CHUNKY NINJA turns two today. it’s been a fun two years of blogging and seeing just how goofy it is for an old, fat guy to try to learn a martial art. i’m sure the blog has amused a few, but not near as many as those who have actually seen my version of the “art”. i’m sure somewhere up above Mr Parker is slowly shaking his head and saying to the angels, “that’s not quite how i had intended American Kenpo to look … bless his heart.”
so what’s happened during the two years? well, let’s take a brief look …
when i started this blog i was preparing for my yellow belt test. just a couple of weeks before that yellow belt test the famed Kenpo Garage began. my classmate and KG cohort, Vince, asked if i wanted/needed to do some extra work outs prepping for the belt test. he was being kind because he knew i needed help. probably more than even he could supply, but he was willing to take on the challenge and see if there was any hope for me. he quickly discovered there wasn’t, but didn’t give up on me either.
i somehow earned my yellow belt it in spite of my deathly fear of having to spar. when i finally tested my instructor toyed with me like i was a four-year old on the mat reminding me time and again that my hands were down (yes, i still remember the kicks to the head). that was the first time i heard him say, “my feets loves hair.” that’s funny if you’re watching it or hearing it. but i was on the receiving end, though. it’s funny now, but i felt completely silly then.
i’ve gone from bull-rushing everyone in sparring (ironic that i hate sparring and yet rush in to get my brains beat in) to learning to stay back, pace myself, and pick my spots. my kicks were described as tragically sucking. they’ve been upgraded to bad and now to “not pretty, but useful”. trust me, those are improvements.
over the last 18 months i’ve met lots of great people involved in Kenpo including Mr John Sepulveda, Mr Tommy Burks, Mr Damien Wilson, Mr John Guzman, Ms Oscar Steele, and Mr Sam Bowley. there are many more, but those were the ones that stand out in my mind as having taken some time to teach and help me learn this great art.
and lastly, during the last two years i’ve proceeded from white belt to yellow to orange to purple and finally to blue (last night’s promotion). each level challenges me both mentally and physically. i haven’t lost much weight since i very first began kenpo, but where i’ve lost fat i’ve gained muscle. i’m more solid with some fluffy (viking fat, as vince calls it).
with each class, i feel my age more and more. i’m closing in on my 48th birthday. having never done any martial art training before in my life and then starting at 45 i’d say i’m doing pretty good for myself.
if you’re new to my blog, let me encourage you to go back into the archives and pull out some random posts. a couple of great blogs to read would be the kenpo garage and ketchup, please, both from September 2011. yes, i was that bad. i’ve try to be realistic with myself and keep it lighthearted along the way.
i’m hoping the next year of chunky ninja’s obtuse corner of the interweb is still entertaining the masses while demonstrating a continual progression of improvement for those who never give up on a dream.
— chunky ninja
i try to keep a balanced, accurate perspective of myself. it doesn’t always happen. in fact, it almost never happens. here are some examples …
my weight. it’s an ongoing battle of the bulge that i’ve fought my entire life. people have offered their unsolicited advice over all the decades of my life. then because i’ve not lost weight, or at least enough to match their expectations, i’m a failure.
it’s a horrible struggle for anyone that is trying to drop pounds. everyone is different and while some may lose weight faster, others (i include myself here) find it a lifelong labor of pain … both physically and emotionally.
but the truth is i have been working. i’ve been active my whole life. over the last two years, since i started kenpo karate, my workouts have entailed six hours of kenpo training per week, walking, bicycling, hiking, and a variety of other things keeping me very active.
i’m busy doing something almost every day. whether it’s climbing the stairs at work or bicycling 30 miles or playing disc golf, i’m busy. i’m active. and while the body shape is changing some, the scales just don’t respond the way i wish. i feel i might be in the best shape of my life (if you don’t look at the outside package). my doctor was very happy with my latest checkup. i’ve improved my health in every area except my hairline. its a great feeling when you leave the doctor’s office and he says, “whatever you’re doing is working great … keep it up!”
all the extra work i’ve done this summer and fall has been with one true goal in mind — improve my cardio. while i can’t go out and jog five miles, i have seen positive results.
my cardio is one of the areas i have felt weakest when it comes to sparring. not only am i not good at defending myself, i was quickly winded and my poor defense became even worse. improving my cardio should help my sparring which will also help my confidence level.
i may never be spartacus, but i’ve never liked being afraid. and that has always been the case when stepping on the mat to spar. so i push myself in sparring and learning this art to change my mindset. and sparring is a good barometer of improvement or not. i can say assuredly that i’ve vastly improved since i began this journey two years ago, but i’m just now seeing some small incremental steps in confidence. don’t worry, i won’t let it go to my head.
kenpo class and kg sessions always have me feeling young(er) at the beginning. it doesn’t last very long. as the workouts crank up, the wear on my body quickly feels every birthday multiplying exponentially on itself. before long i’m having to seriously push my body.
a good example was last thursday’s when we did cardio at the end instead of the start of class. i was looking at myself in the mirror and seeing how red my face was becoming. i remembered taking my blood pressure med that morning and decided not to pay attention to what i was seeing since it was only my lungs that were feeling the strain. had i felt anything else, i would have shut it down, but i want/need to push myself. so i did.
but without fail, the next morning after ANY of my workouts, has me moving slow. i feel every ache, pain, fatigue. every muscle and joint are screaming at me that i’m 47. they remind me how out-of-shape i am. but i press on.
i was thinking the other day about where i want to be at my half-century mark. that’s just 30 months away and it will arrive faster than i expect. i’d like to be closing in on my black belt. i’d like to be somewhere in the path of the three browns. and of course, i’d like to be skinny.
but today, i think i’ll just be content to be moving, learning, and practicing my kenpo.
— chunky ninja
during this last year you’ve shared my path from white to yellow to orange and now working on purple. you’ve read how bad my kicks are and how ridiculously silly i am at sparring. hopefully you’ve been amused at various classroom narratives from my own unique perspective. you’ve seen glimpses into my relationships with my friends and family. many of you were encouraging when my son passed away 11 months ago. we’ve been through a lot over the last year here at the chunky ninja blog stop.
in this past year we’ve had over 1,100 visits. that’s not much, but then again, i’m not advertising or doing anything extra to get word out. partly because i’m often as embarrassed of my writing as i am of my “proficiency” in kenpo. though i know both are improving.
there aren’t many that have actually subscribed to this site, but those who visit return often to see if anything is new.
a year ago i started kenpo garage and have documented much of my awkward bumblings over the months. these are my extra work outs away from class. it was just vince (dude, your kicks suck) in the beginning, but john (it’s all good, bro) joined a few months later. we get together a couple of times a week aside from our class just to help learn and tweak our techniques. each session is about two hours long. sometimes the techniques seem brutal and other times the weather does. but we haven’t quit and i can personally attest to the extra workouts helping me improve.
during the last year i wrote 43 blogs and have had people from 28 different countries stop in for a visit. that means my blog is internationally known! ok, that’s a stretch, but it’s technically true.
since no one is jumping up to stop me, i’m assuming you all want to have some more boring details. so here are some stats!
i was really torn on this. there are two blogs that i really, really liked. the first is Ketchup Please from september of last year. the other was Woolly Bully from february ’12. if you missed these, i would recommend them for their amusement quality. they did, after all, make me giggle.
i had several that stood out to me, but the one that seems to epitomize my learning process comes from Mid-Month Review Is Late published in december ’11:
Mr Bowley was very gracious and complementary. he even maintained a straight face when i told him, “but i AM trying” when i was in serious battle [sparring] against his nine-year-old, junior green belt, daughter.
to close this blog post, i want to say a thank you to all who have stumbled across this blog and have been faithful readers. this site is for my own enjoyment and historical tracking of my foolish adventures into American Kenpo. the fact that you continue to come back confirms its either entertaining or you’re just a sick, sadistic individual who enjoys watching me hurt myself in a wide variety of ways. 🙂
also a special thank you to my instructor and pastor, Mr David Jenkins; my friend and sparring “nemesis”, Mr Sam Bowley; my KG cohorts, Vince and John; and to my beautiful wife who is an extraordinary fighter in her own right with her sarcastic jabs and witty punches.
— chunky ninja
last night was tough. we spent a good half of the class working on our kicks. trying to get our form correct. mr jenkins had us placing a hand against the wall (if needed, and for me it was), lift our leg, snap it out, bring it back, set it down. simple 1, 2, 3, 4. well, not so simple if you just turned 46 and haven’t been doing this for your whole life.
so we stood there. “ONE,” he’d say. and we all lifted our leg. “hold the pant leg if you need to so that leg is in the right position.
“TWO!” and we snapped our leg straight out.
“THREE!” we’d pull it back to position number one.
“FOUR!” we’d set our foot back down and the grimace would temporarily leave my face while we yelled out the amount of kicks we had done in the set. i may have been the only one desperately keeping track.
“ONE!” he yelled again and that leg was back up. “get that knee higher if you can.” then looking at me, “us old guys aren’t quite as flexible as these teenagers.” if there was ever a moment i knew he was right, it was then.
“TWO!” my leg fired straight out or as close to straight out as i could get it with the weight of my leg fighting gravity. the grimace would quickly reappear and sweat poured from my face as i tried with all my might to hold my leg in position.
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
in one of those moments where our legs were out and mr jenkins could see the anguish in my face he threw out the line that is forever etched in my memory. it was directed at me and has me re-thinking the wisdom of this site. while the muscles in the side of my hip were screaming out for me to stop he said, “we want to have something to write in our blogs.” funny man, that mr jenkins, funny man.
i coach baseball and have been for about 25 years in one fashion or another and the last 14 with younger kids. there are two types of players that stand out in my mind. you’ve got the ones who are God gifted at the sport. they make it look as if it’s the easiest thing in the world to hit a 75 mph curve at 12 years old. it’s as if he fell out of bed with cleats on and could rifle the ball from short and make your hand bleed if you tried to catch it. these kids are the ones that are a coach’s dream. you might get one or two of them in a lifetime.
then there is the kid who stands there completely clueless. they’ll look you straight in the eye and with every bit of sincerity tell you, “yes, sir” when you ask him to do something. and you KNOW he didn’t understand a thing you said, won’t be able to do it at all, but you still have to tell them. they try with all their might, but it might take them a season or five to have it finally click. and at that moment when it does, it’s extremely rewarding because you know they finally understand what you meant all those times of telling them. the only drawback is they are still five years behind the rest as you’re trying to get them to understand the next lesson.
i fully realize that i am that bumbling, clueless, but with full of sincerity, student that continues to say, “yes, sir.” and i’m sure he equally knows the same.
the day started out really good from a birthday point of view (but only from that view). my beautiful wife gave me a sweet and thoughtful gift that i really wanted [thank you again, dear]. i was determined to be smart with my eating, especially since i knew it was kenpo night. my department at work took me to Ojeda’s. they are the bomb-diggity of mexican food. my absolute favorite. and even there i made sure to eat in moderation. i got a normal fajita meal and will somehow manage to make that into 3 meals instead of one. but when i came home i discovered that my daughter, sweetheart that she is, went above and beyond. she made me a cake with homemade frosting and then a batch of homemade vanilla ice scream. we’re not the kind of folks that do anything homemade. but she did (it was her first time ever) and i couldn’t tell her no. it was delicious. i did wait until after kenpo to polish off the single, man-size serving of ice cream.
some good news to me came at the end of class. mr jenkins said sometime in the next month he was planning on testing some of us and he specifically mentioned me. so it appears i have my yellow belt test coming up (officially) and i better be on my horse to know my stuff. i think i’m ready, but he’ll be the one making that decision, not me. so from now until then i’ll keep working my butt off. i’ve also concluded that i’ll continue this site in spite of the risk of having it waved under my nose like a fresh dose of smelling salts.
and to mr jenkins … sir, i know i am that stumbling and bumbling student, but i’m no quitter and i will prove mr nietzshe’s quote to be true. i will get stronger. well, unless this kills me.