Friday, November 30, 2007


Well, it's Friday evening. There are three boards and one haydite fewer at the dojo, two candles have been punched out (second shot each time), seven katas performed with one mistake (missed a stab in Simple Sai because I was getting freaked about my sais catching on my sleeves), and I have a new brown belt sitting in my dojo bag.

I think I have the answer to my frustrating kata performance. Oddly enough it was Rob, who hasn't taken karate in a decade, and not either of the judging black belts who managed to define the problem. Sensei and Sensei Don could only tell me that the empty-hand kata lacked power compared to the weapon katas, and especially compared to kumite and breaking. Rob says I look like a bad CGI, where the arms and legs have been pegged onto a stationary torso. Even when I turn or bend or leap, I apparently hinge at hips and shoulders, but nowhere in between. Given my blocky torso, he said I resembled a can of vegetables with arms and legs. The posture in question is very correct (proper singing posture, would look entirely proper on a Victorian lady), but it never moves. Why this is, or why I do move through the torso for weapons, I don't know, but at least I now have something I can actually work on. The odd thing is that I have been trying specifically to add hip power to my punches for several months now, but apparently whatever I've been doing either isn't right, or hasn't taken.

Kumite went really, really well. I fought three of the other purple belts (the fourth was video-taping), and pretty much cleaned up the floor, which is unusual for me. Generally my mind runs ahead and I miss opportunities, or get locked up because I'm over-analyzing. This time my mind was directly on business, and I chased everybody out of the ring at least once. The extra fitness work really paid off too. I was drenched, but not at all worn out by the end.

Breaking also went really well. Sensei held to his threat, and added two breaks to my requirements, so instead of just a punching break (single board) and a hammer fist (haydite), I had to break two other boards. I opted for a chop and a side kick. Everything broke on the first shot except the kick, where I went high and off-center - I've gotten so much more flexible that I seriously underestimated my most comfortable height! I readjusted the board up about six inches, and got a clean easy break on the second try. The haydite was also a little nerve-wracking. I've never done a hand break on a haydite before, nor ever broken from a kneeling position before, so it was learn-as-you-go time. However, it broke cleanly on the first shot (yay? That would have hurt to miss.), and my positioning was off only barely - I have a scraped spot on my wrist that will have a bruise tomorrow.

All my freaking out about the candle-punching seems to have paid off - or rather, I suppose, all the practice I did because I was freaked out. I put the candle out first try with my right, but barely tapped the candle and had to do it again, whereas the first punch with the left failed to put it out. Second time was the charm for both, though.

Self-defense went smoothly. I did the six presets, which all went pretty well, especially for not having been able to practice them on an actual person for the last month. I did one more, just for good measure, my favorite double-lapel grab/break, which quite unexpectedly tossed Sensei's daughter onto her back several feet away. Normally it only twists her around sideways.

Overall, I'm fairly pleased. I'm going to take the sleeves on my new gi (not worn yet), back to forearm because I don't want a repeat of the sleeve catching thing. I am very pleased at having an actual useable description of what's going wrong with my kata, so I can start working on fixing it.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Happy Birthday, Kathryn!

Of course, by the time you read this, it won't be your birthday any more where you are - and possibly not here either. But for now, at least, it's still your birthday. I hope you had a great one.

Kathryn was my first, and for many, many years, my only niece. I don't get to see her near often enough, seeing as she lives in Germany, while I've been bopping around various parts of the US. She was born over Thanksgiving vacation, my first year at college. I remember going up to visit Aunt Brooke and Uncle Rollin, getting my luggage "lost", because I'd arrived at the airport so early they sent it up by an earlier plane. Arriving to find nobody there because wires had gotten crossed and they thought I was arriving the next day. Finding out that Aunt Brooke was pregnant, which was a substantial surprise, as she and Uncle Rollin had been married for a number of years, and she was 42.

I knew that Kelly (my SIL, Kathryn's mom), was due any day, and I was really hoping she would give birth over vacation, so I could celebrate with family, rather than plugging right along with school work. Kathryn obliged, and we had a celebratory Thanksgiving indeed. I didn't see her in person until she was getting around on two feet, but I have photos of her as a newborn. She's much bigger (and more beautiful, though not cuter) now. Also considerably more articulate.

Happy 20th, Kathryn! The best of everything to you this year.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Minor Irritation

Why, oh why, has the music teacher given Aaron (the only kid in his class with a speech impediment) a line that includes the words "Wampanoag" and "Patuxet"?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Visits and Meetings

Sorry for the long pause. Dad Wood has been visiting this last week, which seriously cut into computer time. Among other things my computer is in the guest room, and when you do most of your blogging at night, and your guest goes to bed at 9pm...

That said, we had a good visit. Dad Wood seems to be coping with Ma's death about as well as could be expected. Getting out of the overly empty house seemed to be good for him, and we'll probably have him up here again after the holidays (we're going down to him for Thanksgiving).

Sensei and I had a meeting of minds, and my brown belt (ni-kyu) test is scheduled for Nov. 30th - I.e. Friday the week after Thanksgiving. I'm practicing my (not-so) little butt off. Candle-punching is still my worst skill, and the only one that has me truly worried. Practicing at home I'm getting the candle out 50-70% of the time with my right hand, but only about one time in six with the left. Which if I only get two shots per hand is not good odds. My problem seems to be two-fold. First is my general slowness/lack of snap. With poor snap, my punch has to be right on top of the candle to put it out. This combines poorly with my tendancy to misjudge the amount of hip twist when checking my distance. Otherwise known as I tend to tap the candle, which is an automatic fail, even if the flame goes out. If I can improve the snap, I won't have to judge my distance so finely. If I can judge my distance right, my lack of snap won't matter quite so much. Practice, practice, practice. It's all I can do right now.

We also had a meeting with the Special Education Team at the school, this time about Robbie, instead of Aaron. It was an interesting (and funny) meeting. Full of comments that were polite versions of "If he's paying attention 18% of the time (the official count), but heads the class, why is the problem with his attention, rather than with the level of the material?" In the end they agreed with us, and Robbie is now officially in the Gifted & Talented program, rather than Special Education. (It helps that his test scores were above average to well-above average nearly across the board) I had the intake interview with the G&T coordinator on Friday. She seems like a very nice lady, and I'm very pleased with the program as outlined. Best of all, the G&T program is done by "cluster" teachers within each grade, and Robbie's teacher is the cluster teacher for 4th grade, so he gets to stay where he is. Woot! Because he seriously loves being in Mr. Julian's class. Actually, Mr. Julian had already started grouping Robbie with the G&T kids for pull-out work before we even had this meeting - so yay for him.

Also in Robbie school news, he's just been selected for the Academic Competition Team. He is seriously excited about this. Competition, plus science and math, all in one place. Robbie has been competitive from the get-go, and this should be right up his alley. Plus both this and being with the G&T kids may help him develop some more friends.

Nothing new with Aaron school-wise. But in Taekwondo, he should be testing for his yellow stripe next month. I hope the test is scheduled for sometime when we're in town, since we're headed down Mississippi way on the 21st. If he misses, he'll have to wait until January since the TKD people schedule mass tests once a month, rather than our individual tests, scheduled at the testee's convenience.

Oh - and it looks like I'll have an audience for my test. At least three people from the TKD side have asked for the date, and said they'd make a point to be there. Eeek?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Tournament and Kata Frustrations

Back from the Great Lakes Games/Lennox Legacy Tournament weekend. A good time was had by all, and in general things went very, very well.

We missed last year's GLG, so it was great to see all of our friends again. I didn't play nearly as many games as usual, but it was great fun anyway. I did get to try Goa, which is involved, but fairly fun, a really cool matching game named Quirkle, and an expansion to Ticket to Ride that puts you in Switzerland, which I really liked.

I hit the road at 3:30am to get to Hanchi Duessel's 8:30 seminar in Akron (tournament started at 10). I was 5 minutes late (aargh!). Fortunately for my pride, an entire dojo contingent walked in about two minutes later, and I used them as cover to slide into place. All but one of our dojo members were there and competing (the lone absentee is seven, a white belt, and doesn't know her first kata yet). We did, as a group, very well. I think everyone came home with at least one medal. The kids, especially, did great. The kids divisions were all pretty sizeable, but we had medals of all colors in both kata and kumite. Sensei's daughter took a second in kumite, and pretty clearly deserved first. (She scored two beautiful kicks to her opponents mid-section, clean and unblocked, but in each case the fight had worked into a corner and not enough judges saw the hit to allow the point. Even without those two points, the match went 2-all. Our newest adult student, who was so nervous about competing she nearly refused to enter, even though she was already there for her two sons, took home a gold in kata (against two higher ranked competitors, doing Seisan against Wansu and Chinto), and a silver in kumite (again against higher ranked competitors). We won't have to beg and plead to get her to compete next time.

In my division I took silver in kumite, with a 2-2 sudden death in the fight for first place. The girl I fought against (yes, girl. They changed the age breaks, so instead of being a senior in the 36+ like last year, I'm in the 18-38 division.) was tiny, but very quick. She had a large cheering section, which was nice to see. In weapons I got an autmatic gold for being the only weapons competitor in my division, but then competed one division up. I landed middle-of-the-road points wise there, which is fine by me, since I was using Tsu Yoi Bo (Power Bo, our prepratory bo kata), against people doing Tokumine no Kun or Urashi Bo, plus some sai katas I didn't recognize - not hard, the only Sai katas I recognize are Simple Sai and Kusanku Sai (which I've just started learning)

Which brings me to kata. I've found a perfect description for my kata results in Isshinryu tournaments here. To wit, I've landed in exactly the same spot in every Isshinryu tournament I've ever been in - dead last. I'm beginning to get a) puzzled and b) very frustrated by this bit of consistency. I don't think I do bad kata. This impression is seconded by my results in non-Isshinryu tournament (I've only been in two, but medaled both times), by my sensei's comments, by my competitors' comments, and even by the comments of the judges whose scores put me last. I hunted down three of my five judges this time and asked for suggestions on how to improve my kata. They gave me good advice (deeper stances and more varied rhythm), which I intend to follow, and went out of their way to mention that they thought my kata was otherwise good. One asked me when I thought I would test for brown, and seemed pleased that it would be soon. But at least a couple of the other competitors in my ring had kata that weren't terribly good - I.e. kata where I will be pretty upset if the video shows that I was as stiff, or weak or hesitant. Two years ago I placed last against a truly wonderful field, and I felt really good about being scored even in the same league, but that wasn't this year's set.

To try to be clear here - I'm not upset about my placement per se. I couldn't care less whether I bring home a medal in kata or not. But this makes something close to ten tournaments where I have finished last, and I can't help but think that there's got to be something fundamentally wrong with what I'm doing for that to have happened. Each time I've looked for suggestions on how to improve, and gotten them. Each time I've worked on the things I've been told - and sure enough the comments are different the next time I finish last. Whatever it is doesn't seem to afflict my weapons kata. Rob had the interesting suggestion that since by next year I will know both Kusanku and Kusanku Sai, I should do those two, and if I place well in weapons but not in kata, I will have a very specific way to zero in on what difference the judges saw.

I just know that it seems pretty pathetic that my goal for kata for next year is to do a kata so wonderful that the judges have to rank me above somebody.