pegkerr: (Default)

I'm a karate black belt.

I love Harry Potter.

What happens if you mix Harry Potter with a Hong Kong martial arts action flick? You get: Harry Chan - Hogwarts Action Hero:

Oh, and there's even a blooper reel, too )
pegkerr: (Karate Peg 2011)
Last night, I drove to the dojo to talk with Mr. Sidner. "I've come to talk to you about the contracts."

He nodded. "I had a hunch you would be."

I haven't been back to class for a couple of months. The last time I attempted a class, I left after five minutes in tears.

I'm fifty-one years old. I don't like sparring; I've never liked it. After I got the black belt, I took a break of several weeks and when I got back I discovered my hard-won balance had deteriorated again. Black belts are supposed to be able to balance during slow kicks. I have tremendous difficulty doing so, especially when I'm standing on the right leg. The knee continues to give me problems, and it's getting harder and harder to get up off the floor. I'm worried about continued injuries.

So I stayed away and thought about it. Fiona's off to college, and she feels she can't do karate at our dojo while she's doing college, even though she's in town (she does intend to investigate the martial arts club there on campus). It's not so much fun to go when I'm all by myself. Rob's tired of doing the cleaning, and I'm tired of doing the belt test pictures.

I'm tired.

So, with tears in my voice, I told him, "I am ready for a break. Maybe I'll come back some day." Maybe. I don't know.

"You can always come back," he told me warmly. "But I could tell that you were finding this harder and harder physically. I will cancel the rest of the contracts. If Fiona wants to come back in the summer, I'll work something out with her, maybe exchanging teaching for lessons."

I realize I have put off saying anything here to you, friends list. Almost a weird sense that I would be letting you down if I walked away now. I had worked so hard to get to this point! How could I give up now? But I know deep down that's not true, of course. I know you were all so proud and happy for me when I got my black belt. And I'm pretty damn proud of myself. I achieved something positively terrific that no one can ever take away from me. I am a karate black belt. But I can't pretend that I want to continue, at least right now.

I had sensed it, when we were on our little retreat to Washington Island. It's not giving up, exactly; it's that I'm simply moving into a new life stage. I'm changing.

I don't know what the future holds.

Karate has been wonderful, but I believe it's now time to take the gifts it has given me and move on. I will always be incredibly grateful to Mr. Sidner, both for being a fantastic teacher to me and the girls and for helping us work out a way to continue when we didn't have any money. I do need to find a way to stay active, one that doesn't take a lot of money.

I gave Mr. Sidner a big hug. I came home. I hugged Rob and cried. (Many, many thanks are also due to Rob for all the hours spent dealing with cleaning mirrors and mops and Pine Sol. Love you, honey.)

And then I baked myself some gingerbread scones.

Because, you know, I'm a black belt. I damn well deserve them.

(Tell me you still love me, friends list. I could use some cheering up right now.)
pegkerr: (Karate Peg 2011)
Tonight's black belt class was well attended, by both first and second degrees. It was taught by our senior instructor, Mr. Sidner. The first half of class tonight was spent on boxing drills, with us partnering up and doing a series of combinations: jab, punch, uppercut, hook, etc.

The second half was Japanese sword. This is the first time I've picked it up. Well, to be precise, I picked up a nerf mock sword. I haven't even bought my wooden practice one yet. We learned a series of specific choreographed moves, first blocking, then attacking, each movement flowing into the other. The one of the second degrees partnered with our instructor and together they demonstrated how when the attack faced the defense, they came together in a choreographed fight.

Watching them, I felt like Daniel-san suddenly realizing that wax-on/wax-off had another a whole other purpose than cleaning the cars.

It was exhilarating, yet intimidating. I worked after the class going through the moves again with Fiona as I still tend to forget the flow when the moves get going. And there's nothing like seeing a sword coming toward you to make your mind suddenly go blank.

But it was fun. I've never fenced or done anything like it before.

My shoulders will be sore tomorrow.
pegkerr: (Karate Peg 2011)
I don't feel like a black belt.

Really. I don't.

My knees are continuing to be problematic. I don't know if I've just reached a point of no return of creakiness/arthritis or what. But when we work on self-defense, a large part of what we do at this level is sweeps and other take downs. Which means that there's a lot getting down and up again from the floor in black belt class. And it's getting embarrassingly difficult for me to keep clambering up again. A couple of weeks ago, someone did a sweep on me, and when I tried to get up again, I felt something go wrong with the knee as I was getting up again. That put me out of class for a week.

Now, of course, the kick goals are higher than when I was screening for black belt. Instead of ten round kicks to the paper, it's fifteen kicks. I am not meeting that goal. I was excused from spin kicks at the screening due to my knee problems. Frankly, I've never learned to do them properly. We're doing them more and more in class, and I'm not quite sure whether I should attempt them and risk injury, or just grit my teeth and smile and stand in chumbi. I need to talk with my instructor to find out whether I'll be expected to do them for second degree, or whether I am permanently excused.

I haven't been back to sparring since the black belt exam. I feel like a coward, but I admit it: I continue to hate sparring.

Last night we started working on the open hand form Him Yung (Him Young)? The moves are quite different than anything I've ever done before, new blocks in particular. I'm definitely slower at stringing together/remembering the sequence of the moves, in comparison to the younger members of the class. It's embarrassing. I actually started to wonder last night whether this was a memory deficit due to age?

I feel old. And decrepit. Last night, when class was over, I felt like a total fraud.

There's no doubt, I suppose, that I have the requisite humility that a newly minted black belt is supposed to have, the realization that I've still got a lot to learn. I'm just wondering whether I have too much humility. Over the course of the last few classes, it's been difficult to feel like I'm good at anything.
pegkerr: (Karate Peg 2011)
We celebrate getting our black belts with tri-part portraits. Here's mine for my first degree belt:

Black belt portrait May 2011
Black belt portrait May 2011

(Note: I am holding kamas, which I have no idea yet how to use. But I'll be learning.)

Here's Fiona's for her second degree belt.

Black belt portrait May 2011
Black belt portrait May 2011

pegkerr: (Default)
It occurred to me for the first time last night that the percentage of women my age who even CARE whether or not they can do a straddle stretch is probably vanishingly small.
pegkerr: (Karate Fiona 2008)
Today we had karate portraits taken. Fiona and I both had triple exposure pictures taken to celebrate our new black belts (Fiona, second degree and me, first degree) (See the example in the icon, the one she had taken when she was awarded her first degree black belt in 2008). Fiona was also included in the assistant staff portrait, below. Fiona drew the short straw and had to hold the pose in the deepest stance:

Assistant instructors )

I'll post the triple exposure portraits of the two of us when they arrive; they will be sent out later.

A small semi-related unpleasantness )
pegkerr: (Karate Peg 2008)
I had my first black belt class. I didn't exactly cover myself in glory. Not unexpected.

We started out with slow kicks. I fell out of them on my bad side, much to my humiliation. But I was cramping on that side, and it's my bad side, and I was sore from the test and...yeah. Ouch.

They didn't stop the class and order me to take off the black belt and give it back to them. Not yet, anyway.

Then we did combinations: punch, back leg round kick, back leg round kick, punch, ridge hand, spinning hook kick. The problem is, I haven't been doing spinning hook kicks. I was exempted from them during the screening process because of my knee, and so I'm terrible at spinning hook kicks. I just don't have the muscle memory to do them right at all. I tried, but that was humiliating, too. Again, the lingering soreness in my hamstrings was interfering with my form on the back leg round kicks, too.

We worked on stretches, partnering up and having one person pull the other person's leg up, in front kick, round kick, and side kick position. My hamstrings are stubbornly tight, and so my stretches were the lowest in the class. I desperately coveted the hips and hamstrings of the teenage girl next to me, who was able to stretch her kicks pretty far over her head.

I used to be able to do that when I was sixteen, too. Will my hamstrings ever open up? They just haven't budged in years. I want I want I WANT to be able to do decent straddle stretches so I can kick higher. Above waist level would be nice. Please.

Finally, we worked on take down sweeps. First we went over the proper procedures for falls: chin tucked and slapping the ground with the whole length of the arm to spread out the force rather than trying to stop yourself with the wrist or elbow. We partnered up, practicing going back and forth trying the sweep. Mr. Sidner saw the doubtful look on my face and exempted me from actually having to go down on the ground--he's seen what trouble I always have getting up from the ground again, because of the knee. But really, I'm going to have to figure this out. I'm a black belt, and part of being a black belt is doing take downs, and I'll have to partner whenever we practice.

So...a little discouraging, but that's not unexpected. My frustration, I mean--my teacher is always more patient with me than I am.

They always say that once you become a black belt, it's not as if you think you've reached a pinnacle: if you're a good student, you really see what you have to learn.

Heh. That's not a problem for me.

One bright spot: I'll be getting a formal karate portrait next Saturday, the three part one that we've always purchased when each of us reached black belt. Here is Fiona's, from 2008, and here is Delia's, from 2009.

*sniff* If only I could kick high.


Oy, Peg, you're so ungrateful. You have a black belt and now you're whining about not kicking high enough.
pegkerr: (Karate Peg 2008)
It seemed to go by so fast. Karate marching basics, basics (punching and kicking), paper kicks, self-defense, pad strikes, and sparring. We ended with horse back riding punches.

I wore my White Tree of Gondor T-shirt underneath my gi for good luck, as I had planned to do for years (during pad strikes, I thought about bashing in orcs. Hey, whatever works).

I did Zhang Du Moon for form )

Sparring )

Mr. Sidner, who has taught everyone in our family since 2003, tied on my belt. It meant a great deal to me.

Then I tried on my new blue coat and my family joined me for the taking of pictures. I got genuinely teary. My, how long and hard I've worked for this!

Special thanks to my instructor, Mr. Sidner, who has been with us every step of the way on this journey.

Thanks to my family,

Three black belt girls!

my parents and my sister Betsy, and to [ profile] naomikritzer

who got up early on a Saturday morning to cheer me on!


pegkerr: (Default)
Mr. Sidner was featured in a local website feature, "Ask an expert," demonstrating a spin wheel kick. It's your chance to meet the man who has been faithfully teaching our family since 2003, and the video, filmed at our school, also features other teachers and students I know. If all goes well, it is Mr. Sidner who will be tying on my black belt tomorrow.

See the video here )

Thanks, Mr. Sidner, for guiding the girls and me every step of the way on this journey. I am more grateful than I can say.
pegkerr: (Default)
The display has fritzed out on my iMac. Don't know how long it'll take Rob to fix it, but until he does, all I have is my Color Nook, for simple websurfing and laborious one finger typing.

Both girls have come down very ill after Minicon. Fever, headache, sore throat, and for Fiona, vomiting.



Mar. 29th, 2011 01:05 am
pegkerr: (Karate Delia 2008)
Delia came up to me last week while I was getting ready for karate class and after hemming and hawing a bit, she said, " I think I might like to go back to karate."

I felt a big swoop of hope, but said casually, "Well, I think that would be a good idea. Let's talk to Mr. Sidner."

So today I stopped by to sound out Mr. Sidner, who was more than overjoyed at the idea. She's going to start back on a month to month casual basis for now. Unfurtunately, she'll have to get a new uniform and new gear, because she's outgrown everything. Mr. Tobin suggested she might wear Fiona's first degree uniform pants (a suggestion that grates upon poor Miss Fiona's soul because she still resents that Delia is now taller than her).

She'll start back with the black belt class tomorrow. And just think: after I pass the black belt exam April 30, ALL THREE OF US WILL BE IN THE SAME CLASS, for the first time since we started in 2003.
pegkerr: (Go not to the elves for counsel for they)
It's extremely interesting, now that I'm actually closing in on black belt, to go back and re-read this entry, in which I used a website to do a tarot reading on the question: "What do I need to know about going for the black belt?" that I posed in October of 2006.

Here's the post that I did after my very first lesson, way back in November of 2004. I've really come a long way!
pegkerr: (I pass the test)
I passed the third screening!

Ladies and gentlemen, I am testing for black belt on April 30!

Whoo hoo!
pegkerr: (Karate Peg 2008)
Well, I lived through it. Barely.

The test was two hours long. An hour was just kicking: basic kicks and paper kicks. I did only the first half of paper kicks (the hook kick/round kick combination, ten (multiple) rounds kicks, and the jump scissor kick). I was excused from the spin hook kicks or tornado kicks, courtesy of my bum ankle and knee.

The point of the third screening is to see if you can do all the components (kicking, karate marching basics, form, self defense, pad strikes and sparring), with proper technique, past the point of physical exhaustion. I felt pretty bad after the first section, kicking, because toward the end of the basic kicks part, with the side kicks, I wasn't able to keep every kick up. I guess it will depend on how much allowance they will give me for age and general physical decrepitude. The hard thing is, if you start to think you've already failed, you've still got an hour and a half of testing to go, and if you give up mid-screening, you WILL fail. So I just sucked it up and gave it my all. The paper kicks definitely went better than last time: I was able to finish all ten kicks in a row, although I couldn't have sworn my form was perfect. After self defense, I got pretty dizzy and shaky and had to exit the room, throw cold water on my face and neck and dash back in. My own senior instructor held my pad during pad strikes. I felt I did really well during those: I kept my hands up and my fists tight, observed proper form, and yelled really, really loud. I had remembered that it was my pad strikes that helped me pass the screening last time. During the sparring match (I was sparring another older woman, age forty-five), I got clocked good in the head. Oh, god, I hope that isn't another concussion, I thought, mildly panicking. I finished the match in good order, and then got dizzy and abruptly sat down right afterward; they had to peel me out of my gear. But I was fine and waved everybody off, drank some water and packed up to go home.

My senior instructor came out of the office as I was walking out the door. "Nice job," he told me.

I hope he wouldn't say that if I had just flunked the screening.

No headache, no vision disturbances, no discomfort of any kind, last night or today. I'm a bit loathe to do anything strenuous today (I don't intend to go to today's sparring class today, for instance) and I'll probably be stiff and sore tomorrow.

I was the oldest one there, out of a group of maybe thirty-five candidates. Halfway through the screening, I thought I had maybe flunked. By the end, I was more cautiously optimistic. So I don't know.

Maybe I'll drop by the school today, if not to go to sparring, just to see my instructor. Maybe he'll put me out of my misery and tell me whether I passed or not.
pegkerr: (Karate Peg 2008)
I think I've been too distracted by home drama to be able to get up much of a fret about it.

Perhaps I'll probably be rather a wreck an hour before, but for now, I am surprising blasé.
pegkerr: (I pass the test)
I faced it alone, which was hard, and certainly not my preference. But I had no choice in the matter. Rob is out of town at an HPEF board meeting, and the girls are doing an overnight lock-in at the church.

I remembered to take a pain reliever a half hour before I left. I made a nourishing but light dinner for myself and ate it, dithered to the girls (who kissed me sweetly and assured me I would be fine) and drove to the screening, which is held in a different school in Hopkins. I had brought two water bottles, but I stopped at a nearby drugstore to buy a container of orange juice. I was worried about getting hypoglycemic during the screening and so wanted it as a backup. What do I do about my nerves? I thought to myself. This is awful. As I pulled out my wallet to pay, I suddenly became aware of the song that was playing on the store's overhead speakers, which I remembered from my college days:
Are you gonna wait for your sign,
your miracle
Stand up and fight
This is it
Make no mistake where you are
This is it
Your back's to the corner
This is it
Don't be a fool anymore
This is it
The waiting is over
No room to run
No way to hide
No time for wondering why
It's here
The moment is now
About to decide
I started laughing. It was a sign, I decided, and my heart felt much lighter as I left the store.

I had timed my arrival to twenty minutes before the screening started, to give me plenty of time to warm up. My nerves started to prey on me again, so I didn't fret myself by trying slow kicks and worrying because I was falling out of them. I stretched, and then I waited.

First: Slow kicks, followed by fast kicks. I started out well, but the slow kicks went on much, much longer than they did in last Tuesday's class, of course, and so I didn't do as well as I did then. The fault I'd been told to work on in this section was a tight snap on the front kick. Again, as the kicks continued on and on and ON I could feel every particle of moisture wrung from my body...well, meaning that I sprung out all over with sweat, but my mouth felt like the Gobi Desert. I started falling out of some when we got to the side kicks, but I kept struggling, kept trying, so it was wasn't as if I gave up and threw in the towel. We got a water break and then started the section I dreaded most: paper kicks. Fortunately, I only had to do the first half: the hook kick/round kick combination, the ten round kicks in a row (I just can't do that) and the front scissor kick. The X-ray paper was handed across, and then the second section of paper kicks started: spin hook kicks, tornado kicks, and then multiple spinning kicks (either hook or tornado). This section I did not have to do because of my joint injuries. I was very, very glad to be able to simply rest in chunbi as the people around me struggled through it. The woman beside me looked just about dead.

Another water break, then karate marching basics. The notes from last time told me I need to improve the snap on the block. I used my fiercest karate face. This is the one section when I do my very best to look like a steel arsed bitch. Then form. The thing that drives me crazy on form in the screening is that EVERYONE rushes. I try to do the pause ONE-TWO count, and everyone around me is already on the next block. It rattles me. I got no comments on this section.

Another water break, and then self defense. I got no comments. What they look for is twist on the back foot and weight transfer. Next section was pad strikes, where they try to absolutely run you into the ground. The skill you are demonstrating, aside from power and the technical details of the kicks, is sheer stamina and determination: i.e., do you have the energy to yell and keep your hands up. I seemed to catch a second wind at this point. I figured that one thing I could do to demonstrate that I was ready to be a black belt, despite the injuries, was sheer grit, the determination to absolutely yell my head off. We did back leg round kicks on each side, back leg thrust kicks, offensive side kick, and then punching.

Finally: sparring. I fought another woman, an inch or two taller than me, rather thick set. We didn't fight long at all, and I wasn't at all winded, but presumably we managed to demonstrate the things he was looking for: setting up openings, a stopping technique (i.e., stopping a blitz with a side kick or back punch) and avoiding getting hit.

That was it. I limped to the sidelines and peeled myself out of my sparring equipment as the instructors disappeared into the office to compare notes. I felt about a hundred years old (I was certainly the oldest person there...I spoke with another man stripping down, who I judged was the next oldest, and he said he was 37. He was very surprised to hear that I was fifty.)

I was the last one to get my equipment back into my bag, because I was shaking so much. Everyone had left by the point that Mr. Sidner came back out of the office and told me that I had passed. I gave a laugh of relief that turned into a half a sob.

"You passed mostly because you were the only one yelling on the pad strikes."

I felt proud. "I figured that since there were sections where I was weaker, I had to compensate by really throwing my heart into the stuff I could do."

"Yeah, and it showed. How did your ankle feel?"

"It hurt during the paper kicks. And the pad strikes, during the thrust kicks."

"I want you to take the next week off to give yourself a chance to recuperate. I don't want you to keep re-injuring yourself."

This was welcome news. I limped out to the car, slowly put my gear away, and drove home. Stopping at Starbucks along the way to get a chocolate brownie. Because, you know, I damn well deserved it.
pegkerr: (Default)
Second of three. And I am fretting waaaaay too much.


I don't know why my nerves seem the worst they've ever been. But they do. I'm convinced that I'm going to forget my form. Even though I've been working on it for a year. And the kicking....

*looks for the millionth time at the clock*

pegkerr: (Karate Peg 2008)
I had my last class before this coming Friday's second screening. (I have to miss Thursday's class because of school conferences.)

All those slow kicks are apparently paying off. My balance was much, much better than it has been, which gave my confidence a real boost. I didn't have to set down once during the slow kicks.

I still suck at paper kicks though. I don't know if I suck badly enough to fail me, but we'll see.

My ankle is problematic. I'll have it wrapped and just hope for the best.
pegkerr: (Karate Peg 2008)
My next screening is on February 18.

I'm trying to do slow kicks every afternoon. Well, I'm trying to do cardio at midmorning and slow kicks every afternoon. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. I skipped cardio yesterday and today.

I try to alternate day by day: one day I work on balance (slow kicks without the bar). I am trying to do fifteen of each kick on each side. On my right (bad) side, I can sometimes get through ten without falling; I pick myself up and then finish the remaining five. Sometimes, if I'm lucky, I can do twenty on the good side.

On the alternate day, I work on strength (use the bar, but I do the kick, lower the leg to the floor, raise it up, and rechamber).

I just came back from downstairs, on a strength day. God, this is SO DISCOURAGING. Why am I doing this? Why am I putting myself through this? DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD SLOW KICKS ARE?

I am assailed by doubts, tired of my body's betrayal. Maybe it's the cold weather. Maybe it's the unrelenting stress in other areas of my personal life. I don't know, but I'm sick of the doubt, and depressed and discouraged. I'm tired of dealing with the aftermath of injury in my ankle, my hip, and my knee. My teacher say I can do this, I can pass the screenings, but I have to keep fighting off the fears, especially every day I face the balance kicks. And even if I get through the slow kicks (my traitor mind says), won't the paper kicks defeat me? They are really not something you can practice by yourself.

Am I practicing enough? Probably more than 90% of the kids who are trying to go through this, but maybe not enough to get a 50-year old woman through the screening process.

My fears are ravaging my courage.

If it were easy, everyone would have a black belt.

I just don't know if I ever will.


pegkerr: (Default)

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