred/thousand words. Or something like that. I expect that it will take the latter for me to say what I'm going to say since the subject matter tends to be something that I could definitely rant about. So here we go.



White pj's that make you look like a giant, puffed up marshmallow.

Whatever you want to call them, I think that martial art uniforms are some of the most unflattering, worst-fitting pieces of clothing that I have ever owned. Now, before I dive headfirst into the true nature of this post, let me start off with a proper introduction.

I started a TKD class when I was 11 years old. Eventually, the youth uniform grew too small, but I was able to wear my mom's old uniform. That was fine for quite a while, but then several years after I started a new TKD class, I finally had to cave in and go buy a new uniform.

The only place in town that carried MA uniforms was Academy Sports. For a store that specializes in carrying sports uniforms and equipment, their martial arts section was lacking. I finally found the gear tucked away in one little corner. And of course the only brand they carried was Century.

One thing that I don't understand about uniforms is the sizes. No longer can I take comfort in the self-explanatory options of Small, Medium, Large, and X-Large that I have grown up with, but now I have to choose between sizes 3-9.


Anyway, I chose a size and carried it home to try it on. The jacket part fit reasonably well, I have to say. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it's better to be a little on the roomy side than form fitting. The problem that I had was with the pants.


The fit around the waist was fine. Perfectly fine. But it all went downhill from there. Of course, being a unisex uniform (that is what they call it, but in reality it is made for guys) the fitting is so weird. My legs were lost in the abundance of fabric. But I really couldn't do a thing about it. The next lowest size was just a little too tight -- so this is the uniform that I am stuck with for who knows how long.

I get the Century Martial Arts catalogue in the mail every once in a while, and recently I've seen them advertising a new uniform specially made for women.

I want one. I don't care how well it fits. Anything has to be better than swimming in a yard of fabric. The only thing is the price. It comes in separates, and the gi top alone is $49.99. The pants are an additional $49.99. That's a hundred bucks without counting the price of shipping. So that would be $100+ for a uniform that is going to get sweaty, dirty, and quite possibly torn with the amount of Self Defense we do in class. And with me being a poor college student, I can't possibly afford it right now. My dad has said that when I earn my black belt, he will buy me an all black women's uniform. That's a nice incentive if I do say so. Heck, if I could just wear a pair of black pants with a white gi top I would be happy. Something just to break up the white pajama set.

But I digress.

For now I guess I'll have to be happy with what I have, for I am not the only one walking around in white pj's. You must all suffer with me! Ha ha!

This and That

So. Posting has been nonexistent for quite some time. The only way for me to quit procrastinating is to set a requirement of per month posting. Updating every Saturday sounds good to me.

I'm now in my second year of college -- a sophomore now. That thought scares me. It means that in three more years, I'll be transferring to a college about 2 and a half hours away from where I live now. Not only will I be moving out of my parents house and into the brand new territory of on my own, but I will also be a whole 2 and 1/2 hours away from my beloved Tae Kwon Do class. I don't know how I'm going to deal with that. I've been with the same school and same instructors for a little over six years. While there is our sister school about a half hour away from this other college, a sudden change like this is not something that I will adapt to very well at all. Me and change get along about as well as a cat and water.

But enough of that.

I'm still working hard toward earning my brown belt. There have been some changes for the better that I'm not going to discuss on an online blog. I'm leaving it at that. For quite a while I have felt lost as to where I am and have not felt motivated to practice. My focus has returned and I feel that I have a goal now. A goal that I'm within reach of. Just a few more inches and I'll be there.

I have some great news too! One of my instructors has begun offering a second night to workout at his workshop at home. It has been so nice and refreshing to have this second class. For years I've been wanting this. So, for the past two Thursdays, my instructor has been working with the other blue belt and I on sparring. On Tuesday nights, we haven't had as many opportunities to work on sparring, so this class is helping us gain experience and greater abilities in this area that has been a weak point for quite some time.

Now if I could just convince others that we need to add a third class per week. . .

I'm still here! And an update

Hi, everyone!

I know I've been gone from the blogging scene for a while. School's been busy, and I'm trying to make the best of what free time I have.

Just as a heads up, I'm planning on having a blog post up within the next week, so be on the lookout for that.

If all goes well, I'm going to start posting more often than every 3 months -- which is about how long it's been since my December post. Eeep! I can't believe I've been away that long!

Anyway, quick little update on my martial arts progress here. I'm getting ready to test for my 3rd kyu brown belt -- hopefully within the next month. I was told by one of my instructors that the only reason they haven't tested me yet was because I didn't have the 4 self defense techniques I have to come up with to where I feel confident with demonstrating and explaining them.

Last Tuesday, I went over the three techniques I feel good about with one of the instructors who hasn't been to class in a couple months. Well, I was feeling overconfident in myself (mistake # 1) and wasn't expecting two of the tecniques to completely fail on him. So that threw those two out the window. Now I'm down to one that I feel good about, another that he showed me himself, and that's about it.

Here's the deal with the SD stuff. I have to come up with 4 self defense situations, and have a way of getting out of it. It can be just about anything. Grabs, head locks, haymaker punch. . .etc. etc. I also have to be able to explain what I'm doing and why, so this means I have to really know what I'm doing and why. In a test situation, that means I'll probably get bombarded with tons of questions that will make me have to defend my techniques.

My techniques so far are:

  1. one handed shoulder grab (from the side)
  2. two handed chokehold from the front (need something else for this)
  3. two handed lapel grab from the front (got an alternative technique for this)

I want something different than just grabs for the fourth, but I'm not coming up with anything so far. If anyone has suggestions for any type of Self Defense situation and way to get out of it, that would really help me! If possible, it should be something relatively simple, but effective. Here's an option I had thought of:

  1. Bear hug from behind

Anyway, that's all for now.

Until later,