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all in perspective

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 …


this is how i feel before dinner (left) and after dinner (right).

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.


when i step on the mat i feel fit and good to go (left), but really more closely resemble butterbean (right).

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!”


i should be like spartacus when sparring (left), but i fight fright and insecurity when facing an opponent (right).

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.


before class begins i feel so young (left). the next day i feel and move like the guy on the right.

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


jack of all trades

there’s an old saying: jack of all trades and master of none. i have in NO WAY mastered anything. heck, i even have problems putting on my underwear in the morning (one leg into each of the holes, duh!). but at last night’s Kenpo Garage, we had a couple of white belts from our kenpo class show up. my sister was one of them and she’s been to a half-dozen classes. my 16-year-old nephew was the other and he’s been to one class.

but there i was teaching them some of the basics. foundational stuff. things like proper stance, practicing techniques slow and correct, and how to dummy when someone is doing a technique on them. ok, i have mastered the art of being a dummy. but that’s about it.

while teaching and watching, it reminded me that i was just like them 19 months ago. anxious, clumsy, and eager to learn. only i was probably a lot more awkward than them. yes, i was that goofy. but like john (one of my KG cohorts) and i told them, “we all start there.”

no one is immune to the bafoon-ery of being a first time practitioner of a martial art. some will grasp it quick and look like a pro their second class. but the vast majority will take months or years before things start to ‘click’. i’d like to get mine down to years, but right now i’m on the decade-and-a-half plan.

martial artist: a person who has achieved a proficiency and skill in any of several arts of combat and self-defense (as karate and judo) that are widely practiced as sport.

nineteen months, 44 techniques (haven’t tested for the latest 16 of those, though), a couple of sets, and now learning my third form. so here i am, nearly 47 and trying to become a martial artist. unfortunately for me, my “art” still has a lot of glue and macaroni. i’m not quite a picasso with my hands or feet yet. but i am getting there.

hours before KG my sister went out to eat lunch with my wife and i right after church. when we got home from the restaurant we stood in the driveway and talked about how our pastor/instructor has said repeatedly that he’s always more concerned with the white and yellow belts because they lack control. that was the topic. i’ve known for quite a while that i had very little control, but i’ve also noticed over the last three or four months that i’m developing it. i know, i’m as stunned as you, but it’s true!

anyway, we’re talking and my wife is standing there listening. as i’m trying to explain what i mean by control to my sister, i did one of the stupidest things i’ve ever done in my life. i demonstrated.

i can hear you now, “no, rick, please tell me you didn’t … ” i could tell you that, but i’d be lying. i did it. here’s how it went. i’m explaining how our instructor can throw a crescent kick to the side of someone’s head and stop it a fraction of an inch from someone’s head and then slowly lower it back down. (i’m always scared and impressed when he does it to me.) then i started saying that as we learn control, we should be able to do the same thing with our punches. we should be developing the body control to be able to show power with our moves and yet be able to avoid injuring the other person. (yes, you upper belts are going to LOVE correcting me on this, but it’s how i understand it as of right now.)

my wife is politely standing and listening to all of this because she really has no interest in anything related to kenpo. since i can’t kick high enough (or with enough control) to stop a fraction from someone’s head i threw a punch. at my wife.

let me just interject that i have never and would never, ever hit my wife. i find violence against women both abhorrent and indefensible. i was in full “teaching” mode and just wasn’t thinking the whole thing through. now back to my story.

i snapped my arm out to full extension and my fist … stopped micro-clicks from her chin. she didn’t flinch because she’s thinking the whole time, “my husband loves me and would never hit me.” and i just wasn’t thinking. honestly. i was teaching and felt i had enough control to do that. and i did! but i’ll never do it again.

in hind sight, it was a very foolish and dangerous thing to do. i am learning control. and while i’ve noticed it in all of our KG sessions where we’re showing full power, but without crushing each other, this was my wife. even now i feel a huge weight of guilt for even putting her in that situation. what if i had been off? there wouldn’t have been enough apologies to save the day or my face.

so in the middle of a lesson, i learned a lesson. maybe when i’m a black belt (if i ever make it there) i might consider myself to have enough control, but then it would be to a student with a mouth guard and who is prepared, not to my wife.

i’m so thankful to God that He kept me from doing something so ridiculously stupid and kept me at just moderately stupid. talking to my beautiful mrs well after the fact she never even gave it a thought. she just assumed i had enough control to demonstrate the concept.

yeah, i’m still a “macaroni type” of martial artist. and fortunately for me i did have the control or my wife would make sure i’d be eating dinner through a straw for the next several months.

— chunky ninja

hello, i’m with the IRS

if i were to pick up the phone and hear the person at the other end say, “hello, i’m with the IRS,” it would cause me quite a bit of anxiety.  i’ve not skipped out on my taxes. matter of fact, i always file early and haven’t had to pay in several years.  i’ve been getting money back the last several years, hence the early filings.  BUT the kind folks at the Internal Revenue Service have been known to disrupt lives and cause deep despair … even among those who have been paying their fair share.

steve martin in the movie, little shop of horrors

“mr queary, you’re going to need a root canal and a crown.”  that’s another phrase that would cause me great angst.  i’m sure the people who opt to go to dental school are thinking to themselves, “i can help people and make a reasonably good salary.”  but i tend to think they’re sadists who only want to inflict pain on the masses.  just knowing i have a dental appointment coming up causes me to get this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  i’ve always hated going to the dentist.  i’ve had tons of mouth work done already, so you would think i would be use to it, but nope.  not one iota.  i loathe dental appointments.

“@chunky_ninja: we’re sparring on saturday. if your schedule will allow it, you are more than welcome to join us.”  i have a friend that lives about an hour away.  he runs a kenpo school and he has sparring classes twice a month.  one is a wednesday and there is no way i could ever make that, but my saturdays are always flexible if i have advanced notice.  so once a month i get that tweet from Mr Bowley and the hair on the back of my neck stands up.

don’t get me wrong here, i’m very thankful that he’s always welcoming me to attend.  i’m always grateful for the opportunity (like this last saturday) to learn at the end of his foot or fist.  he’s always gracious to extend the invite and then merciful when i don the spar gear and take the mat against him.  every class i’ve attended, he’s given me pointers.  i like to think i’m actually incorporating what he suggests, but only time will tell.  and that’s why i go.  i need to know whether i’m improving at the art of kenpo or not.  is my self-defense getting any better or do i still need to hire body guards?

but that feeling i would get if the IRS called; that feeling i would get at the thought of another root canal; it’s the exact same feeling i get when i see that monthly tweet from @SBowley (Bowley Kenpo Karate).

i’ve shared my apprehensions and thoughts with Mr Bowley.  none of this comes as a surprise to him, so this blog is not going to shock him.  i’ve also repeatedly told him i’m thankful he continues to invite me.  i don’t turn down the invites.  i’ve been going up there since november and have only missed one of the saturday sparring sessions. while i don’t like going, i need to go.  and so i do.

but the night before each sparring classes i can assure you is not restful for me.  i toss and turn all night long.  i’m already thinking about what happened last time, what i might expect the next day, what can i do that’s different, and how will i respond with the various attacks.

i’ve talked to several of my fellow kenpoists about my “phobia” and they almost all look at me like i’m some sort of goofy nutcase.  we’re all wearing pads.  we’re all using some self-control (some more than others).  and of course, “dude, you’re in karate, what did you expect!?”

yet i find myself once a month going into this sense of dread.  we have a guy in our class that tends to back away when going through a technique line.  so when you go to do the technique on him, you have to chase him a bit to complete it.  he said once, and the rest of us use his quote all the time now, “let’s get this over with.”  THAT is how i feel every time i make that hour drive.

Mr Jenkins about 30 years ago

maybe someday it won’t seem so troubling to me.  we don’t spar that much in our school which is what prompted my friend, Mr Bowley, to invite me to participate.  every school does things differently.   ultimately i want to improve at kenpo.  my instructor is fantastic.  i’m thankful every class for the great instruction from Mr Jenkins.  with teaching from Mr Jenkins and the help of Mr Bowley, i hope to eventually be able to hold my own if someone tries to attack me, my family, or my friends.

special shout out to fellow orange belt, James, who nailed me with some solid head shots this past weekend.  your hands are fast young man, but don’t judge how well you did by my inability to stop you.  that would be unwise.  😉

— chunky ninja

Read the old posts and see how this all started!