Saturday, July 21, 2007

Combining Forces

Last night we had a combined TKD/Isshinryu class. Today we skipped class and had a pool party instead.

The combined class was interesting, as always. Master Bertrand, the dojo owner and head TKD instructor, taught the first half, and Sensei Rodeghier (my sensei) taught the second half. For the first half we did some one-step sparring (which confused several of our people, because it's not something we do), and then went from there into self-defense techniques. For some reason I've been practicing defense against choke holds for a week now. Every class, it's choke holds. I'm feeling fairly confident that I have a good set of options for dealing with them now, ranging from the merely controlling to the outright lethal (though obviously we can't practice the latter full out). I need to practice some more to have them well locked in - but not this week, my neck is getting awfully sore!

The second half class was sparring. When everything shook out (I.e. the people not sparring stepped out) we had about equal numbers TKD and karate for kumite. So Sensei matched us up TKD vs. Isshinryu, not for scorekeeping, but just to mix up partners, since both groups get very used to fighting the same people over and over again.

As the last time we held a combined class, I was struck by a couple of things. One - these people throw beautiful kicks - high, strong, and fast. Two - they can't aim for shit. Their senior blackbelts are dangerous, but the lower belts, and sometimes even the shodans, just don't have good aim. Outside of the blackbelts, the hardest I've ever been kicked in a mixed class was by a guy who was fighting someone next to me! He threw a spinning back kick without spotting for his target and nailed me in the small of the back, while I was sparring somebody else altogether. My opponent last night threw a lot of wonderful kicks but I don't think he connected more than twice, neither time solidly.

I always feel weird at the combined classes. I enjoy them a lot, and go when I can, but I feel a little like a fraud because I'm milking them for what I can learn (which is a good deal, just to be clear), while really not respecting their teaching methods very much. The teachers themselves I respect. They clearly love their style, and they have a ton of knowledge. It's just that somehow it's translating into students that with very few exceptions are sloppy in critical ways.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Black Belt Daze

Our new black belt taught most of the class last night - self defense moves. I liked a lot of what he showed us. He tends to the quick, easy, and vicious. Though I do keep looking for moves that would have been useful in the only self-defense situations I've ever been in, which would need to be considerably less damaging.

That's something I've wanted to address in self-defense classes for a while, but I haven't sorted out how to go about it yet. Most self-defense is geared toward the guy who's trying to kill you (and has a good chance of succeeding. Yet relatively few women end up in that sort of life-or-death situation. The only woman I've taught self-defense to who has used anything I taught, used it on her husband to get out of a humiliating, but not at all deadly situation. Fortunately, our class had included a non-lethal response to the particular pin he had her in.

In my case, the only time someone ever tried to kill me, he was 80+ years old, and utterly incapable of doing me serious harm. Really. I stood there and let him choke me until he got tired, and sustained no physical injury. But I didn't want to stand there and let him choke me - I simply knew no way to break a choke hold that wouldn't have also broken him (I had my back to a wall, so I couldn't have backed out.). I was seriously shaken simply by having someone assault me that way, and not having any good way to fight back and make him stop.

I'm still sorting this out in my head, but it seems to boil down to self-defense being largely geared to a maiming response to a possibly lethal stranger, when far more women end up being groped or pinned or otherwise manhandled by people they know, who aren't a lethal danger, and who they do not want to maim. I am learning some of the responses geared more towards controlling the attacker as time goes on, but mostly not from the self-defense classes.

In other news, our one remaining brown belt, L, has been working with sensei privately (he moved over an hour away about a year ago). Sensei announced last week that L will be testing for his black belt August 25th. This will be Sensei's first black belt promotion (yay!), and also means that I won't be his first black belt when I test in another couple of years (double-yay!). L wants to open up his own dojo in his new home town. I wish him all the best on his test, and hope his new dojo is a winner.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


I'm working on a revision for Ghost Dancer, and I've gotten stuck. It's not surprising I've gotten stuck, but it's still a problem. You see, I've now written hundreds of pages (hopefully one day to be thousands and tens of thousands) of material moving forward, but my experience as a revisor is much more limited. I'm not used to having to edit more comprehensively than minor line, or at most scene edits: correction of errors, or switching around some point of action or dialogue.

What's happening in Ghost Dancer is more elaborate. Having written the story of Kira, I've then gone and expanded her universe. Bad guys who were simply lurking around being bad now have histories, motivations and political movements. A larger context is now around the entire story, making it much more complex, even though the basic sequence of events is the same.

Which means that every scene in the novel now has many more implications and needs much more nuance than it did when originally written. It also means I need to add either some additional scenes, or add additional characters to existing scenes, because otherwise my readers are going to be seriously confused when politics begin to fly and nobody has said anything until now.

And this is where I'm getting stuck. Ghost Dancer editions 1 & 2 were pretty tightly plotted. A led to B led to C, without much room for extraneous motion. It's like getting all dressed to go running with the slick running outfit, only to realize you've got to bring your wallet and your great outfit has no pockets. Where the heck to you stick the thing? Except it's a lot of things. I've not only got to add the wallet, water bottle, snack bar and first aid kit, I've got to make those things integrate smoothly with what's already there, such that nobody watching me run down the street is going to see them hanging about oddly.

So how do I stick a really good sleek fanny pack on a novel?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

New Student?

Quick congratulations to a brace and a half of new orange belts, first off. Three of our four yellow belts tested on Friday, and all did really well.

We have a new guy at the dojo. He's been to four classes so far, and it looks like he'll probably stick unless something goes wrong. It's a little different from the usual new student though. This guy's a san-dan (3rd degree black belt), and yes, it's in Isshinryu.

This is where it gets a little strange. Our new guy says his last promotion was in 1991. Since then he really hasn't done Isshinryu, though he's done some other martial arts on and off. Plus, during the interim, he sustained a major burn. One that's left him with substantial scar tissue on both legs, neck, and possibly arms.

Which puts him in a weird position in the dojo. He's a black belt, so he's up with Sensei, and there's no question he's earned his belt - the amount of knowledge stuffed into the corners of his brain is impressive. But at the same time, he's having to dredge deep to bring up the Isshinryu specific stuff. We've started him at Seisan and are working him back up, and even at the rate he's recalling stuff, it will be months before he's brought his knowledge base back up to the front. Plus he's having to relearn the actual motions as reworked for his body as it is now, which isn't easy. So in some ways he's senior to everyone but Sensei, and in others junior to all but the very newest students. It's got to be an awkward position for him, but he's handling it with grace and a good low-key sense of humor.

I hope he does stay. We could learn a lot from this one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Joys of Transparency

Yet one more chronic condition to add to the list. Quite possibly the first time in my life I'm overjoyed to be so pale as to be practically transparent.

Apparently I've developed vitiligo (pronounced vittle-I-go) - or more to the point, have had it for at least a year or so. Vitiligo causes patches of skin to lose their melanocytes, and turn pale - for all intents and purposes, you break out in albino spots. It's highly associated with Hashimoto's (about 21% of all Hashimoto's patients develop it sooner or later), so not exactly a stunning surprise there. (Though it would be nice if the Hashimoto's information sites (or my endocrinologist) had mentioned the connection.) There are a few treatments, all for the cosmetic issues rather than for the source. Fortunately for me, I'm so pale the only one who can even find the lighter patches without a strong light and having it pointed out, is me. So not exactly a major cosmetic problem. Even a massive outbreak of demelanization would only mean I start wearing foundation. Well, plus any patches on my scalp would grow gray hair, but my mother started going gray in her twenties while I'm 38 with no gray at all, so that wouldn't exactly be a tragedy.

This feels very tree-in-the-forest. If I have a condition whose only negative aspect is cosmetic, and the cosmetic doesn't affect me, does it count?


Free Online Dating

Mingle2 - Free Online Dating

I was thinking I'd get a PG rating myself.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I'm Baack!

Sorry to be silent for so long. I and the boys went on an extended trip to the northeast, covering Boston (Hi A!), Worcester (Hi L!), and Philadelphia (Hi B!). A good time was had by all, but we're quite done in by now and glad to be home again.

While we were up there, the boys got their first taste of a summer camp, in the form of a YMCA day camp. Generally they had fun, but the camp administration left a lot to be desired - starting with losing our paperwork a couple of times before we even got there, progressing through putting Aaron in the wrong section to start with, and culminating in not calling me when Robbie got a second-degree burn on a hot iron (the plastic-welding sort). Not only not calling me, but not even telling me about when I picked him up. I noticed the band-aid after we'd gotten back to my friend's apartment. Plus, when I checked on the accident report the next day, they had not given him appropriate first-aid. A quick splash of cold water and a band-aid is not sufficient for a deep 2nd degree burn - they're horribly prone to infections.

As a consequence I have been serially apologized to by the entire administration, will recieve a discount should I send my kids back next year, and we have a free three month family membership awaiting us, should we ever have need of it. In Boston. Heh.

After Boston, we went down to Philly, which went a bit smoother. We all trotted off to see the King Tut exhibit, which is spectacular. There was a little too much effort put in to making a mysterious ambiance for my taste, but the pieces were wonderful anyway. I do wish someone would realize that a dark exhibition hall with the exhibits in spotlights doesn't work so well in a jostling crowd - especially while trying to keep track of children. The actual historical information was also really interesting, though I wish there had been more of it. It's quite startling to realize that Tutankhamun was Robbie's age when he became king of all Egypt. Robbie was pretty startled to find that out too. The rest of the museum was also excellent - we stayed until they kicked us out at closing time. Then we went out for dinner (bison is quite good), and dessert. B took us to an Italian gelato place where the lemon ice cream is the next thing to a religious experience. Based on the noises, the boys had the same feelings about their Bing Cherry sorbetto (Aaron) and White Chocolate Kahlua (Robbie).

Lastly we went up to Worcester, where we got to be in on the arrival of some new guinea pigs. My friend L had some in her teens - her last one actually died the day of her wedding. I remember it vividly, since as Matron of Honor, my job expanded to guinea pig transport and related items. She hasn't had any in the fifteen years since then, but has now decided that rather than inflicting a new kitten on her remaining older cat, she would get some piggies instead. Cute things too. A pair of rescue brothers, one tortoiseshell and white, and one red and white. Her oldest son got to name them (Warrior and Burglar), and is supposed to be their co-owner, though he really hasn't quite got the quiet and gentle part down yet. Upon being told to be especially quiet for the first day to avoid startling the already nervous pigs, he took to pushing over Aaron & Robbie, and then reprimanding them for making too much noise. It will be interesting to see if he learns better over time.