Friday, February 20, 2009


Well, I finally got a look at the essay topics for my black belt. I knew I had to write three, but I could only remember two of the topics: What in your opinion, is a black belt? and What does karate mean to you? I couldn't remember the third topic for anything. So once I got a look, I figured I'd come talk about it here a bit, which should serve the dual purpose of grinding it into my memory a bit, and providing a written record in case it does slide out again.

The third question, being much of a kind with the previous two, is: What, in your opinion, is a sensei?

This could conceivably provide some serious overlap, since to my mind, one of the meanings of a black belt is that the wearer is a teacher. And since what karate means to me also has bearing on the meaning of a black belt, it would almost be easier to address all three questions in one giant essay. I wonder if Sensei would go for that?

So on to the pondering. I've been pondering the other two questions for nearly a year at this point. Time to let the hindbrain cook on the third one.

In other news, Sensei has the death flu that's roaming around town right now. Sensei D. and I taught class Tuesday, and I had it by myself Thursday, since Sensei D. is now down in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Tuesday was very casual, with only two students. Last night, however, was pretty successful. I tried a couple of new drills garnered from my book on developing speed (Loren Christensen), and both were fairly well recieved. One drill was highly revealing, at least for my and my partner - and I suspect for the other pairs as well. The drill consists of circling one another as if fighting, up to and including fakes (which should be responded to as if in a fight), but no real thrown techniques. At random points, the designated person yells "Freeze!" and then "A" or "B" (each team as an A and B partner). The pair freezes, and then the designated person has 1 second to throw a technique to tap an open area. For me and my partner (Sensei's daughter), the opening for her was almost always a roundhouse to the chest - which is a kick she very rarely uses in an actual fight, and you could see the gears in her head turning as she noticed this. For me, I was nearly always slightly out of position. Never badly, but enough that I had to make an additional move to make a technique connect. Step forward, step sideways, turn - I was always just slightly off kilter or out of range for an effective technique. Which - duh! - of course I'm going to be slow on the attack if once I see an opening I have to both shift and throw the technique. I suspect it's my subconcious trying to slow the fight down, but its result is only to slow me down, not my opponent. Not exactly effective technique there.

Score! Something specific I can work on that should increase my effective speed. I'll have to tell Sensei about the drill when he gets better and comes back. I think he'll like this one.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Slight Postponment

I got to have a private lesson with my Sensei this last weekend, which was quite a treat. I always feel like I learn so much when I get one-on-one time. We went through the ends of Kusanku Sai, and Sanchin, which means I officially know all the kata I need for my black belt test.

Afterwards we had a talk about my black belt test, and decided to postpone it from its original tentative early April date to this summer. He feels (and I agree) that while I could probably pass a test in April, it would be a cram and a struggle to be ready. In addition, he would rather send me off to Worlds in June as a really prepared brown belt, than a shiny new black belt. While it would have been awesome to test for black at my fortieth birthday, I agree with his reasoning. In fact it will be good to be able to settle down into steady practice of my new katas, and to be able to pull them apart and polish the dickens out of them, instead of having the pressure of needing them ready NOW!

In the same vein, I got to go see the new digs of our old dojo mates this morning. They finally got into the new place about six months after we split off, but I hadn't had an excuse to go over there (they're two towns over from where I live). This morning, two of my friends tested for black, so Sensei and I went to watch the test. They both did very well - tested and passed without any problems, though Master B threw them a few curve balls. Everybody remembered not just Sensei, but me as well - and about eight people threatened to come kick my butt if I don't remember to tell them when I test, so it looks like I'll have a rooting section beyond just my kids and husband.

Now I just need to work, work, work to get ready for Worlds and the test following. Sensei is really riding me about increasing my hand speed, and following up in kumite to prove his point (I'm getting tired of the footprints on my ribs). If anyone out there has suggestions on how a strong, but not terribly fast girl can get faster, I'm open for any suggestions.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Interesting Site of the Day

Save a word! Every year hundreds of words are excised from dictionaries for lack of use. Go adopt a word, add it to your vocabulary, and save it from extinction.

By popular demand, our families word is ichthyarchy (n.) The domain of fishes. - Don't tell the captain you fell overboard, tell him you wanted to explore the ichthyarchy!

Since we have four separate ichthyarchies in our house, it seemed like a natural one to all of us. We'll see what the boys' teachers think of it tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Double-Barrelled Bassets

As of a week and a half ago, we have two bassets in the house. This makes quite a change around here. Nicky, who I've talked about here before is a very quite, laid-back dog. Other than a bad garbage habit, he's about as low-maintenance a dog as can be imagined.

This is not Toby.

Nicky may bark once in a day - may, not will. If someone he doesn't know comes to the door, he'll probably bark. Other than that, no. Toby barks at the mailman, at the UPS dude, at our neighbors leaving for work, at our neighbors coming home, at the neighbors dog, at the squirrels, at people eating food and not supplying him with some. Barking is pretty much his default state. Ironically, the only time he doesn't bark is when he wants to be let in from the back yard. Then he stands at the door, completely silent, and attempts to get his wishes across via telepathy.

He's also a very nervous dog. Anything different will send him pacing and barking at best, and looking frantically for a place to hide at worst. And since he had never been further from Dad W's house than the vet until last week, pretty much everything around here is new to him.

Fortunately, as time goes on, Toby is gradually adjusting to the idea that this is his new home, and not everything is scary and dire. Some of the barking has even started to ease off as Nicky has decided he is senior dog, and is starting to enforce his standards. This is funny as heck to watch, as Nicky is also about the least dominant dog I've ever seen. However, Nicky knows full well that we don't hand out treats to barking dogs, so starting about two days ago, when Toby started barking at the dinner table, Nicky turned on him and drove him out of the dining room. Now Toby is only allowed near humans with food if Nicky deems him sufficiently quiet and meek.

With that in mind, I ponied Toby to Nicky the other day and took them both down to the school to pick up the boys. This was great fun, as half-a-dozen drivers slowed down to watch the paired bassets trotting along. Toby did pretty well up until we got to the school and he had to deal with actual children. Toby has only ever met four children in his life, and he really didn't know what to do with these small creatures - so he hid behind my legs and barked at them. The funny thing was that he was really curious about them, so if they ignored him, he would approach very cautiously, but if they looked at him, or (God forbid) tried to pat him, he would skitter back behind my legs in terror. Fortunately he shows no signs of being a fear snapper, just mashes himself harder into my legs if scared.

Based on his reactions to the house and neighbors, I think Toby may actually come to like these child-creatures, but it's going to take some time. Nicky is having a good effect on him generally, I think. It's hard for Toby to keep thinking the world is going to eat him when Nicky is so placid about everything.

Which is good, because my ears could really use the break about now.