Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Per Request

Robbie as Colonel Roy Mustang. I may be biased, but I think he is rather frighteningly good looking in a uniform.

Good looks were obviously not relevant to Aaron's Xenomorph costume. He had literally not an inch of skin showing. Unfortunately, he also couldn't see all that well, since the eye holes are little vertical slits beside the internal mouth. The tail didn't last the evening either, it ripped off its mounting and had to be left home - which was probably just as well, because with the lack of peripheral vision, Aaron couldn't see what was beside or behind him, and kept whapping things with it. He did get a lot of compliments, though several people thought he was a Predator rather than an Alien. Light trick-or-treating this year for some reason - we still have about half of our candy, and usually we get cleaned out.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Sensei and I spent most of Saturday at a pressure point seminar given by Will Higginbotham. This is the second time we've gone (he apparently does one in this area every year around Halloween), and as it was last year, it was really interesting. This year's seminar was a bit more focused than last year's, primarily because we had half-a-dozen police officers attending, and Sensei Higginbotham concentrated heavily on things they would find practical: control grips, come-alongs, ways to safely intervene in a third-party assault - that sort of thing. (Several wrist and finger-locks, Bill!}

I find pressure points fascinating, but they remind me of my father's description of neuroanatomy. You need a certain (large) amount of base knowledge to sink in before you can start putting things into a framework that makes sense. Right now these seminars feel like standing in a rainstorm with a teaspoon trying to collect the water. I come away with a few specific things that work (or not to do), and a broader fact or two, and try to remember them without having much of a knowledge structure to hang them on. I know the structure exists, but I haven't got it straight in my head yet, so things don't stick all that well. But each time, a little more makes sense, and I trust that one day, if I keep working on it, it will start fitting together sensibly.

It turned out to be a good thing that I was scheduled to conduct the choir instead of sing this Sunday, though, as I turned out to be the victim of choice when it was time to practice peeling off a guy who's trying to choke someone. So I got choked, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, by about eight people, several times each. My neck is still feeling it today, though not too badly.

The conducting went pretty well - especially for my first time ever. The choir was very kind to me, and paid excellent attention. If I'm going to do this again, I need to work on keeping my beat pattern while also giving cues, though. I know how to sketch time, and I know how to do entrances and cut-offs, but I tend to lose my pattern (though fortunately not my beat) when trying to combine the two. This might have something to do with it having been 23 years since my one semester of conducting class. (If you ever read this Constance, THANK YOU for being so stringent that most of what you taught has stuck. It saved my butt.) We're currently auditioning candidates for a new organist/choir director, and with any luck we should get one before Advent.

I'm also supposed to be playing my first full church service on the 13th of November. This is our Kirkin' of the Tartans service, with bagpipes and drums, in addition to the organ. I'm nervous (it's a lot of music), but I think it's mostly in hand - except possibly for the bagpipe bit. The piper said something to our priest about organ music to play with the pipes, but hasn't provided any - and if she doesn't get it to me within the next 2-3 days, there's no way I'm playing it. My biggest failing as an organist at this point is the sheer amount of time it takes me to get new pieces under my fingers. E.g., I should play this service fine, but it's been two months of prep work to get here.

For tonight, I'm working on Halloween costumes. Sewing for Robbie's costume (Colonel Mustang from Full Metal Alchemist), and somewhat more engineering like stuff for Aaron's (the Xenomorph monster from Alien). My children don't believe in easy Halloween costumes. Actually, if they keep this up, I'm going to have to teach them how to sew, so they can do these themselves.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Blog note

Pictures from our home tournament, the Southern Indiana Open can be found here.

There's quite a few of them. I think the photographer was on a personal mission to get at least half-a-dozen shots of every competitor there.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

New Kata!

I'm not going to be able to say that too many more times. It's a little sad, but I'm getting close to the end of the Isshinryu set of kata. As a style we don't have all that many - eight empty hand kata (Seisan, Seiuchin, Naihanchi, Wansu, Chinto, Kusanku, Sunsu, and Sanchin), and six weapons kata (Tokemine no Kun, Urashi Bo, Shishi no Kun no Dai, Kusanku Sai, Chatanyara no Sai, Higa no Tuifa - aka Hamahiga). There are also two unofficial two person katas, bo-bo, and bo-sai.

As of right now, I have two of the official kata left to learn, Shishi and Hamahiga. I know that Shishi is part of what I learn at nidan (not least because Sensei started teaching it to me on Thursday). I suspect I'll also learn Hamahiga in here somewhere - which should be interesting, since I've never even seen Sensei bring tonfa to class. But I'm feeling a little sad that I'm getting so close to the end of my kata set. I love deepening kata I already know, learning more applications, more bunkai, other ways of looking at things - but I also love digging into new kata, and there's just not that much more to go!

On the plus side, Shishi looks like it will take me a while. It's the longest Isshinryu kata by a fair margin. It's about twice as long as Urashi, which is itself a fairly long kata. It's got a lot of familiar moves, but also several new sequences and different strikes than the other two bo kata. If I'm seeing it correctly, it shouldn't be as prone to leaking into the other kata as Urashi was for Tokemine (they share several very similar sequences).

As part of the effort to deepen my other kata, I'm currently working on mirror-image Seisan. It wasn't as difficult to figure out as I had feared. It took about 2-3 good working sessions, and the left-right switch clicked. I still have to watch the first 5-6 moves carefully to make sure I'm not doing it the normal way, but once I make the first turn, all is good. I'm hoping to find a partner to do the Lennox Legacy team kata with, since I think a pair of us acting as mirrors for each other would look very cool. Maybe I can talk Robbie into it, since he's planning on coming and competing this year (kata only).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

About that announcement...

(Photo description: close up of my nidan certificate, newly arrived from Okinawa.)

I'll also note that it's a nice validation of my growing Japanese skills that I can actually read about 30% of this certificate, including my name, rank, and date of issuance.

I haven't been on-line a lot lately, because my computer is having issues. We managed to do a defrag last night, and have been trying to do a full virus check, which is giving us problems for unknown reasons, but we'll get there. At least it's telling us we can't do stuff in about half the time it was before.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

School's In!

Summer's over and the boys are back in school, which means I can go back to having a regularly scheduled life. I'm hoping to get back to updating here regularly.

This is Robbie's last year of middle school and Aaron's last of elementary, so next year is going to bring some big changes. This year though, is pretty standard. About the only really new thing is that Robbie has algebra, so is bringing home lots of math homework.

Our dojo's annual tournament is upcoming next month. It's an open tournament, September 24th, at the Sports Center of Southern Indiana University in New Albany. $25 if you register by Sept. 18th, $35 at the door - contact Sensei TJ through the Kentuckiana Isshinryu Karate link in the right side bar. Last year I judged rather than competing. I'm hoping I can both compete and judge this year, but if push comes to shove, I'll probably go for judging, since I need more experience there. I'm practicing for the Lennox Legacy Challenge, just to make sure though. It's a new division, and one I love. Isshinryu only, though. Essentially, all the empty hand Isshinryu kata names are put into a hat. Each competitor pulls a kata out of the hat, and competes using it. It's a lot of fun, and it avoids the problem of having people who only practice the kata they're intending to compete with.

Another announcement should be coming up soon, but I'll save that one for when I have photographic proof to show you.

Friday, July 01, 2011

World has been survived.

The World Tournament is over for another two years. It was a wonderful time - I took five mini-seminars, three full seminars (oh my aching legs!), and competed in four divisions. I didn't place in anything (the closest was a 4th in kumite), but Ian, our brown belt and the only other competitor from our dojo, came home with a 1st in weapons. That's the trophy he's holding in the photo - pretty, isn't it?

Unfortunately, he's also holding his ribs, which is also in the photo, but less obvious. There were no other 16-17 year old brown belts at World's (which is puzzling, it's usually a large division) so they tossed him in the 18-29 ring, and the much larger 23 year old he was pitted against beat him up pretty thoroughly. First time I've had a paramedic called to the ring for a student, and I wouldn't care to repeat the experience. Ian is fine, but he'll be nursing sore ribs and a nice lump beside his right eye for a while. He's taking it in good part though, and not at all discouraged from going to the next World, which is good.

Now it's time for us to start getting ready for our own tournament. It's an open tournament, Sept. 24th, just outside of Louisville, KY. Last year's was a great time, and I hope this year goes as well or better. We'll certainly be in a better location, since Sensei has managed to secure us the IUS Athletic Center. I'm planning on competing this year and not just judging the way I did last year - we'll see how I do with trying to do both and tracking our students.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Judging a Test

Saturday was a lot of fun. Sensei Johnson is my Sensei's first black belt, and who runs his own dojo about 90 minutes from here. Saturday he had his first green belt grading, and Sensei and I went down to act as judges and testers. This was my first stint acting as a judge outside of my home dojo, and it was an interesting experience.

First and foremost, it was very weird having a bunch of people act like I was somebody important. We're a tiny, informal dojo, and I'm definitely not used to having people bow to me aside from just bowing in and out of class. My friend Beth, who's a chaplain, compared it to what happened to her the first time she went to work after being ordained - suddenly she was someone to be deferred to, and it threw her for a while.

The test itself went very well. Sensei Johnson's student was definitely nervous and tense, but exceptionally well prepared. Sensei had been concerned that the test requirements were too much for a green belt test, but they turned out to be about perfect for this candidate, and Sensei Johnson himself commented that he probably needed to tone them down a notch or two before finalizing them as the general green belt requirements. (6'2" adults with significant prior martial arts experience probably shouldn't be your measuring line for all students!) His kata were excellent, though the nervousness was definitely showing in tenseness which was slowing down some techniques. His knowledge levels were also excellent, which was good to see - so many big, strong guys are so focused on the physical that they barely notice the knowledge end of things. Breaking went smoothly, though the break that was listed as a shuto was much closer to a shotai.

Then it was on to sparring. Sensei Johnson put me up first - I'll have to remember to thank him for that! Stepping up to spar this guy who's so much bigger than I am, when I've never seen him spar before was a definite gulp moment, but he had excellent control - if anything he was nervous to hit me hard enough. I held up my end well, which was also a point of concern, since I get so little sparring practice these days (Sensei and Sensei D are both out of commission right now, and Sensei's daughter has gotten busy again, so it me and Ian, and Ian and me, and me and Ian...). I managed to stay mostly inside of his kicks, and he wasn't used to dealing with small people at arm's length going for his ribs, so I definitely got my licks in. In his second fight, he was hitting Sensei Johnson a lot harder than he was hitting me, about which I am half happy, and half disappointed. I'm just as glad not to be all bruised up today, but I never really mind it in a good cause, and it's been a long time since I've had to go all out against somebody new.

So congratulations to Nate, and may he wear his new, and well-deserved green belt in health and happiness.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Meet the new car, rather different from the old car.

Meet the new car! Rob called me Wednesday and announced that he was in love. Since his new love has four wheels, I think I can live with it.

For the curious who aren't sufficiently car buffs to ID this on sight, this is a 1989 Porsche 944. The body is in prime condition, with not a speck of rust on it. It runs, and is in generally excellent shape, with one major caveat - it's also in many, many pieces. The seats, hatchback, inside door panels, instruments, and almost everything else but the engine currently reside not in the car, but in the back of our pick-up. Rob estimates six months or more to get her back together and on the road.

Fortunately, since Rob loves working on cars and is quite good at it, this was more of an incentive than not. Especially since the whole "the car is in pieces" thing brought the price down a lot. Lots and lots. Which has the added benefit that if, after he gets her together, he decides he really didn't want a Porsche after all, he should be able to sell it for at least 4x what he paid for it.

I'm not a car buff myself, but it's fun to watch him light up over this car. Plus it's rather cool to say we have a Porsche in our garage.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cars and Japanese

Rob's bonus came in. For the first time in his working history, this does not mean "Woot! Let's take the family out for pizza and blow it all!", but actually involves a noticeable amount of money. He's hoping to replace his current car with a nicer, newer, though still well-used one. Right now he's having an absolute blast looking through all the local cars for sale and deciding what he actually wants. - shopping is always his favorite part of buying a car. We'll see what he finally settles on, but right now he's just loving the drooling. For example, he will be looking today at a Porsche 944 that was new when he was in high school (theoretically in running condition - once it's put back together). I doubt he'll bring it home, but he's getting an enormous kick out of the idea that he could. It's the first time he's been able to buy a car without the entire consideration being "how cheap can I get something that I can keep on the road myself?" I'm having a lot of fun watching him enjoy himself, and for the fact that the cars that he's most enjoying drooling over look like the epitome of a mid-life crisis (the Porsche, an Eclipse, a GT). No mid-life crisis involved, he's always loved roadster-type cars, but that doesn't stop me from snickering.

I'm back to working seriously on my Japanese. I've almost got my hiragana down (and my friend Chia says my handwriting is pretty decent). My ability to use the language is still down at the "Would you like to eat? Nice weather, isn't it?" level, but seems to be coming along fairly quickly. I'm not sure if working Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur simultaneously is better or worse than either separately, but it's certainly less frustrating than either alone. Pimsleur gives you longish phrases without a lot of understanding of why they mean what they mean, and it easily turns into boatloads of mass memorization if you can't break it down, while Rosetta Stone teaches you using no English at all, which can mean the breakthrough of understanding what the heck you're saying can take a long time, when just a tiny hint would have made it clear. I went through the lesson on pronouns three times before I realized that the lesson was even about pronouns! Combining it with Pimsleur seems to give me the extra bit of explanation that lets me decipher what a given Rosetta Stone lesson is trying to show me.

Eight weeks and counting to the World Tournament. I've gotten in some good sessions with my sai, but it's been raining non-stop for the last week (and is supposed to keep doing so this week) which makes bo practice time hard to come by. In general I think it's probably time to ease up on the general conditioning and start hitting the specific conditioning harder.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Various and Sundry

No karate tomorrow, as the Jazzercise people are taping for TV - something they do every couple of months. The weather is pretty, so I'm going to try to break out the weaponry and do some kata practice in the front yard. Also, a morning run would be good. Actually keeping busy in general would be good as I need to go back in the afternoon and have them redo the mammogram on one side with the radiologist present, and I'd rather not think about it until after I have something more concrete to worry about (or not) than I currently do.

Rob made it home safely, if with somewhat more excitement than necessary. He opines (and I thoroughly agree) that he could have lived very happily without finding out what a jumbo jet sounds like when being flown without engines. Fortunately after having an engine overheat and die, the pilots attempt to shut everything down and restart worked as intended and the plane landed safely back in Edinburgh under power. He got home about 18 hours later than intended, but all in one piece, which is how I like him. He brought birthday presents with him - a tartan shawl with brooch, a pair of gorgeous dragon-wing earrings, a butterfly pin from the Royal Botanical Gardens, a Hunting Ross tartan sash, and an assortment of lovely cheeses. The boys got Nessy stuff, which they're all excited about. Two books have also arrived from Bill (Thank you, Bill!), a book on designing knitwear, and a biography of Madeleine L'Engle. I'm already making inroads on both.

The other things I'm reading are a pair of books I found while down with my parents. They're quite similar in concept - study books on karate from an older well-regarded Japanese instructor. One is based in Shotokan, and one in Gojo-ryu, so neither is completely applicable to Isshinryu, but I'm finding a lot of useful exercises and technique tips. After all, just because we punch differently doesn't mean that I can't learn more about a roundhouse kick from a Shotokan instructor. Part of the difficulty of being in such a small and isolated dojo is that comparative to Isshinryu students in areas with several dojos, we end up with a much less broad range of experience. Sensei TJ tries to travel to outside seminars and broaden his experience as much as possible, but most of the time I can't do that, so I'm aiming for the written word. (Shocking, I know)

Boys and dogs are all doing well, as is Aoi (the lizard), but I managed to kill off most of the population of Rob's smaller salt-water tank, by not figuring out that there was a short in the filter on the tank next door that kept throwing the breaker. There are half-a dozen survivors, but one of the puffers and the beautiful giant batfish both died, along with a bunch of other fish. Fortunately I did manage to keep the freshwater tank oxygenated enough for all the fish to survive until the electrics got sorted out, even if they weren't exactly happy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gearing Up

Wow. I can't believe it's been four months since I wrote in here. I have been doing some blogging, but it's all been over at sparkpeople.com. I need to get back to writing here.

It's just barely over two months until the IWKA (Isshinryu World Karate Association) World Tournament. I'm registered and paid for, though I haven't made hotel reservations yet. Robbie is undecided about competing - but if he doesn't make up his mind soon, the indecisiveness is going to have made it up for him.

It's a mixed bag at the dojo these days. On the good side, two of our white belts are almost ready to test for yellow, and we've added a new student - an eleven-year-old girl, who thus far seems quite avid. On the bad side, two students, one of the aforementioned ready-to-test-for-yellow whites, and his mother, currently our only adult beginner, look like they're dropping out. If they do drop out, we'll have passed below the income threshold where we can pay for our space at the Jazzercise studio each month, which will leave us with a choice of cutting back to one class a week, moving to the local park, or some combination of the two. Summer attendance is always dicey anyway, and with only four students it's just not enough to rent a space.

The hopeful side of things is that my church has expressed interest in hosting a self-defense seminar. I'm currently working on a blurb for the newsletter to gauge interest, but an informal talking around looks like there should be more than enough people to put together a women's self-defense class, and possibly a second co-ed one for kids. Seminars like this tend to pull in new people, so if we can get a seminar put together in the next couple of months, we may get enough new students to keep our current place.

On the personal side of things, I'm kicking the prep for the World Tournament up into high gear. I'm not where I hoped to be fitness and weight-wise, but I am running three miles at a stretch without much difficulty, and I've lost about thirty pounds. Adding weight training has put some pop in my punches, which is welcome (and unusual). I've chosen my kata for the tournament and the weather has gotten nice enough for me to get some weapons training done in my yard - so now I just have to train the kata and do as much training for the sparring as possible. We still have a serious shortage of high level fighters - more so than usual, actually. There's me, there's T, our teenaged brown belt, and most days that's it. Sensei is fighting only rarely, because his knee is not recovering from his ACL surgery as well as he had hoped, and Sensei D is not sparring at all as he's having medical problems of his own. Every once in a while Sensei's daughter J will show up, and that's a blast - she's lightning fast and quite strong, though a little out of practice. I think I'm glad that the senior women's section is often loaded with people who don't spar much. I'd get killed in a hurry in the younger rings as little high-level practice as I generally get.

Rob is getting home tomorrow night after a sixteen day run to the UK and Finland. He's only home a few days before heading out again for a quickie trip, but when he gets back, he should be home for a whole 3-4 weeks! That's getting to be a rarity around here. Robbie is still aiming for a blue belt, but his progress on Seiuchin is very slow, mostly due to lack of home practice. He's finally made the connection between how much he practices and how good he gets at something. The differences between his drawing and flute skills (both practiced regularly) vs. his guitar and singing skills (both practiced sporadically) have become too great for him to ignore. Now we'll see which things he chooses to step up and practice, which should be instructive for all.